Football is back, sort of. The Hall of Fame game marks the pre-preseason, and the Buffalo Bills should be glad to complete the first game no matter how the tackling or passer rating looked. Fans welcome having something to discuss other than practice, even though this game inevitably took the tone of a glorified scrimmage.
Those so excited to issue entirely premature judgment on how this season will go were able to take a step ahead. Don’t be too hasty: we should wait until at least after the second preseason game to proclaim that this year will be unbridledly successful or an utter waste. On the other hand, we can never get too far ahead of ourselves. ESPN thinks Sammy Watkins might be a bust after a handful of exhibition snaps, so why bother with the season?
The preseason dilemma revolves around wanting to see starters versus not wanting to see starters get hurt. In limited action, it’s more telling if they look good than bad. If they fail to impress, it can be chalked up to rust; meanwhile, any smooth play seems like a pleasant early surprise. This is a week where everyone can remain optimistic.
We have a better idea of what needs to be fixed by September and what just needs to be maintained. EJ Manuel should be spending these days before the second pretend game practicing looking around while not throwing on a straight line. At the same time, Robert Woods should keep finding the soft spots in coverage no matter who’s throwing to him.
Some important components were relentless for a moment. Mario and Kyle Williams both played angrily on the handful of series in which they participated, which is all they need to show in August. Plus, Brandon Spikes helped stuff a run on that one play. Hey: take what you can during summer’s midst, especially when there were so few stops of such quality during 2013.
As for a rookie with nothing to lose, Seantrel Henderson showed off plenty of gains. With the solid footwork and hand technique that he displayed in his first pro outing, the Bills are grateful he slacked off in college. He might have blown an assignment on the last play of the first drive, but I am going to oppose cutting him for it.
The novelty of playing another team breaks the monotony of training camp’s frustration. Every success in Pittsford comes at the same squad’s expense. It’s nice to get to burn a different team. There’s bound to be awkwardness during the first effort. The Bills were lucky enough to get that out of the way before 30 other franchises.
An understandably choppy game can’t mar the ultimate recognition of Andre Reed’s accomplishments the day before. The celebration of his indomitable career almost made it worth how Hall of Fame voters yanked his chain for years. But none of their previous myopia matters in the present, where a receiver who embodied the toughness we hope every other Bill copies is forever recognized in bronze for his gallant willingness to head through the rough part of town.
Particularly, Mafia members will long appreciate Reed’s stirring reminder that Jon Bon Jovi should focus on recording Hell’s soundtrack instead of trying to drag down the Bills with him. The banally irritating faux rocker’s impossibly vague letter vainly attempting to assuage foes of his nefarious scheme was as well-written as his lyrics. Heed our warning, kitschy troubadour: the corpses it would take in a fruitless effort to overwhelm the barricades at Erie County’s border aren’t worth it. Stick with what you know, namely irksome melodies enjoyed by hairspray-addled girls from the Class of ’88 who never gave up their jean jackets.
Even contests that don’t affect the record are a welcome distraction from cheering for and against potential owners. Laughing at the clownish bidders is fun, but still not as enjoyable as actual football. The Bills were blessed to start the simulacrum a few days early.
A team whose fans swarmed Canton despite how it’s been a high school kid’s entire life since they’ve had a successful team for which to cheer deserves no less. And imitation football is back Friday, where they can really begin the preseason. Manuel can count it as his first game.