Bills O, D Switch Roles; Still Show Signs of Rust

The Bills inched closer towards regular season preparedness in last night's game vs. the Titans as the last home preseason game in Buffalo. The offense played nominally better than it did last week while the defense regressed somewhat. Travis Henry's woes also became Willis McGahee's opportunities.

The story of the evening was Travis Henry leaving the game with injured ribs out indefinitely leaving Willis McGahee with his wish, whether it be spoken or unspoken. A pass from Bledsoe on the scramble thrown behind Henry causing the axis of his shoulders to align themselves with the momentum of Keith Bulluck resulting in Bulluck's driving Henry into the ground as such forced the injury. The end result is bruised ribs in the same area of last season's rib injury but less severe. Henry is expected to be fully ready for the season opener.

As to the game itself, the Bills showed some nominal improvement over last week but still showed that there is still quite a bit of rust that still needs to be shaken off. In no particular order:

The good: The passing game with the first team ran much more smoothly and efficiently albeit still not overly productively.

The bad: The Titans' two starting cornerbacks did not play leaving two young and completely inexperienced subs starting for the first time as their replacements. Albert Haynesworth was also out with injury.

The bad: In two games now, in six drives in just over two quarters of play combined, the Bills first team defense has allowed 105 rushing yards vs. Quentin Griffin and Chris Brown on an average yards-per-carry of 5.5. Both running backs are first time starters.

The good: Special teams played well overall with exceptional kickoff returns.

The bad: While the first team offense was able to move the ball somewhat, two trips to the red zone yielded only a pair of field goals leaving first team offensive production in six drives in the preseason at only six total points.

The bad: Other than the first drive of the Titans' game resulting in 71 yards and a field goal, the other five drives by the first team offense has generated only 42 yards in five other drives for an average yards-per-drive of about 8. This is not overly suggestive that the offense is much different than last season's offense. The two bungled red zone opportunities certainly don't aid in the cause either.

The good: Bledsoe had no turnovers and no sacks.

The bad: In two drives vs. the Titan first team O, the first team D allowed 135 total yards and 61 rushing yards vs. a team with a first time starting running back in just over one quarter of play.

The so-so: Willis McGahee replaced Henry, however he showed no flashes of elusiveness or speed that will allow him to be anything other than an average running back until he does show it. He averaged only 2.5 yards-per-carry primarily vs. the Titans' second team defense.

The bad: Lee who? Where is the Bills' 13th overall first round selection who was supposed to be all that and more and "stretch the field" to be the primary difference maker in Buffalo this season? Lee Evans for the second straight week was invisible. In two games Evans has one dropped ball and has one reception for zero yards and this is supposed to be the receiver to really open things up so that Drew can elevate his play to being average again. He has been more productive as a running back gaining 12 yards on one carry.

The good: Terrence McGee! Two thumbs up Terrence!!!

The bad: Penalties, penalties, and more penalties! 12 penalties for 127 yards including 4 penalties for 62 yards from the first teams in just over a single quarter of play.

The bad: The Titans had nearly two-thirds of the time of possession in the first half.

The bad: Overall in the preseason, Travis Henry and Willis McGahee collectively are averaging only 3.2 yards-per-carry. Not a good sign of improvement over last season's woeful O that allowed Travis Henry to average 4.1 yards-per-carry, half of it on a broken leg.

The good: Losman continued to show the versatility that excited fans in week one. Coaches need to get to him quickly however or he will end up on the injury list the way he lowers his head ala Rob Johnson and runs into tacklers, especially against first team Ds.

As well, there were rumors this week of the rookie undrafted free agent Lawrence Smith "looking good" as a potential starter at left guard. Barring massive improvement prior to the start of the season however, Smith is not the solution at the LG spot. Smith was routinely pushed around like a rag doll yesterday. Next!

This Titan defense was good but not that good! The Titans finished 12th in yardage D and 13th in scoring D last season and played yesterday minus their two starting standout cornerbacks Samari Rolle and Andre Dyson. The Titans were also without starting DT Albert Haynesworth and had Rien Long starting for the first time.

The Bills offense has many issues yet to be ironed out if they expect to start the season with an offense that Bills fans can hope will be significantly better than last season's ridiculously dreadful offense. They will have two teams that are perfect for trying out different permutations and commutations of talent against offensively. Both Indianapolis and Detroit had below average defenses last season and neither team's defense has improved since then.

Defensively however, if the Bills could not control second year first time starter Quentin Griffin's ground production in a game vs. a one dimensional offense and again could not contain second year first time starter Chris Brown, how they will fare vs. a new and revamped Detroit offense as well as the perennially superlative Colt offense remains to be seen. Even with a solid offensive performance by the first team offense in those two games, the slate of teams that the Bills must face over the first six games are all better defensively than either the Colts or Lions.

As well, the self aggrandizing impatient youngster McGahee gets his first opportunity to reveal to the sports world exactly how starter capable he is vs. the Colts on Saturday as he will almost certainly be the starter in that contest due to Henry's injury. Let's see if he can improve upon that very sub-par 3.6 yards-per-carry that he has amassed thus far. He certainly has a very mediocre defense to go up against which should aide him in his cause.

At present however, and in light of how other teams on the Bills' schedule seem to be developing and progressing, whether or not this Bills team is capable of outperforming last season's 6-10 mark, let alone .500 or better, slips deeper into question as the same issues that plagued the team last season and even new ones continue to loom on the horizon.

Thus far however, there appears to be no particular reason for greater hope offensively and until such a time as the first team defense can stop burgeoning running backs such as Griffin and Brown, there is little hope that they will have greater success vs. the likes of the RB lineup that the Bills face this season and generally speaking vs. far more balanced offenses.

Let's see what the Colts game brings. At the present rate however, Bills fans would be wise to go to Sam's Club to purchase a jumbo drum of Tums for the upcoming season!

Comments: mweiler.billsreport@cox.net


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