Week 3 of the NFL season is upon us with an interesting matchup taking place in Orchard Park. In a battle of 1-1 teams, the Buffalo Bills play host to the Washington Football Team. This is an important game for both squads as they look to establish a winning record for the first time this season. To preview the game we talked to Andrew York from Hogs Haven to get a short rundown on the Football Team.
Does the team feel just as confident with Taylor Heinicke under center in place of an injured Ryan Fitzpatrick?
Right now, I would say yes, the team is as confident in Taylor Heinicke as they were in Ryan Fitzpatrick. Breaking it down a little more, I think players and fans are just as confident, but the coaches had a clear preference for Fitzpatrick, probably due to his experience and I imagine they are having to run a bit more limited of a playbook for the less experienced Heinicke. Fitzpatrick also played better in practice according to beat reporters, but there’s something about Heinicke that really makes him elevate his play in games. So far in games this year (including the preseason), I’d say the offense has looked slightly better under Taylor Heinicke than it did under Fitzpatrick. Even week 1 in that Chargers game, the offense wasn’t doing much of anything until Heinicke took over for Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick certainly has more experience to bring to the table, but Heinicke adds an ability to make and extend plays with his legs and improvisational ability that seems to really matter in games.
We are only two games into the season but what would you like Washington to improve on at this point?
The biggest thing is the defense has to play better in coverage, particularly with respect to knowing and playing their assignments. Based on what the coaches have said, it sounds like most of our inability to get stops has been due to busted coverages or players not trusting the guys around them and trying to do too much. Having said that, I have to imagine at least some of the blame falls on the defensive coaching and I wonder if the defense is too predictable, as teams seem to find a lot of success running standard cover beaters. Either way, it has looked like opposing pass catchers too often have no problem finding soft spots in our (predominantly zone) coverage and getting open for quick passes with nobody around them to contest it. Some fans would point fingers at the DL for not getting enough pressure either, but I think the DL actually are looking very disruptive, the problem is that QBs can get rid of the ball quickly to open receivers.
On offense, I’d love to have Patrick Mahomes as our QB, but Taylor Heinicke has stepped in admirably and the biggest problems have not seemed to be associated with the QB position. We have a rookie RT Sam Cosmi who has looked great as a run blocker, but is still figuring it out in pass protection. On the other side, our LT Charles Leno Jr (formerly of the Bears) is a bit undersized for a LT and has looked weak against a power rush. I’d really like to see the OTs play better in pass protection, especially after watching the Bills play the Dolphins week 2.
Washington has what people consider one of the best front four on the defensive side of the football. How can the Bills’ offensive linemen hope to slow down those monsters?
More than anything, by focusing on the short passing game to get rid of the ball before our pass rush can get home. As mentioned before, we’ve been terrible with breakdowns in coverage and allowing pass catchers to get open quickly. Our linebackers are the weakest unit in coverage, so exposing them in the middle of the field with crossing routes or passes to RBs and TEs would be the easiest way to do it. Daniel Jones also gashed us with QB runs around the edge (our DL bit hard on fake handoffs), so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of that in your gameplan.
A story line flying under the radar is that Logan Thomas use to be a Bill. How far has his development come after being a quarterback in college?
Logan Thomas has been developing quickly ever since arriving in Washington. He actually played multiple positions in high school (including TE), so it wasn’t completely new, but he converted fully to QB in college and stayed at the position for several years in the pros. He finally converted back to TE on the Lions a couple of years ago, but was very raw. He’s come along very quickly since arriving in Washington. He’s an athletic freak who compares athletically to Gronk, but he’s also a hard worker who’s been working closely with Washington TE coach Pete Hoener (who coached Greg Olsen) and spent time in the offseason at a Tight End University created by Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Greg Olsen. I think the biggest improvement I’ve seen since last year is in his route running and catching ability.
Any predictions for Sunday’s game?
I have no doubt the Bills will show up to play, their defense has looked ferocious the last two weeks and their offense still looks good and even seemed to be getting their rushing game on track last week. The question for me is which Washington team shows up? If our defense looks like it has the last couple of weeks, the Bills will blow us out with a lot of passing and it won’t be competitive. If our defense looks like it did the 2nd half of last season, it will be a much closer, harder-fought game. Ron Rivera teams always seem to start the season slow and get better as the season wears on, so I suspect our defense will look weak in the 1st half, but might rally and make it a better game in the 2nd half. I’m worried about the Bills pass rush, but I think our offense might be able to get the running game going and keep things moving for a few scores and field goals. In terms of final score, I’d guess the Bills win something like 27-20.