Two preseason games are officially in the books for the Buffalo Bills and many of the remaining key questions the team had heading into the season are still very much unanswered.
Heading into the 2018 preseason schedule, the Buffalo Bills were faced with several key questions.
Who would win the much bandied about quarterback battle? Which of the young, enigmatic wide receivers will step up and solidify a position? Will last year’s run defense be fixed with the material turnover within the front seven? Well, based on the first two preseason games, these and other questions still remain unanswered.
Instead, the team has neither under-performed nor over-performed thus far. Aside from Marcus Murphy taking the bull by the horns and all but locking himself in as one of the key halfback substitutes, the number of compelling storylines to answer the aforementioned questions are limited.
If you took out the time to watch some of Josh Allen‘s college footage, you would know that he displayed several moments of absolute magic coupled with instances of head-scratching decision making.
His surprising athleticism and superior arm strength allow him to evade oncoming pressure and heave throws that no other Bills quarterback in the last two decades would dare make. Well, his first two professional appearances mostly went according to script.
Allen’s 18 of 32 for 176 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions are somewhat encouraging numbers, yet don’t fully jump off the page. He has shown the propensity to fit balls into tight windows, displayed the ability to scramble for plus yardage, but also threw behind receivers on a few occasions as well. In a perfect world, there would be a greater disparity of the former versus the latter.
On paper, there is no denying Nathan Peterman has had a very strong preseason showing thus far. 17 of 20 for 231 yards are numbers that cannot be overlooked, yet he is far from a lock to start week one. Truth be told, we have seen Peterman fare well in similar, low-pressure situations in the past.
Because of this, we, as Bills fans, are partially jaded by knowing what he shown on the field when the time counts. He says all the right things, seemingly makes most of the right reads and decisions, but has not shown enough to give you that warm and fuzzy feeling inside.
With A.J. McCarron likely not being in the picture for the foreseeable future, here is to hoping that either Allen or Peterman takes a giant step forward in the next two weeks to make the signal-calling picture much clearer and comforting.
Mixed bag of wide receivers
The team’s wide receivers has had a flavor (or two) of the week thus far in preseason. The problem is that said flavors aren’t really all that appetizing.
In week one of the preseason, Ray-Ray McCloud formed some nice chemistry with Allen, but was quiet against Browns, and thus, has not entirely etched his name in 53-man roster stone as of yet.
Cult icon Brandon Reilly hauled in a long pass from McCarron against the Carolina Panthers, but was ruled out against the Browns with a rib injury. It is still very in doubt whether he has what it takes to be a successful NFL receiver or if he is nothing but fool’s gold.
The newly acquired Corey Coleman had everything to prove against his former team this past Friday, but was held to a single reception for seven yards. Coleman has the raw skills to move the needle on Buffalo’s offense, but will need to produce over the next two weeks to move up the team’s pecking order of enigmatic receivers.
Fixing the run defense
With the big money additions of defensive linemen Star Lotulelei and Trent Murphy, as well as the first-round investment in athletic linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, the Bills defense appears to have undergone a favorable upgrade on paper.
The team’s run defense ranked 29th in the NFL last season, and was routinely gashed up the middle for a confluence of reasons. Naturally, one would think that an influx of talent would help remediate this problem.
Alas, through the team’s first two preseason games, the defense has again been exploited in the running game, this time by the likes of Christian McCaffrey, Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb. Coach Sean McDermott has officially taken notice.
“Not good enough,” McDermott said following the Browns game. “It wasn’t up to our standards, so we have to go back and take a look at it. Some of those were hitting inside. Sometimes it takes the film to really diagnose where it was hitting and why, so you go back and we get things corrected, and get it up to the standard that we so desire.”
To play devil’s advocate, the Panthers and Browns ranked fourth and 18th in the NFL in rushing yards per game last season, so perhaps the Bills were taking lumps from the upper echelon and will fare much better against the 31st ranked run attack of the Cincinnati Bengals this week?
Only time will tell.