The first Bills preseason game is in the books and there were quite a few impressions made. Since it is preseason, most of the plays and concepts are very “vanilla” so I won’t analyze too much. But I will point out a few plays that I think could be telling of year two under Rex Ryan. Not just from a scheme perspective but how well those players carried out their responsibilities.
Early in the game, the Bills bring out 21 personnel and run a very simple counter to the weak side. Groy and Felton lead, but Mills doesn’t pick up the backside ILB. Mccoy is patient but doesn’t like the hole frontside. So he cuts it back to the left, basically jumping 3 gaps for a good gain. The run concept is nothing new, but Shady’s patience was definitely noticeable especially given that he was following the fullback.
After Chris Gragg blocks the punt and the Bills register a safety, Reggie Bush was back deep on the free kick. This is what the Bills brought him in for. The Bills average drive start after a kickoff was the 21.48-yard line in 2015, which was 19th best according to Football Outsiders. Bush fielded the kick at the 6-yard line and returned it to the 31-yard line. Although it is, in essence, a punt, having returns like that could pay huge dividends for the Bills.
How about Mike Gillislee making another impactful run? He took the handoff from EJ Manuel and scampered off tackle for 20 yards. But when you watch the play, take a look at left tackle Cyrus Kouandjo. The big guy has to execute a reach block on an outside linebacker. That is a difficult block, but he executes it and it allows Gillislee to get the corner on the outside zone.
It has taken a few years for Tight End Chris Gragg to find his way in the NFL, but I believe that he is perfect for the Greg Roman system. Fans tend to forget that Gragg is an athletic TE who is fast. He runs a 4.5 forty yard dash and he can get down the field in a hurry.
Roman loves having his Tight Ends stretch the field and that is what Gragg does here. A nice play action fake and ball handling by EJ, he stands tall in the pocket and hits Gragg in stride.
One little wrinkle that I was excited to see was the Nickel 2-4-5. That is 2 defensive lineman, 4 linebackers, and 5 defensive backs.
The Bills align the extra linebackers Brown and Alexander to the strength as if they are in the 3-4 defense. The Colts run it to the weak side where Preston Brown shuts the play down.
It is going to be an up and down season for Adolphus Washington. More and more teams are going to run right at him with power. I saw a couple plays where the Colts ran at him and he was easily moved by the offensive lineman. But then he would come back with a couple good plays, much like this one. The Colts try trapping him (Guard fails to do so), he holds up the guard that is trying to influence him then brings down the back.
On the same drive, you can see why Rex likes the upside of Washington. He has really good length and bend. On this play, he is aligned at the 5 technique. On the snap, he jumps outside, as he engages the tackle, he executes a swipe then pulls with his right hand causing the tackle to lean and Washington is able to push past. This forces the QB to step up and Worthy finishes the play. He finished with 2 QB hurries, 1 tackle, 2 assists and 1 stop. Pro Football Focus gave him an overall raw grade of +1.6 and +1.8 versus the run.
But the player of the day was Cardale Jones. According to Pro Football Focus, he was 7/8 over the middle for 98 yards and 1 TD (fans will love that). He looked poised in the pocket, threw the ball away when he needed to, showed versatility in this throws too. He took some velocity off of it when he needed, but also had throws that needed some zing to it. Jones showed good decision making when he needed to leave the pocket and extend the play, which Roman loves. Overall he had good ball speed and placement. Jones even got to run the hurry up offense, driving the Bills down for a touchdown. Besides a few fundamental lapses such as throwing off his back foot or throwing without having his feet set he played as good as a rookie could have. Take a look at every throw here:
All in all, I saw some really good things from some of the young guys. Although the Bills lost the game, I believe a lot was learned and accomplished. Can’t wait for next weekend!