Bills top wide out Stevie Johnson had a performance to forget on...
10 Takeaways From Bills 20-16 Victory Over Minnesota Vikings
The Buffalo Bills once again put on a solid performance in their second preseason contest, this time against the Minnesota Vikings. The Bills scored touchdowns on both offense and defense, earning a 20-16 victory, increasing their record to 2-0 for the preseason. Here are 10 things we took away from the Bills’ performance:
Nathaniel Hackett’s hurry-up offense is clicking.
Through the first two preseason games, the Bills have ran 163 offensive plays, while their opponents have ran just 131. With each play ran at a fast pace, the team has a better chance at wearing out the defense and putting points on the board. All three quarterbacks appear to have command of the offense and familiarity with their respective units. Head coach Doug Marrone preached aggressiveness, intensity and versatility, and it’s nice to see it come together on the field, even if it is preseason.
The Bills May Have Gotten A Steal In Jerry Hughes Trade
When the Bills acquired pass rusher Jerry Hughes for inside linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, the move wasn’t really met with any optimism other than the fact that he should provide adequate depth at the defensive end/ outside linebacker position. However, through two preseason games, Hughes has made a case to not only see the field as a situational rusher, but as a starter. In the two contests, Hughes has racked up five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. According to ProFootballFocus, Hughes has generated a quarterback pressure roughly every seven pass rushing snaps. On the other hand, Sheppard is running with the Colts’ third team defense and is at risk of losing a roster spot.
Bills Defense Creating Havoc
The Bills’ defensive scheme has been a breath of fresh air for fans who endured a vanilla and unaggressive 4-3 front last season. Throughout the first two games, the Bills came out with 3-4 personnel, lining up in fronts consisting of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 down linemen at any given time. This disguise has given opposing quarterbacks headaches, while really giving the pass rushers and extra blitzers adequate chances to get in the backfield quickly. Coach Pettine has been relentless, and while it’s just the preseason, the confusion his scheme has caused offenses is clearly evident.
Undrafted quarterback Jeff Tuel out of Washington State has made the most of his training camp opportunity. Now, instead of battling to earn a job on the 53-man roster, he’s putting up a real battle to earn the No. 2 quarterback slot. Tuel is the highest rated passer in the NFL right now after completing 80 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Tuel has shown consistency with the second and third team offense and has a knack for completing the deep ball. Officially, Coach Marrone has put Tuel in the race for the starting quarterback job, which is wide open after E.J. Manuel was ruled out for the remainder of the preseason. While Manuel is certainly the long-term option as the starter, it wouldn’t be surprising at this point if Tuel beat Kolb and earned the nod to open the season against the New England Patriots.
Alan Branch Has Been Unimpressive
When the Bills signed defensive lineman Alan Branch via free agency, it was believed he’d be a quality fourth defensive tackle that would spell Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams or Alex Carrington. However, he’s had a lackluster camp and looked pretty slow during games. To this point, Branch has been outplayed by guys like Jay Ross, Corbin Bryant and Jarron Gilbert, who are all battling to be the No. 4 or No. 5 defensive tackle. Don’t be surprised if Branch doesn’t make the final squad, as he’s only due $3 million, and it isn’t guaranteed unless he is on the Week One roster.
Still No Separation At No.2/ Nickel CB
Aside from Stephon Gilmore, who is having an unbelievable camp, the Bills have a large hole at cornerback. Coach Pettine has been moving guys around trying to find the best fit, but nobody has done anything to separate themselves from the pack to this point. Nickell Robey, an undersized undrafted free agent out of Southern California got the starting nod in place of an injured Leodis McKelvin as the No. 2 boundary corner with Ron Brooks starting in the slot, and he performed adequately, allowing just two receptions for nine yards against the Vikings.
Ron Brooks rebounded from a poor outing against the Indianapolis Colts, allowing just one reception on five targets for five yards, but he’s been undisciplined and has made some poor mistakes on the field, most notably whiffing on a loose ball fumbled by Matt Cassel.
Crezdon Butler was seeing time as the CB2 throughout last week’s practice, but apparently his solid performance against the Colts wasn’t enough to garner a starting job. This is definitely a battle to keep an eye on throughout the remainder of the preseason.
Cordy Glenn Looks Like The Real Deal
Throughout the first two games of preseason, Cordy Glenn has been awfully quiet…which is a great thing for a left tackle. In his 79 snaps, Glenn has shut down premier pass rushers in Jared Allen and Robert Mathis, while being graded as ProFootballFocus’ 4th best tackle to this point. Glenn is entering his second season and will need to perform at a high level to compensate for the loss of left guard Andy Levitre in order to keep whoever is under center upright.
Da’Norris Searcy At Risk Of Losing His Job?
With Da’Norris Searcy making the transition to free safety, Aaron Williams has been an absolute stud thus far at his old strong safety position. Searcy has looked absolutely lost in coverage, grading out as ProFootballFocus’ 113th ranked safety out of 124 qualifying players. He’s allowed four receptions for 96 yards (23 yards after catch), while quarterbacks are posting a 118.8 passer rating when targeting him. With youngsters like Dominique Ellis and Duke Williams seeing time with the second team, it really wouldn’t be shocking to see Coach Pettine give one of them a chance over the struggling Searcy.
Nigel Bradham Is In For A Monster Season
While Kiko Alonso has gotten most of the publicity this offseason, as he’s the starting “Mike” linebacker, don’t forget about Nigel Bradham. Bradham is a rangy and athletic linebacker with size and power that can play weakside, strongside and “mike” and should have a great year. He’s racked up six tackles on defense and two on special teams throughout the first two games and this defensive scheme should put him in a position to succeed.
Chris Gragg Pulling Away As TE2?
With Scott Chandler being brought along slowly due to his recovery from a torn ACL, the coaching staff has put seventh round draft pick Chris Gragg on the field as much as possible. Gragg is an extremely athletic and fast tight end out of Arkansas that fits the mold of the new “move” tight ends slowly popping up around the league. Gragg has played 90 snaps to this point, which is the second most on the team behind offensive lineman Antoine Caldwell. Gragg clearly has the upper hand in the battle for the backup tight end job
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