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Buffalo Bills vs. Carolina Panthers: five takeaways

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Some broad generalities from the preseason opener.

While everything in the preseason should be taken with a huge pile of grains of salt, after watching the Buffalo Bills preseason opener, there are a few takeaways worth noting. The new-look offense under Brian Daboll, the quarterback competition featuring Nathan Peterman, AJ McCarron, and Josh Allen, the play of an inspired Kelvin Benjamin, and some assignment problems with the defense are just part of what we need to look at.

Brian Daboll earning praise

Maybe the Bills game planned to exploit the Carolina Panthers and maybe they didn’t, but the new offense Daboll has installed since taking over was fun to watch. He was able to get guys open in the short, medium, and deep fields and for the most part the Bills were able to move the ball as long as they didn’t take penalties. All three quarterbacks topped 100 yards in limited time and on nine or fewer attempts.

Quarterbacks were solid

If you expected the Bills quarterback play to drop off, you were disappointed. All three QBs showed they were who we thought they were. Peterman was nearly perfect, going 9-of-10 for 119 yards and a touchdown but his last pass was slightly behind his receiver and tipped up for an interception. McCarron was 7-of-10 for 116 yards and was steady as the second-team quarterback on Thursday. Allen showed off some “wow” throws, effortlessly uncorking a 60-yard throw and zipping another pass to Ray-Ray McCloud III for a touchdown. It will be hard for Allen to move up the depth chart after the way the two veterans played, but that seems okay at the moment.

Penalties play a factor

Buffalo was penalized 10 times for 69 yards. They also had a declined penalty and an offsetting penalty in the game. Vlad Ducasse, Keith Ford, Keith Ford, and Connor McDermott had false starts and the Bills also had a pre-snap formation violation. Those type of penalties drive McDermott crazy because they are 100% preventable.

Buffalo was flagged twice for lowering the head to initiate contact, the new area of focus for the officials. It’s unclear how closely that will be called in the regular season, but it seems like any helmet-to-helmet hit is going to draw a flag now. Everyone in the league will need to adjust if that’s the case.

The Kelvin Benjamin Show

Benjamin, playing against his former team for the first time, looked like a man on a mission. Before the game, former teammate Cam Newton spoke with him and Benjamin apparently brushed him off, not even listening to him. Benjamin made critical comments regarding Newton last week. Then out of the gate, Benjamin was the main focus of the offense. He caught four passes on the opening drive including a touchdown grab.

Defense was hit-and-miss

The defense has felt ahead of the offense during most of training camp but at time on Thursday that script was reversed. After stopping Carolina on the opening possession, the first-team defense allowed a 75-yard scoring drive. Tremaine Edmunds overran a play, which might be a common occurrence for the 20-year-old rookie as he gets his feet wet. The second-team defense allowed one yard on their first possession and took five yards away on their second before the third drive flipped the field position before halftime. The third-team defense had several missed assignments and penalties. So pretty much what you’d expect in the first preseason game.

Quick hits

  • Marcus Murphy seems to have firmly established himself as the number three running back.
  • Andre Holmes was in the starting lineup as Zay Jones and Corey Coleman were inactive.
  • LeSean McCoy dressed but didn’t play as Travaris Cadet saw the field first at running back, but Chris Ivory received snaps, as well.
  • Sean McDermott walked into his postgame presser with a big ol’ smile on his face.