The Buffalo Bills defeated the Chicago Bears 41-15 in an preseason tilt that was a full three-phase victory and featured strong play from multiple notable players. Let’s dive into a few observations...
Mitchell Trubisky should provide confidence to a team with championship aspirations
Trubisky finished the game after one half with a stat line that would be completely reasonable for an entire game of an efficient, managing backup quarterback: 20 completions on 28 attempts, 220 passing yards, one passing touchdowns, and six scoring drives. He made good decisions with the ball in Brian Daboll’s offense and although ball location wasn’t perfect, it was an extremely encouraging performance. The Bills spent the last two years one Josh Allen injury away from Matt Barkley playing meaningful snaps and, although Barkley was a valuable asset to Josh Allen as he developed, Trubisky is showing the reasons why you sign a player like him in a season like this: You don’t want your chances of a magical season derailed by a bad hamstring.
Isaiah McKenzie and Marquez Stevenson have opposite moments in the return game, but McKenzie featured on offense
Isaiah McKenzie has been the more sure-handed punt returner in camp by all reports, but he muffed a punt against the Bears and was lucky to recover it, giving Bills fans bad memories of 2018 and the special teams issues that plagued Buffalo that year. Stevenson got a crack at punt returner as well and responded with a 79-yard touchdown return. McKenzie remains in the driver’s seat for the return job as special teams coordinator Heath Farwell mentioned a couple weeks ago, but the narrative will continue to percolate due to the explosive play of Stevenson in combination with McKenzie’s drop.
What isn’t in question at all, however, is McKenzie’s spot in the offensive pecking order. He was targeted multiple times by Trubisky in the drives that led to scores. Even on the drive immediately after the fumbled punt, McKenzie was targeted and converted multiple first downs. McKenzie’s lead returner spot makes him a valuable player, but his value to the offense alone makes him a roster lock.
Bills defensive line continues it’s strong play, led by youth movement
Last week, rookie Miami product Gregory Rousseau and second-year edge defender A.J. Epenesa both had strong games, leading to a buzz about the Bills’ pass rush for 2021 and a hopefully increased ability to finish relative to the 2020 iteration. That strong showing continued in the second preseason game, with both Rousseau and Epenesa getting impressive pressures with power against the Bears’ tackles. Two games in, Rousseau is starting to shake the narrative he may be a “project” and Epenesa’s long arm on Chicago’s Elijah Wilkinson elicited eyeball emojis from the entire Twitter universe.
Carlos Boogie Basham Jr. (who continues to show the ability to chain together pass rush moves) and Darryl Johnson Jr. (who is using the length that made him an intriguing late-round pick in 2018) both had positive flashes with the later units, providing ample evidence to those who believe the Bills should keep seven defensive ends in the final 53-mans roster. Although Basham clearly is behind Rousseau on both the depth chart and the lineup for “most likely to impact 2021,” he contributed to an 11-QB-hit, 4-sack day for the Bills’ defense. Cynthia Frelund of NFL Network noted that Buffalo had a whopping 57 percent pressure rate in the first half against Chicago.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” and “Food for Thought” every week on the Buffalo Rumblings Podcast/Vidcast Network!