The Buffalo Bills started their 2018 season with a depressing performance against the Baltimore Ravens, resulting in a 40-3 loss at the M&T Bank Stadium. The Bills were outplayed at every facet of the game, struggling to generate any offense or to slow down Joe Flacco and the Ravens weapons on the other side of the ball. Here are my four takeaways from this pitiful season opener loss:
Buffalo Bills OL worse than expected
Nobody was expecting the Buffalo Bills offensive line to resemble the Dallas Cowboys’ but oh boy, what an awful showing Sunday. The unit was defeated all afternoon, failing to open up rushing lanes for LeSean McCoy and the rest of Buffalo’s ball-carries while getting abused in pass protection. Any positive plays were negated by a penalty committed by an offensive lineman. For example, Dion Dawkins was ejected on what was ultimately the Bills’ most promising drive of the game. Following a play in the redzone, Dawkins got into a shoving match with a Baltimore defender and was subsequently cited for unnecessary roughness and sent to the locker room.
Head coach Sean McDermott will need to consider all the options available to fix this issue. Maybe rookie guard Wyatt Teller should get a chance to compete for snaps. Would moving Ryan Groy to guard and starting Russell Bodine at center be beneficial? All options should be considered at this point, free agents included. While the offensive line wasn’t the sole reason for Buffalo’s loss, they played a huge role in it and if changes aren’t made quickly, this will be a long, miserable season for the Buffalo Bills’ offense.
For defense, inconsistency seems to be only consistent
After being the force responsible for the Bills’ surprising playoff push last year, the Bills defense had high expectations for the 2018 NFL season. Many predicted a sleap in production going into year two under Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier’s system. Key pieces were added via free agency and draft, but the early returns weren’t promising.
Veteran cornerback Vontae Davis wasn’t even active for this first game, resulting in Phillip Gaines, who was signed as a free agent after four years with the Kansas City Chiefs starting outside. Joe Flacco tested him all afternoon. Rookie Taron Johnson, filled in at nickel cornerback but was injured early in the game and replaced by safety Rafael Bush. Bush struggled to contain the shifty Willie Snead out of the slot and the former Saints wideout caught four passes for 49 yards and a score.
Buffalo’s defensive line woes from 2017 don’t appear to be solved, either, as they simply could not generate any pressure on Flacco and gave up a handful of chunk plays against the run. Buffalo’s new $50 million free agent signee, Star Lotulelei had a quiet afternoon and was absent from the stat sheet.
The Ravens quickly jumped ahead with a 14-point lead and never looked back. To be competitive this year, this defense will need to play way better than what we saw today.
Tremaine Edmunds as advertised, has bright future ahead
In a game with few bright spots, Tremaine Edmunds shined. The rookie linebacker has incredible potential and after a slow start, began to look comfortable and play fast, showcasing the athleticism that made him such an intriguing draft prospect. He still has a lot to room to grow, especially reading the QB eyes and being a bit better positioned when in zone coverage to put his hands on passes threw in the middle of the field. But other than that, Edmunds had a solid debut, notching seven tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. He was always around the ball, showing all his athleticism, sure tackling ability and sideline-to-sideline potential. After hitting on the Tre’Davious White choice a year ago, it looks like this year’s 16th overall pick will be another home run hit by the Bills brass.
Josh Allen clearly the superior QB
After a solid preseason, Nathan Peterman was named as the Buffalo Bills starting quarterback over Josh Allen. However, he held onto that gig for just over one half of football that saw 10 offensive drives result in 0 passing first downs and two turnovers. Peterman completed just five-of-18 pass attempts for 24 yards and zero interceptions. It is clear that the Bills have essentially zero chance of winning with Peterman under center. He’s limited physically and doesn’t have the supporting cast for him to thrive in such a structured, predictable offense. But even when finally reaching his full potential, we’re talking about a guy who probably will be a good backup/poor starter in this league. He’s the type of QB who needs good playmakers around him to make him look better, not the contrary and that’s exactly the situation he’s in with the Bills.
On the other hand, Josh Allen lit a fire in a lifeless Bills offense when he finally hit the field in the third quarter. Allen also is far from being a finished product, but he’s so more talented than Peterman to the point he can make the guys around him look better. He has the mobility to buy time behind this OL and to scramble for first downs when opposing defenses select to cover the unimpressive Bills WRs group in man coverage. He has the arm to be a threat downfield on every play and doesn’t look scared playing with few help around him. Even the fear of “throwing him to the wolves” is overrated in my opinion, because he was so used to play in those circumstances at Wyoming that it makes him the perfect young man to face this challenge.
It’ll not be always pretty for sure but I liked what I saw from Allen today. In tough circumstances, he came in and produced. He had few mistakes, like a bad decision on a read-option play that cost LeSean McCoy a TD but also some drops hurt his numbers, especially a Kelvin Benjamin one in the endzone who could result in a score. Overall the Bills was another team with Allen leading the offense and he should start next week’s game. He already give the team the best chance to win.