5 Things We Learned from the Buffalo Bills' 7-6 Preseason Loss to the Redskins
But if their defense plays anything like it did against the Redskins, they might have some hope after all.
That being said, it was just a preseason game, so let's keep from making hasty conclusions.
It's important not to make minute-to-minute evaluations in the preseason, but to instead take things as part of a bigger picture. The preseason games are a big part of that bigger picture, though, so let's take a look at the details and see what we can take away from the game.
1. Chan Gailey's Game Plan Was Not a Game Plan
The Buffalo Bills came out slinging the ball all over the field and didn't call a single running play on their opening series. I'll take a wild guess that the Bills will run the ball once or twice in 2012.
Their offensive play-calling in that opening series was an attempt to gear the offense up for the no-huddle, which they will likely be using a lot of in 2012.
That strategy gave them a chance to see how quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick operated in the no-huddle offense and whether he was able to find holes in the defense. The Bills came out in a spread set, and the Redskins came out in the base 3-4; once that happened, the Bills didn't look back, instead opting to find mismatches at the line of scrimmage.
2. The Bills Still Have to Figure Out Their Sam Linebacker
Is Arthur Moats really the team's starting Sam linebacker? He was the first linebacker on the field at that spot, with veteran linebacker Kirk Morrison rotating in on the next series, and Moats coming back in the series after that.
Linebacker was pointed out as one of the Bills' biggest question marks headed into the 2012 season, and the rotation against the Redskins only proved that the Bills still aren't sure what their final answer will be at that spot.
It appears that Moats has the leg up on Morrison for the starting job, but it's fair to wonder whether he will be a viable starter there or if he could be a weak link in the defense. He is yet inexperienced in the NFL, having been primarily a backup in his career. Entering his third year in the NFL, the Bills may be ready to find out whether he's ready to step up.
3. The Offense is Still Behind the Defense
We heard in training camp that the offense was a bit behind the defense, and that continued against the Redskins.
The Bills' first-team defense held the Redskins' first-team offense to no points on the first two drives before giving up an 80-yard touchdown drive. It was mostly a vanilla scheme from the Bills, but it was good to see them execute despite that short leash.
The front four got a good push, with defensive end Mario Williams getting pressure on quarterback Robert Griffin III on the opening drive. Defensive tackle Spencer Johnson had a nice night for himself, as well, getting solid push up the middle and rotating in with the first-team defense.
The first-team offense was another story. They were out of rhythm, picking up just two first downs in the first quarter. Fitzpatrick struggled somewhat and went 6-for-14 passing for 61 yards (4.36 yards per attempt). Some of that struggle was based on poor blocking due to the Bills being short center Eric Wood and tackle Erik Pears, but although he looked good on a few throws, he had a few errant throws as well.
Even when they got it going, with Fitzpatrick throwing a 20-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Stevie Johnson, the Bills shot themselves in the foot with a penalty.
Which brings me to the next thing we learned...
4. Penalties Need to Be Addressed
A good chunk of the penalties were on the second- and third-team offenses, but the poor fundamental play of the backups doesn't bode well if they are asked to step in due to an injury.
The Bills were penalized six time for 30 yards in the first half alone and 14 times for 134 yards total.
Chan Gailey commented on those penalties after the game, saying, "That penalty is my fault," according to the team's official website. "I've got to get them disciplined. That's just lack of discipline. That's my responsibility, the discipline on this football team." He has called them out after practices, according to WGR 550 Sportsradio, but if the sloppiness continues into the season, he'll be calling them out after games, too.
5. The Secondary Should Be a Strength for The Bills Defense
If Thursday night is any indication, Bills fans can look forward to a solid secondary for years to come.
Ron Brooks, George Wilson and Jairus Byrd all received positive reviews. Brooks was responsible for the team's lone interception on the night and had another one go right through his hands. Brooks needed to have a solid game to move up the team's depth chart.
Byrd was about what we've come to expect from him, flying all over the field to make plays and getting his nose dirty against the run. Between Byrd and Wilson, the Bills have a great one-two punch on the back end of their defense.
This is a unit the Bills have built through the draft for years, and it's finally coming together.
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