I was not in front of my TV for the Bills - Colts game last night because of my high school reunion, but I watched — and rewound a great deal — this morning.
Here are the most noteworthy observations in a player-by-player format:
The first thing I noticed was, in his limited action, Jerry Hughes played on the left side of the Bills defensive line, something he rarely, if ever did while Mario Williams was on the roster. If you remember, after Williams struggled as a right defensive end in 2012, he asked coaches to move back to left defensive end, where he played in college. That move came the same year Hughes was acquired. Immediately, Mario went from facing one-on-one battles with the opposition’s top tackle to finding himself in more favorable matchups while Hughes was forced into the right edge-rusher spot. Both thrived in their spots, actually, but if last night was any indication, with Mario gone, Rex Ryan will get Hughes matched up with right tackles this season. Hughes should be giddy about that development.
Ideal night for the Bills No. 2 tight end. He blocked a punt, scored a touchdown and held his own as a blocker. Gragg lacks lateral agility and won’t create loads of YAC but has developed as a blocker and has 4.5 speed.
Super quick here. Shady looked like classic Shady when he touched the football. He doesn’t need to touch the football much more this preseason.
This was a game Hankerson will want to forget. Immediately. Based on his past production with the Falcons, a few weeks ago, I projected Hankerson to win the No. 3 receiver role. As of right now, I doubt he makes the roster. Dropping three passes doesn’t bode well for his future in Buffalo.
On the first pass of the evening, the Bills starting right tackle got straight armed by low-center-of-gravity pass-rusher Trent Cole and was driven straight back into Taylor, who was hit low. I’ll admit — I knew nothing happened to Tyrod on the play, but it looked scary and was a bad initial pass-blocking rep for Mills. I didn’t notice any other negatives from him beyond that though.
I thought Cyrus Kouandjio turned in a sound performance at left tackle. The two pressures I noticed came on inside rushes, which have always given him issues. However, even when he did get beat, he showed off his relatively quick feet and mean streak by hustling back toward the quarterback and knocking the defensive lineman past the play. In the run game, Kouandjio was a pancake machine and executed a variety of directional blocks with a high degree of difficulty. It was a nice start to a crucial preseason for the third-year player.
No defender had a better, more disruptive game than Adolphus Washington. On his 32 snaps, he flashed often with an assortment of pushes into the backfield and a few scraps down the line of scrimmage to take down the ball-carrier after a minimal gain. In college, Washington was a refined pass-rusher, and his refinement was on full display against the Colts. His hands were active, and he used them in a variety of ways to beat offensive linemen at the point of attack. Washington’s most glaring negative I saw at Ohio State was with awareness and staying on his feet in the run game. He didn’t get washed out on any runs last night. And, yes, it looks like he’ll play Mario’s old position with his hand on the turf at the left defensive end spot while occasionally kicking inside to defensive tackle.
THE SUMMER OF WALTER POWELL CONTINUES. Basically all reports from camp have raved about Powell as a receiver and a returner, and he made the absolute most of the 41 snaps (30 on offense, 11 on special teams) he played against the Colts.
With Reggie Bush having only returned one kickoff in his entire NFL career, Powell is the clear front-runner to win the kickoff return man job, but I think he’s a legitimate candidate to win the well-documented third wideout competition. Powell ran a tremendous route on his reception near the sideline from EJ Manuel and his speed — and concentration -- was evident on the late-game catch he made on a laser through traffic from Cardale Jones. He only ran 4.68 in the 40-yard dash at the 2014 combine — slow by NFL receiver standards — yet his 6.70 three-cone time was just .01 slower than Odell Beckham Jr. Powell’s springy athleticism is obvious anytime he touches the football.
Beyond the pass interference flag thrown on him — which came after he tripped — Kevon Seymour had a decent evening, especially playing the football in the air. Ball skills are vital for cornerbacks, and the USC product has NFL-caliber size and athletic talents.
The fan favorite played just 21 snaps, and although he didn’t make any huge plays, he demonstrated an explosive burst off the edge. Also, I was reminded that his lack of size could actually help him. His dip around the edge is so low that most offensive tackles might have trouble reaching him without losing their balance. Then again, he was stymied most of the time against the Colts. The best development for Eric Striker was the injury to IK Enemkpali.
I thought he was good, particularly when he needed to step up into the pocket to make his throw. Pocket movement is a fundamental skill signal-callers need to have to succeed in the pros. While I can’t call his evening “great” because of the deep-ball misfires, you can tell why the Bills coveted Cardale Jones in the draft — Greg Roman loves mobile passers with monster arms that can scare defenses down the field. He was accurate on almost all of his intermediate passes and wasn’t timid about running when he couldn’t find any open receivers. Overall, the Bills should be happy with his NFL “debut.”
Because of Duke Williams’ lack of consistent production in his NFL career and what most have categorized as an average-at-best training camp, I had Duke Williams as a notable cut in my training camp 53-man roster projection. Against the Colts, he delivered a few thumping hits and had what basically was a textbook pass breakup on a play in which he was in man-to-man coverage.
Buffalo signed Sterling Moore about a month into free agency, and his deal is under $1 million, however, many — including me — expected him to battle for, or potentially win the starting nickel corner job, simply based on his experience and reliable play with the Buccaneers.
Somewhat surprisingly, he was on the field in the fourth quarter and missed a tackle that led to a long touchdown. Those two things don’t necessarily mean anything... yet. But it’s not exactly a positive start for Moore and is undoubtedly worth monitoring.
Zimmer was impactful on his eight defensive snaps, forcing his way into the backfield on more than one occasion. He moves like an oversized linebacker. I’m really interested to see if he gets more time on the field — maybe earlier in the game — as the preseason progresses.