Bills Vs Vikings Impressions

Courtesy of Vikings Corner

 

The first preseason game is in the books, and the Bills have been handed their first loss of the season, losing 17-10 to the Vikings Thursday night. But I am sure the coaches couldn’t care less about the score, as their priority is evaluating their players en route to finalizing their 53-man roster.

Notably, the starting units looked very organized, structured, and were effective.

The offense led by QB Tyrod Taylor was able to move the ball through the air. Taylor looked decisive and even showed off some field awareness, hopefully indicative of some long term growth.

 

The run game was the catalyst and focus, which should be no surprise. Running back Jonathan Williams got the start and ripped off a couple of nice runs. He finished with 39 yards on four carries, and he seemed to have a level of quickness and vision we haven’t seen since his junior year of college.

This play was called back because of the hold, but I just love the vision Williams exhibited on this iso play. This is a play that the Bills ran a lot of last season under OC Anthony Lynn. The second year running back reads the backside 3 technique defensive tackle really well, but the hold on LG Richie Incognito nullified the gain.

 

One of his longest runs came when Richie pulled and dropped linebacker Eric Kendricks. As I have mentioned before, Dennison will be keeping a good chunk of the playbook, including gap runs like this one.

 

The run game looked alive and healthy as the Bills averaged 5.3 yards per carry against one of the best defenses in the league. The ‘big uglies’ upfront dominated, and they did so with a concept that has become all the rage in the NFL. The play is called ‘Duo’; It is a play that I will break down in the near future, as I believe it will become the Bills’ bread-and-butter play in 2017.

 

DE Eddie Yarbrough

The 2017 darling of training camp at St. John Fisher, hands down, has been Eddie Yarbrough. The hard work and domination he has shown camp shined through on Thursday, as well. There wasn’t much film on him since entering the league, so I quickly went back and looked at some of his Wyoming film. What I saw there was no different than what I witnessed in his first game action of the season.

 

Yarbrough isn’t super athletic; he doesn’t possess top end speed to beat a tackle and run the hoop. But he knows his strengths and weaknesses, and that self awareness makes him effective. He sets up tackles with slight shoulder movements and speed changes that often leave linemen guessing, unable to determine which line he is going to take to the quarterback. Once the two way go is set up, he then uses sound technique to win.

 

In the previous clip you saw him win with power and the inside move. On his first sack of the preseason he sets the tackle up with a two way go by utilizing a stutter rush.

 

The stutter rush causes the tackle to stop his kickslide. Yarbrough then diagnoses the spot that Bradford will settle on, then rushes wide for the sack.

 

He has a bevy of pass rush moves and counters, and he showcased them versus the Vikings. On 3rd-and-4 he puts together a double handed chop and transitions into a spin move. The spin move inside forces Bradford out of the pocket, which is where he typically struggles. It leads to an incompletion and forces the Vikings’ offense off of the field

 

Yarbrough was the highest-graded defender, per Pro Football Focus, grading out at a +4.6. He finished the game with one sack, one QB hit, one tackle, and two stops. It is fairly evident that he knows how to use his power and stoutness to disrupt the run, as well as the pass.

 

LB Reggie Ragland

On to a player that has been in the news quite a bit, and one who will continue to be, considering the moves the Bills just made: Reggie Ragland. If you look at the box score, Ragland’s name certainly shows up. He finished with three tackles, two assists, and one stop. It was a solid game for the second year player, which is a relief for him, I’m sure, as he admitted he is struggling with the defense and isn’t quite 100%. The narrative right now is that he is not a fit for the defense, and I will not say it’s wrong. I just believe it’s too early to confidently assert that. But when you watch plays like this, you can see why some might disagree. Let me start off by saying that he carried out his job by leveraging his gap correctly. He executed it so well that it forced the back to enter the line of scrimmage one gap wider, which is good.

 

But his feet stall, and he doesn’t ‘fire his gun’ through the gap. He then is unable to continue to scrape and leverage the ball wide, which is a tough pill to swallow, as he is the only unblocked defender. Again, he did his job, but as a Mike linebacker in this defense, as I have mentioned on our podcast, the lack of burst or explosiveness needed to scrape and make plays outside the numbers could be an issue.

 

Ragland hasn’t played in a live game since the BCS National Championship dating back to 2015, so his play speed isn’t yet up to snuff. However, his mental awareness and ability to process what happened and what was about to happen popped. A few plays later, the Vikings run a similar play, and this time Ragland ‘fires his gun’, but is unable to make the tackle deep in the backfield. That’s alright, though. He completely blew up the timing of the zone run play and forced the back to make a decision before he wanted to.

 

As the game wore on, Ragland became more comfortable and began to trust his eyes. The Vikings run outside zone here, which is a play that could give Ragland issues.

 

But he diagnoses the concept and entry point of the back and quickly shoots the gap for the stop.

 

As you can see, he got his game legs under him and began to make plays against the run. He wasn’t really tested in the pass game, though, and it is tough to tell his drops or responsibilities. From what I saw, he appeared to take good depth on drops to his landmarks, and with how vanilla the game was called, not much can be concluded in that facet of Ragland’s game.

 

Honorable Mentions:

 

QB Nathan Peterman

The rookie quarterback from the University of Pittsburgh had a lukewarm day. There were passes that sailed completely off target, but then there were passes that couldn’t be any more accurate. By the end of the game he compiled a 52% completion percentage for 112 yards and one beautiful touchdown in the back corner of the end zone to WR Dez Lewis.

 

The Vikings didn’t ease him into the NFL by any means, as they blitzed him on 16 out of 28 drop backs. But I thought he handled it well, standing in there and taking some big shots, and also running the ball when the defense was in man coverage. Although the Bills’ drive stalled, he showed poise, anticipation, and trust in his receiver Daikiel Shorts on two straight plays late in the fourth quarter.

 

DL Marquavius Lewis

Finally, there is defensive lineman Marquavius Lewis, a very good defensive end in college known for his run stopping abilities. The Bills have been experimenting with him at defensive tackle, which really mystified me. Depending on how they plan on using him, though, it could work. He led the team in stops, showing that he has the quickness to be an effective disruptor and the ability to stack and disengage against the run.

 

It is good to have football back, but most of all it is good to have some more film to break down. I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts with you all season.

 

 

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