The Buffalo Bills were embarrassed in their third preseason game, falling 26-13 to the Cincinnati Bengals. Josh Allen made his first start and the Bills’ offensive line did the No. 7 overall draft pick no favors, allowing five first-half sacks and a handful of additional hurries. Allen completed just six-of-12 passes for 34 yards with zero touchdowns. Allen protected the football but offensive guards Vlad Ducasse and John Miller continuously limited Buffalo’s offense and put them in negative down-and-distance situations thanks to penalties and poor pass blocking.
The Bills’ offensive line was overhauled during the offseason. Buffalo traded left tackle Cordy Glenn and released left guard Richie Incognito while center Eric Wood retired. Left tackle Dion Dawkins was selected in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft with the expectations that he would replace Glenn at some point but Ducasse and Miller are less-than-ideal options and the concerns about their ability to pass protect were only heightened Sunday.
Running back Marcus Murphy continued his impressive preseason showing off great vision, burst and some power as a ball-carrier, rushing for 48 yards on 11 carries, adding two receptions for seven yards and returned two punts as well. He’s played well in each of the team’s three games and has likely solidified a spot on Buffalo’s final 53-man roster.
Quarterback Nathan Peterman also performed well for the third-straight week. The second-year passer was efficient and moved the offense downfield quickly. Peterman completed 16-of-21 passes for 200 yards and one touchdown. Peterman showed a good command of the offense and was able to negate some of the Bengals’ relentless pass rush by getting rid of the ball quickly and picking up short chunks of yardage to march down the field.
It appears that Peterman has the trust of the Bills’ coaching staff and has been more consistent than Allen. While Allen’s physical tools are certainly obvious and intriguing, Buffalo is likely to roll with Peterman – who has a lower ceiling but a higher floor than the Wyoming product – going into Week 1 of the regular season.
Defensively, there are several clear issues that have been made evident. The Bills pass rush has been essentially nonexistent. Andy Dalton and Matt Barkley combined to complete 20-of-32 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns.
Buffalo’s secondary was a strength of the team last year but Tre’Davious White and Vontae Davis each made costly blunders that led to Cincinnati touchdowns. John Ross blazed by Davis early in the first quarter to score from 57-yards out and shortly after, AJ Green used his height and length to grab a touchdown pass while being covered by White in the red zone.
The Bengals’ run game was completely ineffective but Buffalo’s inability to pressure the quarterback was constant from the first-team defense down to the third unit. Tremaine Edmunds was indecisive in pass coverage, which is to be expected from a rookie. Deon Lacy may develop into a fine player but the fact that he is starting and playing a significant role on defense shows how thin the Bills’ linebacker corps is.
Overall, Buffalo showed that this was a young, inexperienced team. Expectations are higher than usual after snapping a 17-year playoff drought but most of last year’s roster has been turned over. With new faces littered throughout the roster and a quarterback competition featuring a rookie and second-year passer, Sunday gave a bleak glimpse of how the 2018 NFL season may potentially play out for the Bills.