After three preseason games, the Bills have some players to be concerned about after their play the last three weeks. A few players the Bills will be counting on to contribute for them this season haven’t shown much spark in the preseason. If the Bills are going to have a winning season, they can't have these players continue to struggle.
It would be nice to see Spiller have one big play in the preseason to represent the burst he showed at the end of last year. Chan Gailey hasn't given Spiller or Fred Jackson many carries in the preseason to save their bodies for the games that count. However, one big burst from Spiller against a starting defense wouldn't hurt.
I’m hoping Spiller’s lack of production is because of Gailey’s play calling. Gailey probably has plays he knows fit Spiller’s skill set and he hasn't ran any of them in the preseason. According to the Bills official website, Gailey said Spiller’s blitz pickups are, “Right on the money.” The blocking improvement will be important, but not as important as when he touches the ball.
The fumble against the Steelers brought up a negative of Spiller: his hands. He dropped too many passes a year ago and he doesn’t need a fumbling problem to go with it.
Chan Gailey said the offensive line’s pass-blocking was just average after the game against the Steelers. They have gone up against three of the better pass-rushes in the league, but the quarterbacks haven’t had a lot of time in the pocket to scan the field.
One of the big problems the Bills had last year was throwing the ball deep down field because of the offensive line. In order to throw long, the quarterback needs a long time in the pocket to throw. The offensive line looks like they have carried over that issue into 2012.
Sheppard was almost invisible in the first two games this preseason. The middle linebacker in a 4-3 has to be making more plays for the defense to be successful. Toby Gerhart had too big of a quarter when the Bills played Minnesota. He averaged seven yards every time he touched the ball. Sheppard is the main reason he had a big night in a short time on the field.
To be fair, Sheppard did make a few plays against Pittsburgh, and the defense had the Steelers’ offense sputtering for most of the first half. But it’s a huge concern to see the starting middle linebacker be run over by a running back. Sheppard had Isaac Redman squared up at the two-yard-line, but Redman pushed Sheppard back into the endzone. Redman is a load at 6'0" 230 pounds, but it's not a good sign to see the starting middle linebacker get shoved back on a big play.
Williams has been one of, if not the most disappointing players for the Bills over the last month. He was constantly getting beat in training camp practices and he’s looked the same in the preseason games. The pass-rush won't always be able to cover up problems in the secondary.
The second-year cornerback was supposed to be the solid starter at corner in 2012, but his play hasn't backed up those hopes. Sometimes he looks lost and other times he gets flat out beat. Offenses will pick on him all day in the regular season if he struggles this much.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the Bills should think about starting Leodis McKelvin across from Stephon Gilmore. McKelvin has been one of the bright spots for the Bills this preseason. He’s been solid at corner and he’s been very good on punt returns.
As shaky as Fitzpatrick has looked in the preseason, he is the starting quarterback for the Bills in 2012. And while some may not like him as the starter, he’s a whole lot better than anyone else the Bills can offer to take his place.
The backup quarterback situation is a mess. Vince Young is gone, Tyler Thigpen has looked horrible and may not be one the team come opening week, and Brad Smith is a wide receiver pretending to be a quarterback.
Believe it or not, the trade for Tarvaris Jackson actually improved the Bills’ depth at quarterback. The guy that was sitting behind a rookie and a backup QB in Seattle, despite a 7-7 record with the same team and coach last season. He was quickly the odd-man-out in Seattle.
As for Fitzpatrick’s play, it may be because Gailey’s play calling too. In a regular season game, Gailey would call plays that would slow down the pass-rush of teams like the Steelers,Vikings and Redskins.
The game plan would be full of runs, draws, screens and slants to avoid Fitzpatrick being in the pocket too long. He has shown more spark as the preseason has progressed, including a few throws down the field against Pittsburgh. If he were to get injured for any extended period of time, the Bills’ playoff chances would crumble.