No one knew what to expect on Friday night from Buffalo’s quarterbacks but all three players competing for the starting job fared well against the Carolina Panthers. Matt Cassel went 7-of-8 for 45 yards with the first team offense. Cassel kept his passes short but he and the Buffalo Bills were able to move the chains on his second drive. The veteran quarterback led the team into field goal range, but Jordan Gay was not able to convert the field goal attempt.
Tyrod Taylor lived up to the hype on Friday and led the Bills to two touchdown drives with the second team offense. The quarterback scrambled for 47 yards on six carries and added another 49 yards on 5-of-8 passing. Taylor threw a beautiful pass that was dropped in the end zone by Deonte Thompson. He showed a good balance on Friday, but will need to show that he can rely on his arm more in the next three weeks. Following Friday’s game, Rex Ryan announced that Taylor would start against the Cleveland Browns.
E.J. Manuel came into the game in the second half and dealt with two poor snaps in his first series. The boo birds were out early and Manuel’s second drive stalled after MarQueis Gray dropped a pass from the quarterback. In his third series, Manuel connected with Thompson for a 51-yard touchdown reception. He finished the game 4-of-8 for 77 yards and added six yards rushing on two carries. Following the game, Ryan would not commit to Manuel playing with the second team offense. If the Bills followed a true rotation, this would be the case. It’ll be interesting to see if Manuel gets to work with the second team or if he’s stuck with the third team next week.
All in all, there were bright spots from all three quarterbacks. Bills fans have to feel good about their initial play.
Run game looks good
Buffalo ran the ball for 206 yards and two touchdowns on 45 carries. It’s safe to say that Ryan’s ground and pound attack looked good in its initial appearance. LeSean McCoy, the team’s workhorse back, only saw four carries in his first game with the Bills, but the depth behind him looked great.
Karlos Williams showed that he’s not afraid of contact and ran hard against the Panthers first and second team offense. He finished with 14 carries for 40 yards and a one yard touchdown plunge. Williams didn’t look like a fifth round pick on Friday night.
Bryce Brown followed Williams and led the team in rushing. Brown was able to hold onto the ball, an issue he’s had at training camp, and the back rushed for 52 yards on six games. He also scored a touchdown on a four yard run. Brown faces long odds of making the team with McCoy, Fred Jackson, Anthony Dixon and Williams as his competition, but he made a positive contribution against the Panthers.
Buffalo’s offensive line creating running lanes for the backs, something that didn’t happen often last season. Speaking of the team’s offensive line…
John Miller thrives
Rex Ryan should just go ahead and name Miller as the team’s starting right guard this season. He’s been fantastic at training camp and he did more than hold his own against the Panthers. Miller made impressive blocks and his athleticism was on display on Friday night. No other guard is going to pass Miller on the depth chart on the current roster.
Darby gets picked on
Buffalo’s second round pick didn’t have as much success. Darby made some plays on Friday night, but he was also picked on quite a bit by Cam Newton and Derek Anderson. The cornerback gave up long completions to Ted Ginn Jr. and Devin Funchess. Darby was also responsible for giving up a touchdown to Kelvin Benjamin.
Teams are going to target the cornerback throughout the preseason and regular season, so Darby will have to learn on the job. Neither of Cleveland’s quarterbacks are close to Cam Newton’s level, so Darby could have a confidence boost next week. That said, he needs to be prepared come Week 1. Andrew Luck and the Colts will certainly target the rookie early and often.
-Buffalo dominated the time of possession and held the ball for 37:10.
-While a few came late, Buffalo needs to cut back its penalties going forward. The team was called for 12 penalties that cost the team 111 yards.
-The Bills finished the game with 23 first downs. Fourteen first downs were converted on the ground.