8 Bills thoughts
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • August 16, 2011 @ 10:03am
Even though the Bills’ offense could only muster a field goal against the Bears, there were several positives to take from the preseason opener—like Aaron Maybin playing poorly enough to get cut! Ben K. recounted “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” in his post-game write-up, even mocking Roy Williams for being finicky over the playing surface. Not every field is Cowboys Stadium, Roy! Here are my (slightly delayed) eight thoughts:
1) Involving tight end Scott Chandler early was a point of emphasis, Ryan Fitzpatrick explained in his in-game interview with Mike Catalana, sports reporter for ABC’s Rochester affiliate. On early downs, Chandler will be useful—he’s an adequate run blocker at 6’7, 268 pounds and a very visible receiving target. Hopefully his egregious drop of the season’s first pass won’t be a harbinger of things to come. He’s no Keith McKeller or Lonnie Johnson yet, though!
2) Chris Brown hit on this topic yesterday, but the possibilities that hybrid WR/QB Brad Smith affords the offense leads me to drool uncomfortably. In the second quarter, the former Jet lined up in the shotgun with three wide receivers to his right. As the defense compensated, Smith bolted left for 12 yards and a first down. To hear reports that he’s slinging 45 yard bombs at practice—and the fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t complained about losing a snap here or there—gives the Bills the element of surprise in the Wildcat that they lacked with Fred Jackson.
3) With Lee Evans in Baltimore, there’s a heated battle for the #2 receiving job—Donald Jones earned the first reps, while Naaman Roosevelt has been the team’s top playmaker in camp. Most of David Nelson’s NFL experience has been in the slot, but it’s possible that he’ll swing out wide when Roscoe returns to health. Marcus Easley, the former UConn standout who lost his rookie year to a torn ACL, saw plenty of action against the Bears, but managed only a fumbled kickoff (called back due to penalty) and no catches on one target. Not the most compelling case for a starting job!
Regardless, it’s a wide-open race between Jones, Nelson, Easley and Roosevelt for the starting gig with injury-prone Buster Davis out indefinitely. Keep a close eye on who steps forward in the final three preseason games.
4) Aaron Maybin’s fate was likely sealed after being tossed airborne by a reserve Bears’ offensive tackle on a second quarter pass rush. At 228 pounds, Maybin looks more like a strong safety, according to Buddy Nix. Best of luck to the hard-working former Nittany Lion, but he’ll go down as a top 3 draft bust in Bills’ history.
5) Kellen Heard is a massive—literally—luxury for the Bills’ defensive line. The 6’6, 348 pound mammoth dominated the Bears’ reserves—his three solo tackles and sack don’t properly measure his impact. When Heard went to the sidelines for a breather, Bears’ back Harvey Unga pushed T.J. Langley and Lionel Dotson seven yards downfield—you can bet that wouldn’t have happened with Heard clogging the middle. At this stage of camp, running back and the defensive line are the team’s two strongest positions.
6) Saturday night provided too small of a sample size to get a read on second rounder Aaron Williams. He was burned twice in coverage before snagging a highlight-reel interception off his own deflection. It’s fantastic that he’s a playmaker, but his coverage—at least on those two second half throws—is worrying.
7) The Urbik/Wrotto experiment at right guard must have been exasperating for Chan Gailey after one preseason game. Urbik failed to sustain a block on a screen play to C.J. Spiller, while Mansfield Wrotto was burned badly twice—particularly so on Amobi Okoye’s second quarter sack. With only camp body Isaiah Thompson behind Wrotto on the depth chart, this is an area the Bills must address before the regular season.
8) Aside from Heard, Alex Carrington and Danny Batten were the most pleasant surprises after one week of exhibition football. After blips of production late last season, Carrington transformed his body over the off-season, tacking on 20 pounds of muscle without losing speed. He looked unblockable at times against a leaky Bears’ o-line. Batten, who, like Easley, lost his rookie year to injury, abused a pass-blocking running back before hauling down Nate Enderle for an 11 yard sack. He’ll provide valuable depth, special teams ability and may even steal playing time from Arthur Moats, who was invisible against Chicago.