Ten Takeaways from Bills vs. Vikings

1. Manuel Delivers

Manuel had a very efficient game against Indy last week, and looked even better this week against the Vikings. Though Manuel had the benefit of playing against the Vikings’ reserves, he still looked extremely composed and displayed a lot better decision-making than a week before. Manuel displayed his big arm on a laser he threw for a 27 yard gain to Brandon Kaufman, and solidified his case to be the Bills week one starter. If Kolb doesn’t show he is at least on par with Manuel in the last two pre season games; Bills fans should expect the rookie to be opening day starter, and hopefully for the foreseeable future.

Update: What a horrible time for Manuel to injure his knee! Hopefully it is a simple scope and he can still be available for week one, however, at this point its tough to envision Manuel becoming the opening day starter without playing in the last two preseason games. Maybe it’s a good thing he won’t be thrown to the wolves, so to speak, as Buffalo plays some very tough opponents in the early portion of their 2013 schedule.

2. Kolb so-so in Bills debut

On the other hand, Kolb looked very average against the Vikings starters Friday night in his first preseason game for the Bills. One of the biggest criticisms of Kevin Kolb in Arizona, as well as early in camp this season, was his failure to remain in the pocket. When he has time, Kolb is a very efficient quarterback and has an NFL arm, however when he’s pressured or flushed out of the pocket, he becomes extremely erratic. On a short throw to Summers on the right sideline on a first down early in the second quarter, Kolb showed his hesitation by stepping back out of the pocket rather than stepping up and being in a better position to make the throw. The play was a completion, but it is just an example of the second nature he has to get away from pressure and scramble for his life. Kolb did settle down late in the first half, but it was more a reflection of the play calling rather than his comfort level in the pocket. Late in the first half Kolb looked great when the Bills lined up in shotgun spread formations where he was throwing short, quick, timing-routes. Overall Kolb did some things well and some poor. If Kolb does start for the Bills this season, expect a Ryan Fitzpatrick-esque offensive game plan with lots of quick, short throws.

3. Jerry Hughes?

Replacing Mario Williams was the newly acquired Jerry Hughes, who looked incredible in Friday’s game against the Vikings. Hughes totaled two sacks with a forced fumble, pressured Ponder on two other throws, as well as nearly another sack on the big play by Dareus deep in Bills’ territory. Not only did his sack on the first play of scrimmage set the tone; he absolutely blew by the 4th overall pick of the 2012 draft, Matt Kalil, who is considered to be an elite left tackle. Hughes was the 31st pick in the 2010 NFL draft and was considered one the best pass rushing prospects that year. After three very poor seasons where he barely saw the field with the Colts, Hughes was traded to Buffalo and hoped to turn his career around in Mike Pettine’s 3-4 system. If this game (or the release of Mark Anderson) was any indication, Hughes will play a big role in Buffalo’s defense this season.

4. The Pettine Factor

When I started writing this article of the ten biggest takeaways from the second preseason game, I found myself singling out nearly every defensive lineman for their superb play so far this preseason. Instead of talking about each player individually, I think it would be much easier to attribute the defensive success (so far) to Buffalo’s Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine. Jerry Hughes, Manny Lawson, Marcus Dowtin, Alex Carrington, and Jaimie Blatnick all look like solid NFL starters right now, and are absolutely dominating their opponents. Maybe I’m used to watching Dave Wannstedt’s horrible four-man pass rushes where everyone stands still before the play, but I will be the first (and definitely not the last) to say that Buffalo will have the most improved defense in the NFL in 2013. It has been years since Bills fans have witnessed such an aggressive defensive mindset in Buffalo, and the culture change has drastically inspired the players so far.

5. Receiver battle still up in the air

Most were hoping that this game would sort out the receiver battle that has been ongoing between Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley, and Da’Rick Rogers, but the position is still cloudy as ever. Both Hogan and Easley got time with the first team offense thanks in part to Johnson and Graham being injured, and both did very well. I am a big believer in training camp to decide roster spots, so in this case I hope they do manage to fit both Hogan and Easley on the active roster, as both are playing well enough to warrant a spot on the 53. Rogers, however, was nowhere to be found until late in the game when Jeff Tuel came on the field. At this point, the only reason Rogers is still being mentioned is due to the draft stock he had in April, and the massive potential he clearly has yet to tap in to. While I would completely understand if he does not make the team, I worry that he will be a constant contributor to another team in the NFL, as there are plenty of very poor talented receivers currently in the league. This situation reminds me a lot of LeGarrette Blount in Tennessee; although he hasn’t been a franchise back, he has been much better than every backup in Tennessee over the past three seasons (and maybe even better than Chris Johnson during some stretches). If Rogers is waived and ends up starting for the depleted Patriots receiving core, will it be worth it to keep a guy like Brad Smith or Easley who will be at the bottom of the depth chart anyway? Just fuel for thought.

6. Meet our new FB

Bills fullback Frank Summers is getting a ton of work with the first team. Most Bills fans assumed they would ignore the fullback position, and likely use an “H-Back” approach with either their rookie Chris Gragg, or veteran Dorin Dickerson. However, if the first two preseason games are any indication, expect a power-blocking scheme with the massive Summers leading the way. Not only is Summers getting plenty of reps with the first team, but (outside of getting crushed by Chad Greenway) he is looking very good so far. I am all for a run blocking fullback to create some holes for Spiller, so this could be a very good thing.

7. Don’t forget about Fred 

In week 1 many saw Spiller dazzle with his long gains off cutback lanes, but no one really noticed Fred Jackson’s pedestrian play through the first game. In the second game, however, Fred looked much better, and looks close to regular season form. He was decisive, made great cuts, and fought for extra yards constantly against the Vikings’ reserves. While his role is very unclear at this point, he will still be great insurance behind Spiller, and potentially a very solid goal line back.

8. Penalties

Very simply, Buffalo accumulated 14 penalties for 106 yards. Some were poor calls, and others were out of simple mental errors (Easley), but regardless this need to be cleaned up by the time the regular season rolls around.

9. Spiller and Woods getting too much work?

Normally, I’m the fan wishing the starters would play more in the preseason, however, I am holding my breath every time one of Buffalo’s playmakers is being used through the first two games. I understand in the opener Buffalo wanted to give the players their first chance at game experience, as well as giving the home town fans on “Kids Day” the chance to see their favorite players. However, giving Spiller 7 carries (including being targeted on a few incompletions) in the second week of the preseason, after we saw Hackett giving him the ball on three consecutive plays in week 1 is not a good idea for your franchise player. Considering week 3 is supposed to be the regular season dress rehearsal, where Spiller will most likely play more then he has in the first two games combined, Buffalo needs to be more careful of the workload they are giving their premier back. On the same night where Adrian Peterson was given the night off, and Doug Martin had a concussion scare after a fluky knee to the head; Buffalo was feeding Spiller as if it was the season opener. I do believe there is a big difference between game speed and practice speed, but hypothetically if Spiller had gotten injured last night would it have been worth it? What more does he have to prove? As for Woods, he is not a proven veteran, or a franchise player (yet) so I have no problem with him getting lots of reps in the preseason. However, with Stevie Johnson and TJ Graham both out with injuries; why would Buffalo have him punt returning when guys like Goodwin, Robey, and Easley all battling for that position anyway? Once again I am normally a proponent of game experience, but with so many injuries across the NFL; I think Buffalo should be aiming to get into the regular season healthy, rather than experienced.

10. Hackett’s Playcalling

One of my only complaints so far this preseason is the play calling by Buffalo’s offensive coordinator Nate Hackett. I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially since it is only the preseason, but I hope he learns quickly that the offense must be tailored towards each quarterback’s strengths for it to be effective. Using an offset I-formation with the quarterback under center is a very traditional west-coast offense, however, why would they waste their speed with two receiver sets involving a fullback and a tight end? This is probably a giant overreaction to very vanilla pre season play calling (as well as a way to prepare the offensive line for run blocking assignments), but if this is any indication of Buffalo’s offensive concepts in 2013 I am starting to get worried. CJ Spiller is not a between the tackles runner, Buffalo has too many weapons to be left off the field in two receiver sets, and I believe EJ Manuel would have a much easier transition in the shotgun spread where he has many different options. Here’s to hoping they are holding back for the regular season.

Game Ball: Jerry Hughes

Self Explanatory. The guy was an absolute terror against the Vikings.

Maybin Award: Kevin Kolb

Kolb wasn’t as bad as everyone else was good. He had a poor stat line and had a horrible throw on the only interception of the game.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Canadian kid says

    Nice read….