A teaser of a new season and a new year was displayed by the Bills in their preseason opener against the Chicago Bears. Although they lost 10-3, it was only an exhibition game in which the Bills tested the talent of returning players and rookies/free agents alike. Offensively, the Bills seem to have more work to do (although the first offense led by Fitz had some rhythm going), but defensively seemed to more sound than they have been in past years. Now then I've added two new categories to grade on this year. In addition to grading the Coaching, Special Teams play, Offensive running and passing game, and the Defensive run and pass defense, I will be looking at Offensive blocking separately (instead of including them in the aforementioned categories) and the pass rush defense at least throughout the preseason to get a feel for new roster additions.
Run Offense: C+
Fred Jackson looked great last night averaging six yards a carry while the wildcat with Brad Smith and Josh Nesbitt was run very strongly throughout. C.J. Spiller didn't contribute much on the ground (seeing limited playing time) while Johnny White was alright playing the majority of the game.
Blocking Offense: D
While the first line of offense looked marginally better, their lack of depth showed on later on in the game. My biggest complaint with the first offense was with Kraig Urbik who missed a few assignments on plays while Pears and Bell seemed to play well in the first quarter. After that though, the offensive line couldn't seem to open up lanes for the RBs or protect the quarterback for more than four seconds. Cordaro Howard and Mansfield Wrotto seemed to miss a few key blocks at times so it will be interesting how/if Chan will rotate the line at all for the next game.
Pass Offense: D+
Fitzpatrick seemed to be in control throughout the first quarter going 7-9 with his incompletions coming from the receiving end. I would like to see more deep passes in the future. The receiving corps seemed to be a little off (although missing out on Lee Evans (traded) and Roscoe Parrish to injury didn't help) but it was nice to see Scott Chandler get a few balls. Stevie Johnson seemed comfortable in the #1 WR spot although Donald Jones lining up with him did not. With the second quarter, Tyler Thigpen struggled to get things going and Levi Brown also did in the second half. Namaan Roosevelt did well catching 3 passes as did Spiller in play action.
Run Defense: C
Greatly improved from last season, aside from a few mishaps by the first line defenders. Andra Davis looked a lot stronger than in past years. However, after they sat out for the rest of the game, the second and third lines struggled to contain the run.
Pass Rush Defense: A+
Huge difference from a year ago in which Kyle Williams (who had great penetration all day) was the only capable rusher. Shawne Merriman seemed to be unblockable recording 2 sacks and backup OLB Danny Batten also recorded a pair of sacks. Alex Carrington, Marcell Dareus, Kellen Heard, Brad Jefferson, and Spencer Johnson also recorded sacks (9 total on the day). Dareus and Williams both needed two lineman to block them at times furthering this excellent attack.
Pass Defense: B
Tight coverage early on, but as secondary and third lines of defenders came on the field, the Bills had problems defending passes. Drayton Florence (who did not start over Leodis McKelvin) and Aaron Williams struggled but Williams gained redemption with a late (spectacular) pick. Also, the Bills linebackers looked a lot more comfortable in coverage and Chris White in particular managed to run 40 yards with a WR to break up a pass.
Special Teams: C
Lindell looked good on his 49 yard field goal and Brian Moorman and Reid Forrest did well punting. Kick and punt coverage, while good at times, was very relaxed in other instances. Marcus Easley did not do well returning kicks or acting as a gunner...
Chan Gailey still needs to tweak the offense to get it to be more productive. However, the defense is very capable now and made good calls during the game.
First off I love the new away uniforms and even the white helmet. Parrish, Shawn Nelson, Zach Pianalto and Kelvin Sheppard all sat out with injuries so it will be interesting to see them in upcoming weeks how they will perform.