After dropping a tough contest to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, losing 20-16, the Buffalo Bills head into their bye week at 3-2 on the season. While 4-1 would have been nice, and since they had the opportunity to achieve it, 3-2 seems disappointing, the fact remains that the Bills are in first place in the AFC East after five games.
The players we singled out to watch on Sunday performed poorly overall, hence the negative outcome. The Bengals showed that their number two ranking in defensive yards allowed per game is legitimate. As a result, the Bills struggled to make any consistent waves throughout the game.
QB Tyrod Taylor
Woof. The Bills’ quarterback had one of his worst games as the team’s starter, throwing for 166 yards on 20-of-37 passing (54% completion rate, 4.49 YPA) and only managing 3 yards rushing. The Bengals did a great job playing man coverage against Buffalo’s abysmal receiving corps, and when tight end Charles Clay went down with a torn meniscus in the second quarter, Taylor was essentially relying on Nick O’Leary and LeSean McCoy as his best receivers. As true as that is, he still managed to miss open receivers all day, holding the ball for too long as his flaws all reared their ugly heads at once. If this weren’t a recurring theme, I could cut him some slack for not trusting the likes of Kaelin Clay against man coverage, but we’ve heard time and again that Taylor doesn’t often see receivers open, he merely waits for them to be open before throwing the ball. On Sunday, that backfired spectacularly.
WR Zay Jones
Buffalo’s rookie and de facto number one receiver until Jordan Matthews returns is not off to a good start. On Sunday, he was targeted 6 times, catching one ball for 9 yards. He has shown inconsistent hands even when he is able to come open, but offensive coordinator Rick Dennison hasn’t exactly given the rookie many opportunities to make yards after the catch on the quick routes on which he made his reputation in college. In any case, Jones and Taylor are going to have to make sure they are on the same page, and the bye week could definitely allow them to come together for some extra work. They need it.
LT Cordy Glenn
Buffalo’s 60-million-dollar left tackle was healthy enough to return to the gameday roster on Sunday, but it was rookie Dion Dawkins starting in his place when the game began. Head coach Sean McDermott would not commit to Glenn retaining the job he’s held since he was drafted in 2012. As bad as the right side of the line has been, Glenn has arguably been Buffalo’s best or second-best lineman (to center Eric Wood) on the season, so this is a bit of a head-scratcher.
DE Shaq Lawson
Buffalo’s 2016 first round pick had a pretty quiet return to action on Sunday, notching only 2 assisted tackles. He was able to generate some pressure on Andy Dalton, but he was unable to bring the Bengals’ quarterback down. The Bills were once again excellent against the run, and Lawson has continuously done a nice job in that phase of the game. His continued growth will be something to watch when the Bills return to action against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
LB Matt Milano
The rookie handled himself fairly well in his first NFL start. Filling in for the injured Ramon Humber, who leads Buffalo in tackles, Milano was in on three stops on the day. He did not look lost defensively, which is a plus for any player drafted in the fifth round who is forced into duty. The Bengals were able to exploit the middle of the field often, which indicates that the linebackers were not stellar in their intermediate zones, but that burden doesn’t fall solely on Milano’s shoulders. With Humber slated to miss at least the Week 7 game against Tampa Bay, and potentially even the Week 8 tilt against the Oakland Raiders, Milano will need to continue improving.