Post-game thoughts: Bills offense clicking

Buffalo saw a great offensive performance from their quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, tight ends and offensive line on Saturday against the Steelers.

Five hundred forty two net yards. Preseason or not, putting up 542 yards is an impressive feat for the Buffalo Bills offense. On Saturday, Buffalo’s offense exploded in a 43 point effort against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Following the win, here are some postgame thoughts.

Tyrod Taylor deserves the starting job

Yes, I know Team E.J. Manuel will be on my case, but no quarterback was more consistent throughout training camp or the preseason than Taylor. If this truly was a quarterback competition, you have to give the job to Taylor. On Saturday night, Bills fans saw a third impressive preseason performance. On his first drive, Taylor led an 11 play, 80 yard drive that ended in a one yard Ricky Seale run. Taylor went 6-of-7 for 70 yards on the drive and again proved that he can succeed as a pocket passer.

The second time Taylor saw the ball, there was only nine seconds left in the half. He delivered an eight yard completion to Andre Davis that set up Dan Carpenter’s 52-yard field goal to end the half. Leading the Bills to ten points in two series, if we can truly call the one pass a series, was a great way to end the first half.

Rex Ryan wanted to give Taylor a true second series to open the third quarter and once again, the quarterback delivered. He led the Bills on a 10 play, 78 yard drive where he completed all five of his passes for 44 yards. Finally, Taylor decided to show off his running ability to end the night. The final play of the drive saw Taylor run for 20 yards and a touchdown to put the Bills up 29-19.

Throughout the preseason, no quarterback was more consistent in terms of moving the ball than Taylor. He’s shown enough for the Bills to give him the job.

Manuel shows growth

Taylor deserves the starting job, but no one can deny that Manuel has made progress throughout the preseason. Tonight, the quarterback put on a passing clinic and was not afraid to push the ball down the field. Manuel ended his night 7-of-8 for 170 yards and two touchdowns. His first TD was a deep bomb to Charles Clay on a play where the Steelers had blown coverage. Regardless, Manuel saw his man down the field and connected on a perfect pass that went for 67 yards. In the second half, Manuel returned in the third quarter and only needed two passes to score another touchdown, this time a 37 yard pass to Tobais Palmer.

Greg Roman has done a good job of working with all of Buffalo’s quarterbacks, and he’s shown that Manuel can still develop into a quality player. While I don’t believe he should be starting in Week 1 against the Colts, he’s played well to keep his roster spot and use the season as a chance to further develop. His confidence is at an all-time high now and a full season on the bench could do him wonders.

Why Cassel could still start

Coming into training camp, many people around the NFL believed that Matt Cassel would be starting for the Bills in Week 1. He was the veteran among the trio, a true game-manager and a player the team could trust to protect the ball.

In the preseason, Cassel has only played four series for the Bills and while he hasn’t led the team on any scoring drives (one drive resulted in a 37-yard missed field goal by Jordan Gay), he’s moved the ball well enough. He finished the preseason 13-of-15 for 83 yards in two games.

The fact that he’s only seen four series actually worries me a bit. It leads me to believe that the coaching staff is comfortable enough with the veteran that they don’t need to see any extended play from him and that they may still lean towards starting Cassel. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but it’d be a mistake to hand Cassel the job.

Receivers step up

No Sammy Watkins. No Robert Woods. No Percy Harvin. No Chris Hogan. No Deonte Thompson. No problem.

Buffalo’s backups stepped up on Saturday with their starters banged up. Andre Davis, Marcus Easley, Marquise Goodwin (up until his injury) and Tobais Palmer all stood out for the Bills at the receiver position. They all deserve praise for helping the quarterbacks move the ball throughout the evening.

Marcus Easley really stood out among the receivers. On Saturday, Easley showed he’s more than just a special teams ace. He caught six passes on six targets for 42 yards and his block allowed Jackson’s first rush of the preseason to go for 41 yards.

At tight end, Clay made his mark with the long touchdown and Chris Gragg continued his strong preseason by catching four passes for 69 yards and a touchdown. His play has made releasing Nick O’Leary a legitimate possibility. MarQueis Gray, the team’s No. 2 receiver, also had a strong game catching four passes for 54 yards and Matthew Mulligan even caught two passes for 12 yards.

It was a great performance for the receivers and tight ends.

Jackson returns, running backs perform well

Fred Jackson didn’t disappoint in his first preseason game. His first carry could have been a touchdown. Jackson believed he scored but was marked out at the two yard line after running for a 41 yard gain. He punched it in two plays later and finished with five carries for 48 yards and a touchdown. Behind Jackson, the other backs also impressed.

Bronson Hill has really caught my attention. While he has no shot of making Buffalo’s 53-man roster, he could land a practice squad spot with the Bills. Hill ran the ball for seven times for 28 yards and added 12 yards receiving. He’s done a nice job of following his blocks and has gotten better each game.

Cierre Wood also added 31 yards on eight carries, but the majority came on a 22 yard run and Ricky Seale added a touchdown run.

Once the regular season comes, Buffalo’s running back depth and talent is going to significantly improve. If Hill, Wood and Seale can find success, there’s no doubt that LeSean McCoy, Jackson, Karlos Williams and Anthony Dixon will have move the ball effectively.

Offensive line looks great

Buffalo’s offensive line was a disaster in 2014, especially at guard. On Saturday, the entire line looked great and Richie Incognito especially stood out. The unit only gave up two sacks on the evening and gave the quarterbacks plenty of time to scan the field. In addition to their strong pass protection, they also opened up some good running lanes.

Defensive play uneven

Buffalo’s defense was shaky on Saturday. Ronald Darby was once again an easy target for opposing quarterbacks and he drew two penalties that went for 50 yards. The first call was questionable, but referees aren’t going to do the rookie any favors in the regular season. Come Week 1, Ryan is going to have to give Darby safety help.

It didn’t help the Bills when they lost Stephon Gilmore. Luckily, the cornerback did not suffer a concussion, but he did need to have his shoulder looked at. Losing Gilmore for any time would be a huge blow for Buffalo’s secondary and defense.

After giving up 19 points in the first half, the defense rebounded by shutting out Landry Jones and the Steelers backups in the second half.

Buffalo’s defense will look a lot different in Week 1 when the team actually game plans, but tonight’s play was a bit of a letdown.

News and notes

-Matt Simms will start Buffalo’s fourth preseason game and will play the entire game.

-Rex Ryan said he’d make a starting quarterback decision tomorrow but added that he won’t share that information with the media.


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