NFL Preseason 2018: 4 biggest takeaways from Bills victory vs. Browns

08/18/2018
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The Buffalo Bills beat the Cleveland Browns 19-17 Friday at Paul Brown Stadium, securing their first victory of the 2018 NFL preseason. AJ McCarron got the start after Nathan Peterman got the nod in Week 1 against the Panthers. But McCarron’s night was cut short after suffering a broken collarbone that will likely sideline him for several weeks. This means that Nathan Peterman and Josh Allen will be battling for the starting quarterback job through the next two weeks.  Aside from that battle, here are some big things we learned from Buffalo’s preseason win against the Browns.

Josh Allen impressive, Nathan Peterman won’t go down without fight

Josh Allen

Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

During the offseason here at Cover 1, I made five bold predictions for the Buffalo Bills’ offense. I am growing ever-more-confident that one, if not more than one, of these will happen. After two games, Josh Allen has undoubtedly earned the right to start a preseason game and test the first-team defense. Allen entered the game early in the second quarter following a putrid performance by McCarron (3-for-6, 12 passing yards). Without star running back LeSean McCoy and Charles Clay, Allen still proved that he could make plays.

Last week, he pushed the ball downfield at will, but Friday, he showed the ability to get rid of the ball quickly, as well as maneuver the pocket to avoid rushers while scrambling for positive yardage. He did all of this just on the first  drive, capping it off with a beautiful strike to Bills WR Rod Streater in the endzone for a touchdown.

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However, Nathan Peterman isn’t far off from Allen in terms of competition for the starting job. In two games, Peterman is 17-of-20 (85%) for 221 passing yards and two touchdowns. The third preseason game is typically when the starter is announced, so it will be interesting to see how the quarterbacks’ reps are distributed through practice this week.

In his other two drives, Josh Allen drove the team downfield, resulting in field goals, and surely his performance through two games should be enough to warrant an opportunity with the starters. Allen finished the day completing 9 of 13 passes for 60 yards and one TD. He added 18 yards on three carries and avoided turnovers for the second consecutive week. He looks way more ready than most expected at this point, and the talent gap between him and the other quarterbacks on the roster is undeniable. It’ll be tough for head coach Sean McDermott to keep the rookie off the field.

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Offensive Line an Issue 

AJ McCarron’s poor showing was far from entirely his fault. The Bills’ offensive line was manhandled by the Browns’ defensive line, forcing McCarron to run for his life on the majority of the plays and hardly opening any holes for LeSean McCoy in the run game.

It was an ugly showing with Myles Garrett dominating Dion Dawkins, Vlad Ducasse struggling, especially in pass protection, and Russell Bodine not helping himself in the battle against Ryan Groy for the starting center position. They need to give at least a chance for their QB to succeed, and yesterday they didn’t. Can Josh Allen mask some of their flaws?

Run Defense

The biggest concern about the Buffalo Bills’ defense in 2017 was their inability to stop the run. In the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns, this problem appeared again. Carlos Hyde gashed the Bills’ D, rushing for 64 yards and one TD on nine carries. Duke Johnson added 27 yards on four carries. Both had long runs of 26 and 18 yards, respectively. The Browns scored only on the first drive against the Bills’ starters. Overall, you may consider the Browns’ night a failure offensively; generally speaking, the Bills’ secondary did their job and shut down the Browns’ passing game.

Star Lotulelei was signed to solve the Bills’ run defense problem, but the very early results aren’t promising. He needs to play better than he did in his few snaps against Cleveland. Another reason for concern is the play of the linebackers. For the second consecutive week, rookie Tremaine Edmunds and second-year linebacker Matt Milano played like, well, the inexperienced players that they are, failing to recognize plays quickly or shoot their gaps, especially on misdirection run plays. They have the athletic ability and all the potential in the world, but their inexperience could expose the defense this year.

Buffalo Bills WRs still not respected

Zay Jones was back in the starting lineup, but it didn’t change the way the Browns’ defensive backs played the Bills’ wide receivers. Especially on third downs, the Browns showed blitz and played press man coverage outside, sometimes without even a single safety high, showing zero respect for the Bills’ wideouts. Other than Kelvin Benjamin, no WR on the team showed they can beat this type of coverage, making things difficult for the quarterback, in this case, AJ McCarron.

Lack of separation has been a problem since last season, and the Bills will need some guys to step up and become threats against this type of coverage. Corey Coleman, who made his Bills’ debut in the second quarter, can be an option, and that’s another situation where Josh Allen’s presence can make a difference. With his ability to buy time in and outside the pocket, combined with his powerful arm, opposing defenses will think twice before being over aggressive in those situations.

 

 

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