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Deskchair Quarterback: Bills preseason debut

August 10, 2012

Ryan Fitzpatrick is not Jim Kelly, that much was assumed a long time ago. However, any doubters were likely converted while watching Fitzpatrick direct the Bills first-team offense last night against Washington.

Fitzpatrick trotted out with a number of open and spread looks in the brief time he and the starters saw last night. It was indicated that he was the one calling the plays while reading what the defense was giving him. The result was zero running plays and three points.

There were flashes of brilliance from the starters and there is the obvious fact that the gameplan last night doesn’t even represent a quarter of what the Bills will present in the regular season. So anyone who has proclaimed the sky is falling regarding the offense, team and season; take a step back.

To put things in perspective, Shawne Merriman looked like an All-Pro last year and the offensive line was leakier than the Titanic. As it turned out, Merriman was ineffective before missing most of the year and the offensive line proved to be rather stout for much of the 2011 season. The bottom line is that the preseason is all about evaluation and not about team performance. Or at least that is mostly what it is about.

Of course it is important for the first-team offense and defense to begin to gel and come together as a unit. But without a full game plan and a scaled back playbook, there is little reason to expect incredible results.

Overall, last night was a rather mixed bag. There was some good, there was plenty of bad and there were even some bright spots which are worth looking forward to.

Yes, the first-team offense had a rough go in their time. The first-team defense looked stout, but didn’t exhibit too much explosiveness against the Redskins’ starters. The special teams looked impressive and there were a few respectable performances from depth players.

I’m sure there were plenty of fans expecting Mark Anderson and Mario Williams to run roughshod over Washington’s patchwork offensive line, but they were relatively quiet during the series they played. Although he didn’t produce a sack, Williams gets up field and he gets up field fast. He is going to be worth every penny and is going to cause a whole bunch of headaches this season.

Anderson wasn’t as noticeable as Williams, however, my seats were fairly low and didn’t provide a very good vantage point for watching battles on the offensive line. For example, Cordy Glenn didn’t look out of place as the starting left tackle, but I couldn’t accurately say how strong of a performance he actually had.

From my vantage point, there were a few singular plays that really stood out, but there was also very little opportunity to offer any real insight.

Quarterbacks

Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starter, there is no debating that. However, the backup competition likely stayed in neutral after last night. Tyler Thigpen threw a terrible interception, but Vince Young should have had an equally egregious pick on his record. He was just lucky that the Redskin who he threw to had alligator arms.

I maintain that Young’s ability to stretch plays and scramble will give him the edge over Thigpen. He was playing behind a rather patchwork offensive line and it showed. I wonder if he will be better after getting some time with the number two offense in the next outing?

Rookie Returns

All of the Bills rookies saw some action last night. Stephon Gilmore wasn’t noticeable aside from getting blocked out well on the Washington touchdown. I don’t think he was beaten in one-on-one coverage though. Cordy Glenn, as stated previously, held up well from what I saw. He was beaten badly on his first series, but looked stout the rest of the way.

T.J. Graham looked foolish running a kickoff out of the end zone after miscommunicating with Marcus Easley on who would receive the kick. He had a number of nice catch and runs, however, and looks as if he will be a viable threat in the slot.

Ron Brooks should have had two interceptions, but he ended up with one. Nigel Bradham and Tank Carder each found their way around the ball on running plays, but weren’t in the spotlight at any point. The same goes for Zebrie Sanders. A couple penalties tarnished his debut, but he wasn’t a turnstile either.

Mark Asper, on the other hand, was getting beaten on a near regular basis. I noticed him end up in the backfield a few times with another couple of snaps resulting in the rookie grasping at air.

John Potter, however, looks as if he may be worthy of a roster spot. It may be hard to justify keeping a fourth specialist, but he can kick it out of the endzone on a regular basis. That is huge.

New rules, refs are a massive fail

The replacement officials looked like replacements. I don’t know how in the name of God’s green earth they deemed Ruvell Martin to be in the endzone when he caught and landed with the ball at the four yard line, but they did. They also had a few other gaffes along the way. George Wilson should not have been ruled down by contact upon his recovery of the RGIII fumble in the first quarter, all replays I saw indicated that he picked that ball up without being touched down.

Another new rule was instituted for the Ralph and it seems like it has all sorts of awful written all over it. The new rule that every fan will be checked by hand wand by security has the potential to cause major congestion at each stadium gate this season. I would guess it took about 15-20 minutes to get into the stadium with a number of fans waiting far longer than that. With only half the stadium full, I would imagine the regular season will be far worse than yesterday’s trial run.

Hopefully a lesson was learned and there will be double the security personnel available once the regular season begins. Because at this point it would appear that fans will need to head for the gates at least 45 minutes in advance.

 

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