The Buffalo Bills have played just two regular season games - both, to varying degrees, blowout losses - and enough has changed about the team’s makeup and outlook that a bullet-point recap is necessary.
- Josh Allen replaced Nathan Peterman as the starting quarterback after just two quarters, and far ahead of the rookie’s assumed timeline for the promotion
- Veteran wide receiver Jeremy Kerley was released prior to the Week 2 game, paving the way for undrafted rookie Robert Foster to see more playing time
- Head coach Sean McDermott took over defensive play-calling duties from coordinator Leslie Frazier after Buffalo’s defense surrendered 75 points in the first six quarters of the season
- After being inactive in Week 1, cornerback Vontae Davis started in Week 2, played for less than two quarters, then pulled himself from the game and promptly retired
More change may be on the way as the 0-2 Bills try to find ways to play competitive football, let alone try to win. Buffalo feels very much like a team that is winging it at the moment, and that may not be a bad thing for the long-term development of the franchise.
Year one of the McDermott and Brandon Beane era in Buffalo was not necessarily different. There was the ill-fated Peterman-for-Tyrod Taylor flip at quarterback in the middle of a playoff run that did not seem like it was part of any sort of long-term plan, for instance. But it was such a process-oriented year that, if only to me, McDermott mostly came across as a coach of routine and rigidity.
That impression of him is starting to give way (again, maybe just for me) to one in which McDermott is actually pretty good at making unplanned adjustments on the fly.
His second starting quarterback switch was a much more prudent move than the first one from last season. Allen had some bad plays, not limited to the two in which he threw interceptions, but he also clearly provided more juice for the offense than the man he replaced. If at any point the Bills’ offensive line can find it in themselves to block competently, Allen may even start to elevate the play of his supporting cast. Obviously there’s no way of knowing whether or not he’ll pan out this early on, but at minimum, the Bills clearly have a worthwhile experiment going on under center.
And though he downplayed the development as coincidental, the moment McDermott started calling plays against the Chargers on Sunday, Buffalo’s defense improved not only dramatically, but immediately. In the second half of yesterday’s game, the Bills held the Chargers to just three points. Again: they had given up 75 points in the six quarters prior. They were suddenly defending the run better, pressuring Philip Rivers on the regular, and had far fewer coverage breakdowns. It was a dramatic improvement in a very short period of time. That can’t be pure coincidence.
All of this is to say, though they may be winging it already as they try to turn their season around, what we saw from McDermott and Allen in yesterday’s loss was enough to remain cautiously optimistic about the long-term. In the short term, the team needs to keep with the change theme, because what they’ve been doing for most of the first two games of the season isn’t remotely good enough.
Everyone’s wish list will differ slightly than mine, but here are some additional changes that I’d like to see the Bills make, sooner rather than later:
- Add a veteran quarterback to the roster. Allen needs as many experienced voices in his ear as possible. There’s so much riding on his development. (Yes, I realize that this is an easy request to make, but a difficult one to pull off in the middle of a season.)
- Use Chris Ivory more. The Bills lack an edge on offense at the moment, and Ivory’s running style is perfectly suited to fixing that particular problem.
- Employ a faster pace in the passing game. I understand the desire to take advantage of Allen’s arm strength, but the Bills need more rhythm in their passing attack at the moment, and the line isn’t blocking well enough for those slower-developing route combinations to play out.
- Add depth to the secondary. Even before the Davis situation and injuries to Taron Johnson and Phillip Gaines, the Bills didn’t have enough depth in their secondary. They can do better than having a journeyman safety taking most of the reps as the nickel cornerback.
Are you okay with the Bills winging it a little in what appears to be a down year for the organization?