ReFo: BUF @ IND, Preseason Wk 1
You can tell the Bills aren’t messing around with preseason.
Determined to get themselves as game ready as possible they left first round pick E.J. Manuel in for the entire first half as we got a glimpse of what kind of offense they’re going to run (in short, it will protect whoever is it at quarterback as much as possible).
For the Colts it was more a case of getting through it without getting any more players hurt (which was far from a success). The backups got a sustained look from early on and few distinguished themselves. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Buffalo – Three Performances of Note
Those Rookie QBs
While it was first round pick E.J. Manuel (-0.3) who got the start and walked away with a healthy stat line (16-of-21 for 107 yards and a touchdown). It’s worth noting only two passes were thrown over 10 yards in the air as he dinked and dunked the Colts’ backups.
Against an even weaker set of Colts reserves it was actually undrafted free agent out of Washington State Jeff Tuel (+6.4) who caught the eye. He went 19-of-23 on his 24 drop-backs with one batted pass and two dropped passes meaning only one of his passes was off target (and that was a safe over throw with the safety in good coverage). He was extremely efficient as he moved the ball passed the chains time and time again. It’s easy to fall for a quarterback in preseason, but Tuel looked in control of the offense and put forth an extremely strong case for a roster spot here.
More Joy at Corner?
The Bills have had a pretty healthy history in recent years with some of the cornerbacks they’ve developed. In this one Crezdon Butler (+3.5) and Jumal Rolle (+2.9) were the most notable; both manning the left cornerback spot. Butler has bounced around the league since being a fifth-round pick in Pittsburgh but was picked up by the Bills last year, featuring on 17 defensive plays. Here he was thrown at six times and gave up receptions for just 11 yards with two pass break-ups and an interception for good measure.
Rolle, the 2013 undrafted free agent didn’t see quite as much time, but he walked away making the play of the game. Baiting the quarterback, he broke quickly on a hitch route to pick off a pass and take it back for six. Add in that on the other two occasions he was thrown at he didn’t allow a completion (though he was flagged for a penalty) and he might get himself an increase on the 19 snaps he saw in this one.
The Left Guard Spot
So the competition on the tip of everyone’s tongue is underway in preseason. Just who will be the Bills’ left guard?
The clubhouse favorite would have to be Colin Brown (+0.8) who got the nod and played the entire first half. His 36 snaps were largely anonymous, with 24 in pass protection and 12 in the running game. Like him, Doug Legursky (+0.8) was perfect in pass protection as the Bills got rid of the ball extremely quickly (Manuel at 2.3 seconds to throw and Tuel at 2.1).
Perhaps more importantly to ask is just how important it is? Given the Bills running scheme features a lot of misdirection with inbuilt second points of attack, C.J. Spiller in limited action showed that he really won’t need that much help to make teams pay.
Colts – Three Performances of Note
Making A Case
With LaRon Landry not suiting up, Delano Howell (+3.2) took full advantage of 91 defensive snaps to make a big impression. The 2012 undrafted free agent would only make two tackles, but his five assists in the run game highlighted a player who got to the line of scrimmage (and ball carrier) extremely quickly. He didn’t let himself down in coverage either, finishing the day with a pass defense and just 3-of-5 receptions allowed for 29 yards and can be pleased his performance didn’t slow down despite his heavy workload.
Saving a Roster Spot
If Chandler Harnish (-4.1) was auditioning for a roster spot here he completely fluffed his lines. With Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck firmly entrenched at one and two, there are some who would question the need to use a roster spot on a third quarterback. If the Colts agree, then the 253rd pick of the 2012 draft hasn’t helped his chances of latching onto another team.
He went 14-of-33 and really struggled whenever he was pressured, going 1-of-8 in these situations. He lacked the necessary composure to hit receivers when the Bills blitzed (5-of-16 here) and made a series of ill advised throws when plays broke down. Developmental quarterbacks take time, but this was a far from encouraging performance.
Doubting the DB Depth
The Colts will be hoping the brittle Greg Toler doesn’t go down, because on paper his pairing with Vontae Davis is impressive. Given what some of those hoping to replace them got up to, it’s even more important.
Marshay Green (-2.7), the 2010 undrafted free agent, failed to cover himself in glory as all four balls into his coverage were complete. On the other side, Sheldon Price (-3.1) came in when Chip Vaughn exited through injury and allowed 6-of-7 for 64 yards and a touchdown. Both men will need to step up if they want to stay in the competition for roster spots.
– The Bills flirted between 3-4 and 4-3 looks with eight even fronts and 18 odd.
– It might not bode all that well that Lawrence Sidbury saw so much playing time, but he converted it into four hurries and a batted pass as he looks to latch on in a crowded outside linebacker group.
– Bills wide receiver Marcus Easley (+3.3) caught all seven of the balls thrown his way for 94 yards.
PFF Game Ball
There was really only one contender here. The top-ranked quarterback after one week of preseason play, Jeff Tuel.
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