McKelvin, cornerbacks solid in pre-season debut (Photo Source)
As promised, I've reviewed Saturday night's broadcast of the Buffalo Bills' pre-season opening 17-14 loss to the Washington Redskins. And, as promised, I took plenty of notes and hit the rewind button often in an attempt to get more nitty gritty details on Buffalo's personnel lineups and overall play Saturday night.
I've only had time to rifle through the first half thus far; rest assured that we'll talk about the scrubs either tomorrow or Wednesday. For now, here's what I noticed re-watching the Redskins game in our first ever Buffalo Rumblings Film Session:
Quarterbacks: Now is definitely not the time to freak out about Trent Edwards' poor performance. He just needs to play more. Trent did make some bad reads while he played - both throws to Schouman, for example, were forced balls - but he's still doing the one thing that Dick Jauron wants him to do: getting the ball out quickly and, for the most part, accurately. It's high time that Jauron sacrifice some of J.P. Losman's pre-season playing time to get Edwards some more experience reading defenses; it's quite clear that Losman doesn't need a ton of time after his strong performance Saturday. Losman was, quite simply, in the zone. He had one poor throw (the slant to Roscoe Parrish on third and goal); the rest was excellent work upon further review.
Running Backs: Not much to report here. Fred Jackson got most of the work in the first half, and he played as advertised. He looked good, but didn't stand out in any way. Jauron did the right thing by limiting Marshawn Lynch to three carries - he doesn't need to work this early.
Fullbacks/Tight Ends: I thought Derek Schouman played poorly. He doesn't play as fast in games as he does on the practice field; it is clear, however, that Edwards likes throwing his way. Derek Fine looked smoother than anticipated; he did, however, whiff badly on a blitz pickup, which led to a Losman sack. I am glad, however, that Darian Barnes is part of this team - I didn't realize how much I missed a good old fashioned lead blocker until I saw Barnes popping linebackers in the hole. He looks like a good acquisition.
Wide Receivers: If you want a scapegoat for Buffalo's first-team offense issues, blame James Hardy. He was routinely lined up out of position, missed some pre-snap motions, and was responsible for a false start, a near-false start, and a timeout. He also misread the Redskins' defense on third and goal with Edwards under center. Washington was blitzing from Hardy's side; Hardy should have read that blitz and cut his route off. That's exactly where Edwards threw it, but Hardy wasn't home. He's got a long way to go before he's an every-down receiver.
I really liked what I saw out of Roscoe Parrish; he might be ready for a break-out season of sorts. I hope to see more of Justin Jenkins as well - he looks smooth operating out of the slot and is a bit bulkier than Buffalo's top two slot options, Parrish and Josh Reed. Jenkins is a virtual lock to make the final roster.
Offensive Line: For a first-team analysis, see Ron from NM's FanPost. I saw nothing different than he did re-watching the first half. The second team line was comprised of Matt Murphy (LT), Christian Gaddis (LG), Duke Preston (C), Jason Whittle (RG) and Kirk Chambers (RT; also started). I was particularly impressed with Murphy - he looked great in pass protection against a very good Redskins DE in Chris Wilson. He's still raw at the position, however, so don't expect an immediate contribution. Preston also fared well; he was the man responsible for blowing open a huge hole on Fred Jackson's 11-yard screen pass. Gaddis was disappointing; he missed his assignment badly on a stunt on the Losman-to-Parrish deep throw. Gaddis was the reason Losman had to throw that off his back foot.
Offense General: Clearly, Buffalo's offense could have played better. But don't blame the short throws the Bills employed on Turk Schonert - he's done a great job giving Edwards options. On two poor reads by Edwards, Schonert had layered his receivers' routes so that, within the same throwing lane, there was a short and deep option for Edwards. Both times, the deeper route was open for Trent, and both times, he forced it to Schouman underneath. Edwards telegraphs his passes in an obvious way; Schonert may have built in an offense wrinkle to hide that weakness.
Defensive Line: Buffalo's starting defensive line got one series, and I thought they looked great. Marcus Stroud looks great, and the Redskins threw double teams at him quite often (he did get dominated by two 'Skins linemen once, but otherwise was a force up front). I also thought the defensive ends looked disruptive, though clearly, they didn't play much. Stroud and Aaron Schobel were pulled after the first series. (By the way - there's no reason to knock Buffalo's pass rush after this game, either. Washington threw so many balls off of three-step drops that there was no chance for the Bills to get any pass rush going. Buffalo's blitz, however, did look weak.)
That's when things got interesting. Spencer Johnson replaced Stroud inside and played all right; when Chris Kelsay left the game for good, however, Johnson slid out to defensive end for early downs (Chris Ellis replaced him on later downs). Speaking of Ellis, I thought he looked good - he's quick and a bit more powerful than I imagined he would be. He wasn't a liability in the run game, either. He played a lot, which is good for him. (Now Jauron just needs to employ the same philosophy with his starting quarterback.)
One last D-Line note: Jason Jefferson is terrible, whether he's lined up at tackle or end. He's worse at end. The guy defines the word "mediocre", and he's routinely five yards up field and out of position. This guy can't get off our roster fast enough.
Linebackers: Buffalo's defense gave up some plays in the passing game, but don't blame the corners - the Bills' linebackers are currently pretty bad in coverage. Both Paul Posluszny and John DiGiorgio are consistently a yard or two too deep or a step slow getting to the receiver. Kawika Mitchell displayed a similar trait (while also looking great defending the run). Buffalo's corners took some heat for some slant routes being completed, but the corners, in reality, were blanketing their receivers - the linebackers were just a bit off with their responsibilities. Right now, the linebackers are the weakness of the defense, but their play isn't far off from being good.
Cornerbacks: In short, these guys looked great. Five corners saw action in the first half (Terrence McGee sat this one out), but the best performer of them all was, of course, Ashton Youboty. Youboty showed a physicality we haven't seen from him to date - he's an excellent tackler. He also did very well in coverage and didn't make any mistakes. His INT was a gift, however - Todd Collins should never have thrown that ball. What got me most excited about Youboty was seeing him talk some smack with Redskins WR Santana Moss; I don't think I've seen that type of confidence out of Youboty before. He looked great; I wouldn't be shocked if he pushed Jabari Greer (whose play was solid as well) for a starting spot.
Will James saw the most time in the slot, and while his play was generally good (his coverage was better than good), he did miss a tackle pretty badly on a screen pass. Reggie Corner was the dime back (again, with McGee out of the lineup), and while he made some alignment mistakes and gave up some throws, he also showed pretty good instincts. I like his future as the nickel back.
Leodis McKelvin made one big error - ducking inside a block rather than engaging it - and it led to a touchdown. Other than that, he looked good in coverage (and great on kick/punt returns), but his body doesn't look NFL-ready to me. He's really quite small. I still think he's a starter by season's end, but he's probably fourth on the depth chart - at best - right now.
In all, I liked what I saw out of all five of Buffalo's corners - but if I had to pick a guy most likely to be released, I'm going with James.
Safeties: Not good, folks. Ko Simpson was terrible, both on the blitz and in run support. He was in the box a lot more than expected, with Bryan Scott playing deep. Look for opponents to try to exploit that this season. John Wendling, in my opinion, should be playing linebacker - he's OK by the line of srimmage, but a nightmare deep. He hits hard. He did, however, miss Ladell Betts badly on a draw play that led to big yardage. He's quite green, and shouldn't see the field as a defender this season.
Special Teams: Monitored this closely for personnel. Kick and punt coverage starting lineups listed below; these are a good indicator as to who Bobby April likes on his units, and who, therefore, stands a good shot at making the roster as of today:
Kick Coverage: Blake Costanzo, Justin Jenkins, Will James, John DiGiorgio, Keith Ellison, Derek Schouman, John Wendling, Donnie Spragan, Bryan Scott, Dustin Fox
Punt Coverage: John Wendling, Justin Jenkins (gunners); Ryan Neill (long snapper); George Wilson, Derek Fine, Blake Costanzo, Bryan Scott, John DiGiorgio, Keith Ellison, Donnie Spragan
Dwayne Wright, Duke Preston, Kirk Chambers, Kyle Williams, Marcus Buggs and Darian Barnes all saw coverage or blocking responsibilities in the first half as well. Blake Costanzo surprised me; he was on the field for nearly every special teams play in the first half and played very well. Is it possible he's a lock to make the roster?
Feel free to discuss/ask questions/leave your thoughts in the comments section.