Just a preseason game, but hey, its football, and we’ve been told the starters will be out there an extra series or two. Obviously, in his short time in DC, Coach Zorn has discovered the Rag, because just as a blegged in my Wednesday post, JZ has seen fit to get Portis into action. This probably has more to do with Rock Cartwright getting hurt than anything, but I’ll be happy to take the credit.
We can also expect to see Anthony Montgomery who is back from his broken hand. Others we can expect to see in action for the first time include Ladell Betts and London Fletcher.
And now for the obligatory “what to watch for” section:
1) No injuries. This is the only thing that really matters. We escaped well from the HoF game with only minor injuries to Wade and Heyer.
2) The continued crispness of the offense. We can’t actually expect that every team will let us start on their own half of the 50 so it is time to see if the first string offense can go 80 yards for a TD. The second series looked great last game until Jansen and Samuels allowed simultaneous sacks. Stuff happens. Let’s see what we do when stuff doesn’t happen.
3) The rookies. Colt, Horton, Rhinehart, and Jackson looked great in the game. Fred Davis is making a good second impression now that he bought himself an alarm clock and hopefully we’ll see an expanded role for him. Kareem Moore has rebounded from early knee problems and is getting rave reviews. It would be nice if Moore and Horton provide cheap and long term answers to the post-Sean Taylor crisis.
4) Jason Taylor. I know, we can’t expect an immediate impact, but is it too much to ask to see him sack Trent Edwards in the first series? Probably, but I’d love to watch it anyway.
Other things to expect:
1) With Heyer and Wade hurt, expect to see Samuels and Jansen get a little more work. Also expect to see Chad Rhinehart play a bit at tackle after playing mostly guard in the HoF game.
2) The defense should look much better this week. Not only are we playing a weaker offense, but one predicated on the running game. The depleted seconadry won’t be quite as easy to ravage. But don’t expect Blatche to be any easier on him. He’s a tougher, more vocal guy than Gregg Williams was.
3) A win. A big win.
For those who don’t know the Bills that well, let me give you a little preview. If you know the offense the Redskin ran in the first Gibbs tenure, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how familiar the Bills are. They lead the league last year in 2 TE formations and ran almost exclusively without a FB. When not using 2 TE’s, they were using three receiver sets very similar to those used by the Doug William’s era of the Gibbs tenure. They are a conservative offense that ran 57% on first down, near the top of the league and ran more screen passes than any other team in the league, more than twice the league average.
Marshawn Lynch and Trent Edwards were at the head of the second straight good Bills rookie class. Lynch, a power runner in the mold of his predecessor Willis McGahee is a decent, but little used threat out of the backfield. Look for Fred Jackson, an undrafted free agent rookie last year, to take most of the screens and dumps. They use him as a change of pace back. An interesting aspect to the Bills running game is that they stay in it even when behind in the second half. They rely heavily on the concept that they will wear down the D. And some of their success against us last year in the infamous timeout game was linked directly to that.
Edwards was considered an accurate but weak-armed system type QB during the draft. But he provides the stability and confidence missing during the “JP Losman era.” Losman had a higher completion rate, yards per catch, and was mobile in the pocket. But in a hundred fewer plays from scrimmage he threw 6 INTs to Edward’s 8. The INT’s were apparently enough to bench Losman.
Lee Evans is a bona fide threat at WR, but is not the type of player than can break double teams consistently. To take the pressure off of Evans, the Bills drafted James Hardy, a player often linked to the Skins. Hardy is tall and relatively polished, but he pointed a gun at his own dad this offseason. Not a great start. The other receives, Roscoe Parrish and Josh Reed fit better as 3rd and 4th options and will work well if Hardy is ready to shoulder a full load.
On defense, the Bills are a disaster. They were a very vanilla defense that lacked any discernible pass rush last year. They were behind only the Dolphins for worst defense against 3 receiver sets. They have added aging substance abuser Marcus Stroud and one dimensional Kawika Mitchell who could create some push, but the bigger addition might be top pick Leodis McKelvin who might shore up the pass defense. Still, this team isn’t a real threat this year. But look out next year or the year after.
I’d be disappointed not to come out of the first three series with a TD and a FG. Still, the Bills are exactly the kind of team that can get you in the preseason. They draft well and have a great wealth of young talent. They’ve got two QB’s that belong in the NFL, and because they are young and have lots of players fighting for playing time, they are far more likely to play like they care than the Colts did. So, overall, expect us to win, but don’t be too shocked or disappointed if their young and hungry talent plays harder than our veterans and pulls out the score in the end.