Despite battling back to take a late lead over the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night, the Buffalo Bills ultimately fell to 0-2 in the preseason after a 20-16 loss at Lincoln Financial Field. The Bills jekyll and hyde like performance that saw the defense dominate but the offense struggle mightily – should be taken with a grain of salt. It is only the preseason.
Still, there was plenty to learn from their performance. Here’s 10 things:
1) Penalties aren’t only a Rex Ryan thing
When the Bills fired Rex Ryan back in December, they thought he’d be taking his undisciplined culture with him on his way out the door. Apparently not, because through two preseason games under Sean McDermott, the Bills have piled up an astounding 25 penalties for 237 yards. Simply put, that’s unacceptable.
2) The switch back to a 4-3 has been smooth
The first team-defense was marvelous once again shutting down the Eagles first-team offense to the beat of just five yards on their first three drives. One of those ended in a field goal, but only because Philadelphia was gifted a short field after intercepting Tyrod Taylor. On the Eagles fourth possession, Buffalo forced a fumble deep in their own territory to halt an eight-play drive in its tracks and keep Philadelphia off the board. The other two defensive units continued that dominance, not yielding a third down conversion until the 4th quarter. All three groups combined to force three turnovers as well.
3) Tyrod Taylor is still figuring things out
Keeping in mind that at this time of year offenses are generally lagging behind defenses, Taylor’s statline: 8-of-18 for 53 yards and two interceptions, is a bad look. His second interception in particular, was just a dreadful decision – one Taylor doesn’t normally make. He made some similarly questionable decisions throughout the rest of his outing as well. In his defense, he didn’t get much help up front from his offensive line either. Still, head coach Sean McDermott wouldn’t committ to the 28-year-old as his starter afterward, saying simply “we’re evaluating everything.” He later clarified away from the podium that he’s not looking to make a change at QB. In a year where Taylor is trying to prove he’s worth a long-term investment from the Bills, getting himself in sync with his new-look receiving corps is crucial. Taylor is the only Bills quarterback to not lead a touchdown drive this preseason.
4) The O-line has some work to do
The offensive line play was putrid on Thursday night, as all three quarterbacks – Taylor, Nathan Peterman and T.J. Yates – were sacked twice and pressured on a handful of other occasions. Individually, LT Seantrel Henderson has been fine in practice but looks completely overwhelmed against actual opponents. RT Jordan Mills is a liability as well. What’s most concerning is that there isn’t quick fix on the roster at either spot, especially with Cordy Glenn still battling ankle and foot issues.
5) Nothing else to see from LeSean McCoy
McCoy didn’t take a single snap against the Vikings last week but against the Eagles, quickly reminded everyone why he didn’t play in the first preseason game. On his first carry of the game Shady shimmied out of the backfield and around the right side for a gain of 13 yards. That was probably all anyone needed to see from him. He’d play a few more series though and ultimately finished with four carries for 21 yards, adding a reception for 11 more.
6) Nathan Peterman isn’t going away
The legend of Nathan Paterman is real and it’s only growing stronger. As promised by head coach Sean McDermott, the rookie QB spent his night running the second-team offense and dazzled once again. Peterman finished 10-of-20 passing for a team best 167 yards and strung together some impressive drives throughout nearly a quarter and a half of work. By far his most memorable drive came right before the half, where he marched the Bills from their own 25 deep into Eagles territory, making several perfect throws to fellow rookie Zay Jones – including one that would have gone for six if Jones was in still in college. They ultimately settled for a field goal, but Peterman’s solid play continued into the second half and fueled plenty of debate on social media.
7) Shareece Wright is the front runner at CB
While the battle for the starting right cornerback spot is likely far from over, Shareece Wright is the current front runner for the job. Wright started the game at the position for several series before being spelled by Kevon Seymour late in the first quarter.
8) Zay Jones can play
After going catchless last week while the Bills auditioned Sammy Watkins, rookie wideout Zay Jones was a focal point of the offensive in Philadelphia. Jones caught his first pass from Taylor on the second play of the second quarter, picking up 10 yards and a first down for the Bills. He really impressed though once Peterman entered the game. The rookies connected on a pair of passes during Buffalo’s final drive of the first half, one of which went for 22 yards and saw Jones tip-toe the sideline to make a tremendous catch. One play later Jones nearly scored his first touchdown on another beautiful pass from Peterman to the back corner of the end zone, however he couldn’t keep his second foot in bounds. A three catch, 42-yard night gave us our first glimpse of the playmaker Jones can be.
9) Reggie Ragland is being phased out
As the preseason rolls along, the more it looks like Reggie Ragland is being phased out. He was with the threes again on Thursday night and didn’t even take the field until the fourth quarter. Don’t be surprized if he’s featured in the next Bills trade.
10) Preseason games are exhausting
The play was sloppy, the penalties were excessive and the takes on twitter were hot during the Bills second preseason game. Sadly, we’ve still got two more weeks of meaningless games to debate whether or not Nathan Peterman should start over Tyrod Taylor.
Follow me on Twitter: @Spencito_