The Buffalo Bills are coming off of a lackluster performance in a 31-21 road pre-season loss to the Green Bay Packers. While I still maintain that this isn't happening, there was plenty to be concerned about for the Bills in all three phases of the game.
As it's pre-season, and the games are still pretend, I only watched enough of the game back on DVR to get through the starters. I'll skim the second half tomorrow (to post Tuesday) to take a look at some younger players. Talking points from Buffalo's abysmal offensive effort are after the jump.
Quick offensive line reviews
First thing's first - the line play wasn't nearly as bad as everyone's making it out to be. That's not to say it wasn't bad, obviously; it was pretty bad. But let's not forget that this was the third time the unit was playing together. They played virtually the entire half, and they were very inconsistent. On one play, the line would formulate a pristine pocket, and on the next, they'd spring a leak. Inconsistency is expected, but there's enough positive right now to keep even the most cynical of Bills fans from drowning in a sea of emotion. Well, that's not true, I suppose, but I'm trying to save lives here.
Langston Walker: I thought Walker looked very solid in pass protection. He's having some issues sustaining blocks, but that should change when the games count. He was called for a hold, but that was a ticky tack call that came out of nowhere. Very strange call; Dick Jauron was not happy with it, and neither was Walker. Walker's run blocking leaves a lot to be desired; he doesn't have that road grader mentality that usually comes with a man of his stature.
Andy Levitre: He struggled. Ryan Pickett and Cullen Jenkins were able to toss him around with ease and steer him into running lanes on more than one occasion. On one play, the telecast cut off the snap cutting away from a replay, and in the first frame, Levitre was literally running backwards toward Buffalo's end zone. That play resulted in a three-yard loss on a toss to Marshawn Lynch. Levitre had some nice pull blocks, but he was the clear weak link last night.
Geoff Hangartner: Had a bad false start penalty where it looked like he wasn't sure of the snap count. He was also handled by Ryan Pickett a couple of times, but handled him right back a few other times. For the most part, Hangartner looked good. He's very quick to get to the second level.
Eric Wood: Wood was beaten badly on two occasions, with one leading to a sack. He was also late getting into the flow of an otherwise perfectly-executed screen play; had he been a hair quicker, he might have been able to prevent Jenkins' forced fumble on Fred Jackson. Otherwise, Wood was solid.
Brad Butler: I liked what I saw out of Butler. He, too, was driven yards into the backfield by a defensive end on the sack that Wood allowed, but otherwise he was OK. His pass protection looks solid, too, particularly in handling speed rushers.
In all, the line is still very much a work in progress - as it should be. What is missing are the truly spectacular blocks; the Bills are either terrible or efficient/adequate. There haven't been any "wow" blocks from this group yet. A few of those over the last two pre-season games would be nice.
Trent Edwards was as bad as advertised
Edwards was efficient in the team's first two pre-season games, though he was hardly spectacular. Last night, however, his no-huddle attack lacked tempo, there were several miscommunications and missed reads on his part, and his decision-making was questionable as well. Just a few quick notes:
- Edwards is inconsistent in making decisions on when to vacate the pocket. He had a couple of nice decisions in which he was flushed due to a blitz, and he turned both of those plays into positive yardage. On his sack/lost fumble, however, he had time to whip the ball out of bounds or tuck and run, but couldn't seem to decide between the two. In the end, he just kind of jogged and got nailed from behind.
- On his interception, his hesitancy to make the throw was visible, as he actually hitched for a beat in his delivery before making the throw. It took a little off the velocity of the ball, and it certainly made the throw a hair late. If he delivers the ball on time, that's a first down on a medium-sized gain. His split-second hesitancy allowed S Nick Collins to break on the throw and get a hand in front of Lee Evans.
- For the most part, Edwards was looking in the right spot with his throws. On at least two occasions, however, Edwards had a read that he missed. One was a poor throw to Josh Reed; Reed was open, but a good throw might have been picked, and meanwhile, Evans was wide open in single coverage on the other side of the field. On another play, a blitz came from Edwards' blind side - and though he sensed it, it appeared that Roscoe Parrish was supposed to be his hot receiver, but the ball went to an unaware Evans. Though the result was an incompletion, Edwards appeared to make the wrong read - and even if he had known the ball should have gone to Parrish, Parrish didn't look anywhere near ready for a throw, either.
Not a lot to be excited about from Trent. I'm quickly getting irritated with the no-huddle. There simply needs to be more tempo. Speed it up!
With the big topics out of the way, I'll just jot down the rest of the notes I took.
- Parrish looked lost on multiple occasions. I mentioned his missed hot. Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick also had to point him to the other side of the formation on more than one occasion. For all the talent this guy has, I'm starting to believe that he's not seeing the field as much as he'd like to simply because he's not 100% on the playbook.
- This offense really, really needs Terrell Owens. Edwards obviously needs to get better, but Owens' presence speeds up that process for him. T.O. makes 5's life a ton easier.
- Toss sweeps are a mess. Dominic Rhodes had a long gainer late in the first half on an outside run, but for the most part, these runs were shut down with ferocity by Green Bay's defense. The 3-4 is designed to funnel runs back inside toward big run-stuffers. It's nice to see the Bills trying some things out in terms of outside runs against that defense, but it's clearly not going to work come September 14.
- Speaking of Rhodes, he was a nice surprise last night. He looked quick and agile, and has a bit more burst in space than Fred Jackson. He had some nice runs.
- Shawn Nelson saw some action late in the half, and while his two catches were nice to see (if nowhere near earth-shattering), I concentrated more on his blocking. Nelson gets after it, folks, but my, oh my, his technique is shoddy. He whiffed badly on a couple of blocks. He also sprung Rhodes on his long gainer on the aforementioned toss sweep. There is potential there, to be sure.
- For this last point, I'm going to put it in a blue box, because blue boxes signify importance.
Green Bay played REALLY well defensively. They did a lot of blitzing right up the middle, their defensive ends were outstanding, and it's already pretty well-known that their secondary is the bees' knees. Even their linebackers, considered the weakness of the defense, were tremendously active (channeling my inner Doug Marrone there). Their players made plays, which is all you can ask for out of an NFL player, really.
When you're watching games that don't count in the standings, it's really easy to look at each play individually and concentrate solely on what Bills players did. The microscope is much more focused in these games, because as we don't play Green Bay in the regular season, we don't give a crap about what they do. That's faulty. This is a live, competitive NFL football setting. Players are allowed to make plays. So while it's really easy to point at every little fault and add it to the freak-out pile, it's also important to realize that sometimes, opponents play really well. Buffalo isn't going to be dominant on every play. The Packers, believe it or not, had free license to make plays of their own - and they did. So while it's within everyone's right to be nervous about some things we saw, let's not forget that the Packers are a talented football team. This was a good test for the Bills, and they failed miserably. Literally, there is nowhere to go but up.