Fans looking for the new hierarchy of the Buffalo Bills to drastically change the course of events in this franchise’s recent history…will have to continue to wait. The Bills’ 42-17 loss at the hands of the Redskins has Bills’ fans in a familiar place this early in the preseason. A fast start was quickly undone by mistakes and even more injuries to key players. It’s only the preseason, and the games don’t count in the standings, but you’d still like to see some signs of life. Before the game, Buffalo Bills’ play-by-play announcer John Murphy quoted former Bill and current Redskin London Fletcher, who once told him, “preseason games don’t count, but they matter.” Let’s take a look at what happened in the first action for the 2010 Buffalo Bills.
The Bills did appear to show signs they are a different squad under Chan Gailey very early in the ballgame. The new 3-4 defense quickly stopped the Redskins’ first drive and forced a punt. C.J. Spiller didn’t provide any fireworks on a short return, but the Bills’ offense got off to a nice start. Trent Edwards and company went on a 60-yard drive that led to a field goal, and had the Bills up 3-0. Edwards was 5-6 for 44 yards on the drive, exuding some of the confidence that was absent in his game last season.
That’s when it got ugly for the Bills. Donovan McNabb and the Redskins’ offense appeared to be shut down again after McNabb threw an incomplete pass on third-and-long. However, Aaron Maybin was flagged on the play for roughing the passer. The yellow flag was all-too-familiar for Bills’ fans after last season’s team showed a penchant for Plaxico Burressing (shooting themselves in the foot/leg)in key moments of games. Needless to say, McNabb didn’t look back and led the Redskins to a touchdown.
Then Trent Edwards reminded everyone not to get too confident about this year’s offense by throwing an awful interception on the sideline on a 2nd and 10, leading to another Redskin touchdown a few plays later. Edwards was pressured, and forced to roll to his right. He did a nice job getting outside the pocket and buying time. Since nothing was there, he could now throw the ball away…or force it to an extremely well-covered Lee Evans leading to an interception and 33-yard return. Thanks for keeping us grounded, Trent. Next thing I knew, it was 35-3, and Frank Reich was not walking through the tunnel.
Penalties and injuries continue to impede the Bills. Penalties early in drives doomed hope of offensive production. Free agent signing LB Andra Davis’ illegal contact on a third down helped turned the Redskins’ third possession into a touchdown. I’m glad he’s fitting in early. Running backs Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch were both injured in the first half. Jackson, who hurt his hand, is likely out for the rest of the preseason. Lynch’s ankle kept him out of action after a few touches. Lynch did a great job running through tacklers when he had the ball. I am presently unaware of the severity of Lynch’s injury.
The tale of two Trents was sort of a microcosm of his career in Buffalo to this point. Promising start, settling for a field goal, and then imploding upon himself. Bills’ fans just have to hope that Trent’s up-and-down play was the result of a new offense that was missing three starting offensive linemen, and not a continuing trend from a season ago.
Spiller was bottled up pretty quickly on his lone punt return. He showed some burst on a nice run off right tackle for a first down, and wound up with 16 yards on 4 carries. Nothing to write home about, but in limited action, you can’t complain about what he produced.
Defensively, Maybin’s big contribution to the game was again a negative one, as his roughing-the-passer pretty much catapulted Washington to their romp of the Bills. He showed that he has an effective speed rush, and even made a nice counter spin move on one play, but he was just overmatched again by Washington’s starting offensive lineman. Unless he is able to counter starting-caliber NFL offensive lineman who take away his speed rush off the edge, he’ll continue to be better served on special teams than defense.
The Bills have given up a return touchdown in each of Bruce DeHaven’s last two games as special teams coordinator. This one was a lot less costly than the one in Tennessee 10 years ago, but not a great start for a guy replacing the most effective special teams coach in Bills’ history, Bobby April.
Note to Bills’ defensive coaches: George Wilson is a STRONG safety. We found this out a couple of seasons ago, when as a free safety, he stood idly by while Tom Brady threw touchdown passes over his head in a 56-10 win in Buffalo on national television. On Friday night, he watched a Rex Grossman pass sail by him to a wide open Devin Thomas when he was playing with Brian Scott in the defensive backfield. I think they’re both outstanding backup strong safeties. However, not a good pairing when you’re expecting one of them to play free safety.
There were some bright spots for Buffalo. Leodis McKelvin made some nice tackles and seemed stronger than I’d seen him in previous seasons. John McCargo played like a first round pick, albeit late in the game against Washington’s reserves, as he made two tackles for a loss (one sack). I thought OLB Chris Ellis made a couple of nice plays in space defending passes, showing promise in his position switch from defensive end. Shawn Nelson made a nice block on a Joique Bell run, as both reserve RBs Bell and Chad Simpson made some nice runs late in the game.
Remember Bills’ fans, it’s just preseason, and the Bills are just trying to make progress this year, not compete for championships. In case you forget, they may provide some harsh reminders.