Buffalo Bills: 8 Things We Learned Through Week 3 of Preseason

Brandon CroceAnalyst IAugust 26, 2013

Buffalo Bills: 8 Things We Learned Through Week 3 of Preseason

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    The Buffalo Bills started the preseason with two good wins over the Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings. It wasn't the same story over the weekend with a 30-7 loss to the Washington Redskins.

    This is a little concerning considering the fact that Week 3 of preseason is believed to be the best test for how prepared a team is for the regular season. Luckily for Buffalo, it has one more game to straighten things out before it faces New England in Week 1.

    Here are eight things we have learned about the Buffalo Bills through the first three weeks of preseason.

C.J. Spiller Is the Key to the Offense

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    This is probably something that was known before the start of preseason. The belief has been confirmed, though, through the first three games of the season. On Buffalo's only scoring drive against Washington, Spiller accounted for 27 yards of the 56-yard drive.

    He finished the drive off with a two-yard touchdown run but quickly grabbed for his knee after he crossed the goal line. There was a collective gasp across Western New York, but it ended up being nothing more than a cut from another player's spikes.

    C.J. Spiller is a dynamic player and will be the best friend to whichever quarterback is under center for Buffalo. He will take a lot of pressure off of him and hopefully give him better looks on throws with defenses keyed in on Spiller. 

EJ Manuel Is the Best Quarterback on the Roster

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    It has been clear that the offense is not the same when EJ Manuel is not on the field. He missed the game against the Redskins and is slated to miss Thursday night's game against Detroit due to knee surgery.

    This allowed Kevin Kolb, who missed the first game of preseason, a chance to make up ground in the position battle, but he was not able to seize that opportunity. Looking at the two quarterbacks' cumulative preseason stats, EJ Manuel has clearly been the better of the two.

     

     CompAttPct.YardsTDInt
    EJ Manuel263378.8%19920
    Kevin Kolb152560%12701

     

    The injuries didn't stop with EJ Manuel, though, as Kevin Kolb left the game against Washington with concussion-like symptoms. The injury appears to be very serious as Tim Graham of Buffalo News is reporting that this concussion could be career ending.

    The Bills are now scrambling as Jeff Tuel is the only remaining healthy quarterback. On Sunday, the team brought in free-agent Matt Leinart and traded LB Chris White for Thaddeus Lewis.

    It isn't surprising that coach Marrone is holding out hope that Manuel will be able to return to practice before the start of the regular season. If he is not ready, Jeff Tuel could be the man in the season opener.

     

Penalties Are Going to Be a Problem

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    Referees are going to earn their paychecks when they are assigned Buffalo Bills games if the first three weeks are any indication. The Bills have been flagged 30 times over that span for 218 yards. 

    This is a little bit expected considering how many rookies the team has, and rookies are not always as disciplined as veterans. At the same time, though, this is a young team, and the last thing it needs to do is continually give opposing teams free yards. 

    This is hopefully one of the primary concerns for the coaching staff over these final two weeks of practice before the regular season.

This Defense Can Get After the Quarterback

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    One of the most frustrating things for Bills fans last year was the lack of pressure they generated on opposing quarterbacks. This doesn't look like it will be a problem in 2013.

    Through the first three games, the Bills have nine sacks and 18 quarterback hits. With the additions of Manny Lawson and Jerry Hughes and the emergence of Alex Carrington, the Bills got the pass-rushers to complement Mario Williams.

    It will be exciting to see what these players are able to accomplish in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's defense, which expects to put regular pressure on the opposition.

The Secondary Is Going to Struggle

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    Stephon Gilmore is the team's best player in the secondary, but there is a clear drop after him. Jairus Byrd is still there, but there is some concern over the fact that he has missed all offseason workouts and the entire training camp at St. John Fisher College.

    It is hard to imagine that he is in top physical shape, and he has had no practice time in Mike Pettine's new defensive scheme. This makes me wonder what type of player the Bills will get, especially early on.

    This problem could be minimized if the Bills are able to continue to put pressure on the opposing quarterback. If they constantly have a Bills player collapsing his pocket, he will have less time to make a good throw. This will be one of the big storylines to watch over the course of the season.

Marquise Goodwin Is Really Fast

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    Marquise Goodwin has unbelievable speed. If the Bills put him in the right position, he can be one of the team's best weapons. Fans quickly learned his name when he returned a kickoff 107 yards for a touchdown in the first preseason game.

    He has accumulated 252 yards so far this preseason on six returns for an average of 42 yards. By him returning the ball, it will shorten the field for the offense and hopefully give it a better chance of putting points on the board.

    Right now, Goodwin is probably fourth on the depth chart for wide receiver. It will be interesting to see how much time he will get on the field. If the Bills do try to spread defenses out with four-wide receiver sets, Goodwin should have favorable matchups that he could exploit with his speed.

The Bills Offense Will Play Fast

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    The Buffalo Bills plan to play an up-tempo offense, which can have both positive and negative effects. Fans have seen both of these at least once through the first three games. 

    When the up-tempo offense is being run effectively like in Indianapolis, the Bills offense can put up 451 yards of total offense on 85 plays. It's going to tire defenses out because they can't make substitutions and don't have much time to regroup.

    When the offense is struggling, though, it affects every aspect of the team. By the team continually struggling to sustain long drives, the defense is heading back out onto the field more quickly and expends more energy. This was evident against Washington when the offense was only on the field for 49 plays and 21:08 minutes.

     

The Bills Are Going to Be Frustrating but Fun to Watch in 2013

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    The Buffalo Bills are going to be an interesting team for fans to watch in 2013. They have added a lot of talent the past few years; however, they are a young team and will make mistakes.

    The offense is built on speed and will be explosive. If EJ Manuel is under center, he can hurt defenses with his legs and bring a whole dimension to the offense that Buffalo has never had. CJ Spiller is one of the best running backs in the game, and the Bills have a young, talented group of wide receivers led by Stevie Johnson.

    The defense is going to be built around putting pressure on the opposing quarterback, and it has the pieces to do so. It had its star defensive end in Mario Williams and a top cornerback in Stephon Gilmore. This offseason the team drafted Kiko Alonso to man the middle for this defense, and he has not disappointed early in preseason. 

    GM Doug Whaley has helped former GM Buddy Nix to fill a number of holes this offseason but it is by no means a finished product. Buffalo is a young team that needs experience and will make mistakes, which is where the frustrating part comes in. If the first three games of preseason are any indication, it should be a roller-coaster year for the Buffalo Bills.