The Buffalo Bills finally got a preseason game under their belt with a 28-23 loss to the Carolina Panthers. A score that isn’t as indicative as to how the game went for the Bills.
The game started with a defensive stand that stalled Cam Newton and company and allowed the Buffalo Bills offense to get onto the field quickly. The Bills defense is going to be the bread and butter of this team, but all the intrigue lies on the offensive side of the football.
With competition along the line, at the wide receiver position, running back and at quarterback, all eyes were on the Bills offense to see who would make a name for themselves.
This article will highlight a few players who impressed against the Panthers.
The quarterback battle is one of many taking place in training camp this year. It’s a legitimate three-horse race between Nathan Peterman, AJ McCarron and the first-round rookie Josh Allen. Competition in practice is one thing, but you don’t truly know how these players will perform until the pads come on and you’re in in-game action.
The Bills awarded Peterman the start and he returned the favor with an excellent showing. He certainly looked an awful lot better than he did against the Chargers last season.
The sophomore quarterback was the easily the most impressive Bill against the Panthers
Peterman was 9 for 10 for over 100 yards and a touchdown. He could’ve ended his day with a perfect completion rating but got picked off by Shaq Thompson on his last pass before being yanked for the two’s. However, it was hardly his fault– Chris Ivory had the pass bounce off his hands and right to the defender.
It’s easy to see 90 percent throwing with a touchdown and assume the quarterback was good. But once taking a second look at a few of his throws, it’s conceivable that Peterman is a much more confident player than he was a year ago and is making a serious pitch to be the starter come September.
Let’s look at his touchdown throw below.
Notice how he looked off the safety in the first couple seconds of the play and then quickly located Kelvin Benjamin and dropped it perfectly over the shoulder with his receiver in stride.
More importantly, this play was made with Benjamin who figures to be the Bills top target if he can stay healthy. So developing chemistry with the 6-foot-5 wideout may go a long way in this competition.
Speaking of Benjamin, he was dominant in his lone series of action against his former team
After talking smack about Cam Newton a few days ago to Athletic reporter Matthew Fairburn, Benjamin walked-the-walk with four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown on the team’s opening drive.
The Peterman-to-Benjamin connection was a perfect 4 for 4 on the day and the fifth-year pro had to make a big play early on to keep that stat line intact on the opening drive. Besides the touchdown pass, the duo also connected on a difficult sideline throw that appeared to be going out-of-bounds.
Peterman scrambled and fired a last-effort pass toward a loosely covered Benjamin that used his 6-foot-5 frame to pluck the ball from the other side of the boundary line while sliding his tippy-toes across the grass to say in bounds.
Whether or not this effort was a product of personal improvement or as a vendetta against his former squad is yet to be determined, but for the first time in his Bills career, he looked like a number one receiver.
Marcus Murphy, I love thee
The one position on the offense that seems to be settled already is the starting tailback. As long as LeSean McCoy is healthy, the Bills have their man to run between the tackles. The backup role, however, is definitely up for grabs and Marcus Murphy made a pitch for it last night.
Murphy had seven carries for 35 yards on the ground with a touchdown. He ran with confidence and was sleek, making people miss tackles in the first and second level.
Adding to his offensive totals, Murphy proved to be a dual-threat by adding 30 yards receiving on four catches and made an appearance as a punt returner where he muscled out a measly five-yard gain. His special team’s contributions may not be as important as initially thought if he keeps performing like this.
It seems like I wasn’t the only one that was impressed by fourth-year back.
There are still three more preseason games to decide the team’s running back committee behind McCoy. The competition features Murphy, Chris Ivory, Taiwan Jones, Travaris Cadet and UDFA Kieth Ford. I’m not ready to anoint him the number two back on the depth chart just yet, but he certainly made a convincing argument that he should be going forward.
Lastly, I wanted to make sure I mentioned how impressed I was by the team’s trench play
The defensive line was missing their leader Kyle Williams, but didn’t seem to miss a beat controlling the line-of-scrimmage all night limiting the Panthers run game to average just two yards-per-run, and helped limit the opposition to a 50 percent third-down conversion rating.
A couple notable names who stood out in the game were 2016 first-rounder Shaq Lawson who didn’t record a tackle but was disruptive on the edge and deflected a throw from Newton in the opening quarter. Rookie defensive tackle Harrison Phillips also impressed recording two tackles including and a sack in his limited snaps.
One last player who caught my eye late was Mike Love, the undersized edge defender from South Florida. He made two outstanding plays to fight off blocks and get into the backfield quickly for tackles for losses of five yards each, and almost recorded a sack as well.
Offensively, they did a nice job creating running lanes for the backs and keeping the QB’s upright. The Bills offensive line allowed just two sacks all game, and only suffered one tackle-for-loss in the backfield while allowing the team to rush for more than double the yardage (4.4 yards-per-run) than the Panthers attack.
Considering the team lost three of its starters from last year, I was extremely impressed with how the unit played overall.
With three more games to go the competition is certainly going to pick up. Who do you think will impress the Bills brass next week?