QB: D Do not count me in among those who believed Drew had a good game. Again, anytime that Bledsoe plays average ball it's usually hailed as a monumental achievement. This was not even an average performance however. This week Drew "punched the clock" at 12:21 of the 4th Quarter. The prior 47:39 netted 62 passing yards and 0 points! Drew's performance in the 4th Q was a day late and a dollar short. It did paint a very nice picture of many of his milestone "comeback" wins over the years however. Playing poorly throughout most of the game before launching a 6, 8, or 10 minute string (if that) of solid play has been the method used in many of those comebacks revealing that had he played well throughout the game then a comeback would not even have been necessary. Bledsoe cannot read an obvious blitz if they would-be blitzer sent him a note. I read several on network TV from a skybox view that he seemed clueless on.
RB: C- The momentum from the running game last week did not carry over into this game and the "legendary" power running game was nowhere to be found. The Jets are not that good. The Bills had three good runs one by Henry (14) and two by McGahee (21,13) with the 13-yarder coming off a risky pitch play (designed as such?) with Bledsoe turning the corner. McGahee had 6 carries for 8 yards otherwise. Other than that neither did anything significant on the whole. For the first game Willis McGahee looked better than Henry on big plays but Henry was more consistent overall. Neither RB shone in the least and neither looked like a world-beater. Having said that, the line is a huge contributor to the lack of rushing production.
WR: C Decent, not spectacular by any stretch, but it is difficult to distinguish between issues on the offense these days ala the "chicken or the egg" debate. The primary issues are the QB and offensive line which naturally flow-down to the WRs and RBs. Evans was fortunate not to have had a pushing off penalty called on him on his touchdown. Bills fans can add that one to the plus side of officiating oversights and miscues.
TE: B- The Bills availed themselves of two-TE sets with relative effectiveness. Campbell's catch in the endzone on a very slightly thrown-behind ball was excellent once again proving Campbell's versatility and well-roundedness.
OL: C This is a difficult rating. The line does not play all that horrendously given the talent on it. It simply lacks talent. So how can anyone berate linemen upon which no great expectations should be placed. Nevertheless, they are our line and the coaches, several of which whose judgements could not have been more off on numerous aspects of this team now, assured us that the line talent was fine. It is clearly not!
DL: C Two sacks (both by the DEs), a decent day in balance by past-prime Curtis Martin, Pennington having enough time and protection to light the Bills pass D up for about 300 yards passing, and only one interception more due to Pennington's sloppiness than any other factor, and once again, this was not a stellar outing.
LB: B Fletcher was the primary contributor of the day here with Spikes and Posey being relatively quiet. Fletcher had a monster day however and show some very significant speed at times again causing me to wonder why he isn't placed in a position to blitz more frequently. His size (small) and speed are an outstanding combo for a player to put up 10 sacks on a season easily.
DB: D Nearly 300 net passing yards makes anything higher impossible. Pennington dominated our corps of DBs for the most part moving the ball with ease when necessary. DB play-of-the-day was Clements knocking the ball loose from Baker at the Bills 12-yard line and preventing what would likely have been a game-icing TD. Other than that the Jet passing game dominated the Bills' secondary and had a stellar day and carried the Jets into victory.
ST: C- Nothin' special here. Moorman had a below average day for punters in general let alone himself.
Coaching: D The big talk at the beginning of the season is going to knock this staff down each week as the gap between their promises and reality continues to become more and more apparent. As long as the offense continues to only show up midway through the 4th Quarter each week, a Bledsoe trademark now, the coaching cannot be regarded as anything but below average. As well, these are offensive coaches with the team ranked 2nd-to-last now in average scoring.
Waxing more generally for a moment, what is good, I mean really good, about this team? Which one of its units can time-after-time, game-after-game, be counted on to step up? Which players can? Fans will no doubt rave about Willis McGahee finally proving that he has a pulse, but he did nothing spectacular on average with one of his only above average plays being the result of a chance play. Other than that and a 21-yard run he was abysmal averaging barely over a yard a carry. But the Jets, while ranking average in defense, have faced only offenses of the worst magnitude devaluing those rankings. Anyone watching this game saw that the Jet D was not formidable with a player exception or two and whereby they exploited the Bills offense in spite of not being anything other than average at best elsewhere.
Moorman is good, very good in fact in spite of having had an incredibly off day. Bledsoe shows up for work for a brief spurt at the end of each game for the most part. Three of the Bills' offensive TDs, in four games, have come in the 4th Q. Once again, the first of the Bills' two TDs came on the heels of a defensive interception, again, more the result of a poor judgment and a poor throw by Pennington on a 1st-and-10 than due to tight coverage.
Clements heads-up punch out on Baker resulting in a fumble and preventing a game-icing (likely) TD.
The rushing D played well although not vs. Jamal Lewis rather a past-prime Martin.
The Bills were 100% (1-for-1) on red zone opportunities.
Only one turnover.
Contrary to their now 4-0 record, the Jets are really a .500 (or so) team and the rest of the season will reveal that with the Jets not finishing a game above 10-6 meaning no better than a 6-6 finish. Their early ease of schedule has clearly been the primary factor in their superlative start to the season after viewing yesterday's game. This was not one of the monsters in the AFC and the Bills should have been able to put up more points.
Once again, nearly 400 net yards of offense allowed with the team being fortunate that the Jets did not score another 10-14 points.
The first seven drives of the Bills resulted in punts with only one drive generating 30+ yards. The seven drives ended on a Tucker fumble, 3rd-down run loss by McGahee, a Bledsoe end run, a Bledsoe sack, and three Bledsoe incompletions.
The Bills were 5-of-13 (38%) on 3rd-down percentage.
When discussing Bledsoe his single biggest, and really only, strength, is his arm strength. I have called his legendary arm strength into question now dating back to last season. Documented inaccuracies on deep throws and now his latest attempt at an end zone toss have not alleviated my arguments there. His throw "to the end zone" was 53 yards on the fly and landed at the five yard line, useless even if completed. This is strength??? I don't think so. It should raise obvious questions here. But, because Bledsoe is Bledsoe few will acknowledge it.
A loss to a very beatable team, beatable yesterday at least.
While the Bills put up 14, 14 is still an abysmal showing against a team such as the Jets who have allowed an average of 21 to date. To help put this in perspective, Cincy put up 24 v. the Jets in NY and San Diego put up 28, twice what the Bills did yesterday.
No ability to contain even a slightly above average passing game.
118 net yards and absolutely no points through the first 48 minutes of the game.
The Bills' D allowed the Jets five of ten drives of 53-yards or longer.
Jets dominating time-of-possession by over 7 minutes.
All throughout the offseason and during the preseason, fans and media raved that it cannot possibly get worse. Well, this just in, it is worse! At present, the Bills are 31st in the league in scoring offense only ahead of Miami and behind last season's average. When one factors in that the entire approach of Donahoe during the offseason was to correct the offense with precious little attention given to the defense at all and then only in replacement of two players lost with no net additions, it makes the situation all that more reprehensible. When one factors in that the Bills have now traded away next year's first round draft selection, which figures more and more to be in the running for the top pick overall, it exasperates matters even further.
The entire premise that this offense is founded on, namely a "power running game", for all intents and purposes is devoid of any substance or basis in reality. This also means that the entire crux and approach of the coaching staff has necessarily failed. Can it alter itself? Sure. But what will cause that to happen remains to be seen. At present the issue is clearly the lines and there is precious little reason that any improvements realized there will be significant enough to propel the Bills from the ranks of the worst, bordering on last, to the level promised by Donahoe & Co. this season. It is more and more looking as if the Bills may very well finish the season exactly where they left off last season.
This defense, due to having to play some better offensive teams this season primarily, has been exposed as only average ranking in the middle in points and yards allowed and having what is supposed to be its strength in its passing game exploited.
This Bills team can immediately cease all pipe dreams of making the playoffs this season. Doing so would likely require a 10-2 effort over the last twelve games which quite frankly is a ridiculous hope to hold at this point. They can also kiss a winning season out the window, which would also require a just-as-ridiculous 9-3 finish. It is also unlikely that this team will finish at 8-8 requiring an 8-4 finish. If they simply go .500 from here on out, 6-6, then they will equal last season's 6-10 mark. Even that is highly suspect at this juncture.
With 118 total net yards through the first 48 minutes of the game, a regularity now, how can any team that continually plays as such be regarded as anything other than poor.
Next week's matchup pairs perhaps the NFL's two worst offensive teams. All this talk about "the Bills being the best 0-X team in the league" has no basis. They are not, or were not. Football analysts simply cannot believe that the Bills could possibly have regressed this far given the names on their roster at the skill positions. It must be admitted that from a cursory review of the team prior to the season starting it is difficult to blame them.
The loser of next Sunday's game vs. Miami will remain the league's only winless team. I would presently put the game at a toss-up and the team would be ill-advised to consider this game a gimme win. The Bills were only able to score three offensive points in two games vs. the Dolphins last season. There is a strong likelihood that the combined scoring of the defenses outscores that of the offenses next week. If the game unfolds that way, my money would not go on the fact that the Bills would be the team to emerge victorious.
The Bills may very well be in trouble next week in Buffalo vs. a Miami team with absolutely nothing to lose, literally. Their offense ranks at the bottom of the 32 team stack ahead of no one and they have Bledsoe's number in spades over the years. They will likely blitz frequently making turning the odds of big plays by our offense in their favor. Their CBs match up extremely favorably to Moulds and Evans.
In two weeks, the Bills travel to Baltimore to play a team that put up 14 of its 17 points vs. the Skins last night in Washington on the merits of defense and special teams. The game is in Baltimore, a very difficult place to play, and the Bills offense is not as good as the Skins' offense has been.
Fans may want to rant and rave about how the Bills lost some squeakers. But the fact of the matter and bigger picture is beginning to become clear. Oakland and Jacksonville are not teams likely to finish much above .500 if above .500 at all. The Jets as well, are a team largely built on a house-of-cards also soon to be exposed as average as their schedule sheds the likes of the Bills, Dolphins, Chargers, and Bengals. This Bills team is incapable in its present state of competing with playoff caliber opponents.
Given the circumstances, what is in the best interests for the future of the Bills at present is for them to "take inventory" of their "future" and begin to take a very "un-Donahoe like" approach and begin to give players that figure to be on this team over the longer haul some more playing time. Obviously when Losman is healthy he will start. But perhaps the team should consider using McGahee as the starter simply as a gauge as to assist in the tough decisions that will eventually have to be made regarding both running backs.
I like Henry, but the team must come first at this point. Does this mean prepare to trade Henry? No. But it does mean fully evaluating exactly what the team has in McGahee and whether or not he can make it through a dozen games with 20 or more carries on average. It also means seeing whether or not he is good for only one or two big runs each game while not being able to generate more than one to two yards-per-carry otherwise. If not, then his utility drops dramatically. The Bills need to know this prior to next season.
As well, perhaps Evans and Reed should be given some more opportunities given the precarious situation with Moulds and his contract this offseason. Tim Anderson should get some significant reps to aid in his development next season with aging vets Adams (who took some plays off yesterday) and Williams, also in an effort for the team to assess its offseason priorities which can hardly be anything other than line help on both sides. Ron Edwards should see more playing time as well. Start McGee at CB and push Vincent to S as soon as he returns. The Bills need a S, not a cornerback. The solution is on the plate but the coaching staff apparently does not see it. Also, Vincent's durability, which is now a question, should be evaluated further at safety where it was stated he would shift to eventually.
By clinging to more of the infamous lipservice now falling into the artistic and creative category if not the shyster [read: we think all you fans are fools] mantra. What is in the best interests of this team moving forward is assessing exactly where it stands given all the Donahoe-generated management issues that have arisen early due to utterly failed goals as well as those which are imminent beginning as soon as this season ends due to free agent statuses, the Henry/McGahee thing, as well as player aging issues.
Giving young players the opportunity for more playing time will not only aid this coaching staff in assessing their usefulness going forward, but will also assist in determining which to release, which to retain, and what the primary positions needing to be filled via the offseason plan are. Given the circumstances, the time to do that is NOW. Not next preseason vs. 2nd and 3rd string and soon-to-be-cut players so that the coaching staff can overrate their players again.
Some things for the Bills to focus on between now and January 2nd after which their golf season begins:
Jonas Jennings: Jennings is injury prone and only an above average but nowhere near stellar LT. He can be beaten by decent DEs. His durability is a huge question mark. Does he even want to stay in Buffalo (rumor says no) and would the Bills likely have to overpay to keep him. (likely)
Eric Moulds: Moulds' salary makes retaining him next season unviable unless reworked. Moulds is in the driver's seat however. If he says no, he will walk. The status of this team at season's end may be the biggest factor for him. Will Losman find more favor with an aging past-prime Moulds, or will he prefer to begin to develop a QB-WR relationship with younger equals Evans and Reed?
Pat Williams: Williams will be a free agent following the season and will be 33 next year. Will he want to stay, how much? Or will he prefer to go to an imminent winner? Why did the Bills draft Anderson?
Ron Edwards: There has been a rumor that Edwards has been signed through 2005. An offer was tendered him, usually indicative that it was a one-year offer. However, the Bills hold their cards close to their vest. If Edwards is a FA following the season, what will he do. In my opinion, and largely due to the age of Williams and Adams, Edwards has played the best football at DT this season for the Bills albeit on a limited basis, yet, he does not start in favor of out-of-prime DTs. He is capable of starting. Will the Bills give him the chance?
Marcus Price: A 33-year old free agent following this season.
Henry: Henry becomes a FA after the '05 season. He is just entering his prime and regardless of McGahee's situation, the Bills would be best suited to offer Henry a four year contract extension. One way or another he's a proven RB worth something and a backup incase McGahee, who's shown nothing to date indicative that he'll be a stellar starter in this league, does not develop as Donahoe has risked.
Those are simply some things that the Bills need to begin focusing on so that whatever decisions they make this coming offseason are sound ones.
To discuss this article or other issues on the Bills, Tune into "The 2004 Bills Report" which can be heard live on Thursday evenings from 7 to 9 p.m. over the Internet at www.broadcastmonsters.com. Call into the show live at 1-877-913-9739.