Bledsoe good, but defense, run game questionable

The Bills dropped their first preseason game 24-17 at Wilson Stadium, Friday, Aug. 12. Buffalo had a 17-7 lead in the second quarter before surrendering the final 17 points – 10 points in the second half. Here's a look at some of the key things from the game.

Bledsoe mostly impressive

Drew Bledsoe was sharp, finishing nine of 11 for 136 yards, two touchdowns and one interception through about one quarter of work. He showed impressive command of the offense and wasn't running for his life. He did get sacked twice, but they were the result of offensive line breakdowns, which surprisingly didn't occur all that often given the line's inexperience.

Bledsoe spotted single coverage on Eric Moulds and made the Bengals pay on his first touchdown pass. It was a throw out into the flat. Moulds caught it, broke out of the grasp of Bengals corner Kevin Kaesviharn, and ran toward the end zone for a 31-yard score, giving Buffalo a 7-0 lead on the first series of the game.

On the Bills' second touchdown, Bledsoe, in the shotgun, found Peerless Price in the corner for an easy touchdown on third and 11 from the Cincinnati 12. There were three Bengals within the vicinity.

Bledsoe hit his outlets when he needed to, including a key third-and-12 conversion on a 14-yard screen to Larry Centers, keeping the Bills' second touchdown drive alive.

The one black mark was Bledsoe's underthrown pass to Peerless Price, which former Bill Jeff Burris intercepted at the Bengals' 10.

"We have some things to work on and we have a ways to go before we're solid across the board," Bledsoe said. "I though our protection was very good against a blitzing front and I thought we did some good things in the passing game. I missed some throws. I should have had Peerless for a touchdown on the interception."

Line not too bad

For the most part, the line played well. Initially, there was some trouble picking up linebackers when they rushed the passer. And it looked like it had some problems in run blocking, though things looked smoother with Shawn Bryson in the backfield. But overall, Bledsoe was pleased with the line's play, particularly its pass protection.

"Our offensive line, the tight ends and backs did a great job blocking the blitz when they brought it," the quarterback said. "We did an OK job of getting things communicated and being on the same page. That'll be a big key: How well we communicate in our protection system – accounting for blitzers, knowing where the hot routes are, knowing who's sight adjusting for us and getting that done. That was a positive that came out of today, that we were able to handle some of those blitzes."

Running game struggles

Shawn Bryson looked better than Travis Henry and Bryson was playing against the Bengals' first-teamers during the second quarter. Bryson shows a better burst and seems faster than Henry. He had two runs for 12 yards – hardly anything – but when compared to Henry, who had seven carries for 11 yards, well, that's pretty good for Bryson. When asked to compare Bryson to Henry in the post-game, Gregg Williams declined, only saying, "Shawn has had a really good training camp. He had a good scrimmage last week. He was running very physical. He has fresh legs and we know that when Shawn touches the ball, he's one of the few guys in the league and here who can take it the distance. We like what we see so far and what kind of camp he's having."

Third down defense awful

The Bengals had four third-down conversions on their first touchdown drive. They were six of nine on third downs through the half – 12 of 18 overall. And there were many long third-down conversions. The problem is that Buffalo has a hard time generating any pressure, which then turns into a lack of turnovers – Buffalo only had one Chris Watson interception.

Williams, of course, downplayed the poor play on third down.

"The big thing is that we prepared hardly at all for them," he said. "We watched very little film of them. I think the night before the ball game we took a look at some of those things. Now when the first team was in there, we did have three three-and-out series in the first half. That was good. The second half we weren't very good at all in that respect."

Rushing defense porous

The first string, second string and third string had trouble stopping running plays. In the first half Buffalo gave up four yards per rush – 32 yards on seven carries by Curtis Keaton, who finished with 52 yards. The reserves gave up 100 yards to running back Rudi Johnson. Overall, Cincinnati generated 181 yards rushing on 39 attempts – a 4.6-yard average. What would have happened had Corey Dillon played?

In general, Buffalo better hope that London Fletcher, Eddie Robinson and Keith Newman don't get hurt or else they may be pushed all the way into Lake Erie during some games with heavy run teams this year.

"The young guys in the second half, (the coaches) got some work to do (with them)," Williams said. "We've got some work obviously to do when we get back and see the films with some of the young guys. We've got some good things going on and we've got some things that we got to clean up, be it personnel or be it technique."

Wire very good

Wire can tackle, hit and play special teams. He has very good anticipation for a young player. It would appear that he has a chance to nose his way into the starting lineup sometime this season if things aren't going well with Billy Jenkins and the defense, or the Bills have fallen completely out of contention.

Wire will be an excellent contributor to special teams coverage. On one kickoff return, he looked like Steve Tasker in outrunning the blockers and making an open-field tackle on the returner. On defense, he snuffed a Peter Warrick end around. This guy can tackle.

Odds and ends

Alex Van Pelt looked rusty, completing three of six passes for 11 yards. Travis Brown completed five of 11 for 41 yards. Neither could really move the ball well … The Bills had the ball for only 20 minutes, 58 seconds, mostly because the offense sputtered and the defense couldn't get off the field.

Helped

RB Shawn Bryson – Played better than Henry.

SS Coy Wire – Led team with nine tackles.

Hurt

UT Leif Larsen – Cannot use his strength to fight off lineman and stop the run. Doesn't have much of an upfield push.

CB Jason Bostic – Played off Peter Warrick and allowed him to catch some passes underneath. Gave up a TD to Warrick.

CB Ahmad Brooks – Gave up key first down to Warrick.

QB Travis Brown – Didn't look very sharp, played better than Van Pelt, but Van Pelt didn't look that good either. Still, Van Pelt probably has No. 2 job sewn up.

DE Ryan Denney – Showed lack of speed and was beaten to the outside for a 21-yard rushing gain.


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