As is the case in most years, the first preseason game usually features plenty of snaps for some of the big-name players. Thursday’s game didn’t disappoint, as both teams traded big plays on both sides of the ball that made for a pretty entertaining football game for early August, all things considered.
Here are five takeaways from Thursday’s preseason opener at New Era Field:
Nathan Peterman came to play: Even the biggest Nathan Peterman detractors had to be pretty impressed with the second-year quarterback’s near-perfect performance. Peterman quickly found his favorite target in Kelvin Benjamin, and the two developed plenty of chemistry as the first quarter continued, capped off by a 28-yard touchdown pass to put the Bills on the board and in the lead. Peterman finished 9-for-10 for 119 yards with a touchdown and a tipped-ball interception. The pick that came late in the first quarter certainly looked like a case of missed timing, but overall, it was a preseason debut that made a strong statement about the ongoing quarterback competition.
McCarron/Allen reviews: It was hard for the other two guys on Buffalo’s quarterback depth chart to follow the first quarter Peterman had, but they were both given plenty of opportunities on Thursday. McCarron spent most of his first few minutes on the field scrambling away from pressure, as he had to deal with the Bills’ second-team offensive line. When the veteran had time to throw, he looked sharp. McCarron went 7-for-10 for 116 yards and moved the team down the field in the second quarter, before Marcus Murphy capped the drive off with a seven-yard touchdown scamper.
Allen’s performance had its ups and downs and will be dissected plenty over the coming days, but the Bills definitely allowed the rookie to ease into his first NFL game. Allen played the entire second half with numerous third teamers scattering the field for both teams. He had memorable moments (touchdown throw to McCloud) and some that he’d like to have back (wild incompletion on fourth-and-three). Overall, not much stock can be put into what happened behind center on Thursday, other than that the Bills seem to have a set order of quarterbacks heading into next Friday’s game. With the way Peterman and McCarron both performed against the Panthers, there should be no issue with the Bills continuing to ease Allen into an NFL offense.
Not much cleared up at receiver: The good news: several of Buffalo’s wideouts put forth big-game performances on Thursday. The bad news: it didn’t really make the depth chart much clearer. With Corey Coleman and Zay Jones both sitting out, it gave other guys the chance to step up with the first-team offense. Brandon Reilly caught a 59-yard ball from A.J. McCarron in the second quarter. Ray-Ray McCloud caught a 25-yard bullet pass from Allen in the fourth, then showed off his speed on the very next play when he was given the ball on a reverse. His touchdown at the tail end of the game was also impressive, and he certainly made the case for even more playing time as August rolls on.
Defense looked sharp: Outside of Kyle Williams and Trent Murphy, nearly all of Buffalo’s big-name defensive players were flying around the field in the first couple of drives against the Panthers. Jordan Poyer nearly had an interception against Cam Newton on a play that was reminiscent of his strong play that turned him into one of the top safeties in the league last year. The ‘D’ had just one sack in the game, which came courtesy of Harrison Phillips on an overpowering move to get into the backfield.
Carolina was able to reach the end zone three times in the second half, but that came with plenty of players on the field that won’t come close to Buffalo’s 53-man opening day roster.
No penalty controversy: Much has been made about the NFL’s new helmet rules this offseason, especially after several questionable calls during last week’s Hall of Fame game. On Thursday, however, it had no impact on the game, one way or the other. Carolina was called for a helmet hit in the second half, but it was a dangerous hit that would’ve also been called in years past. While many fans and media members were worried the new rules would take over games, that wasn’t the case on Thursday. It’ll certainly be something to watch as the preseason progresses and players on both sides of the ball get more comfortable with the new league mandates.
The game did turn sloppy on the penalty front later in the game for the Bills, however, with numerous false starts
The team finished with 10 penalties for 69 yards. Although those numbers aren’t ideal, the first and second teams played a very clean first half, with most of the calls going against guys way down the depth chart.