On Saturday afternoon, the Buffalo Bills took the field at FedEx Stadium to take on Washington. When they left the field, the team had a very different feel than when it left the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium after the second preseason game. Injuries and inconsistent play on both sides of the ball led to a 30-7 rout by the opposing team. So what can be learned from this rout?
The most important point is that the Bills are in trouble at quarterback. Rookie EJ Manuel injured his knee in Week 2 and is out for the rest of the preseason. Kevin Kolb suffered a head injury and is experiencing concussion symptoms. That means the Bills have only one healthy quarterback on the roster in undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel. He has played well for the most part in the preseason, but a team cannot go into any game, even a preseason game, with only one quarterback. Fox Sports 1 is reporting that the Bills worked out Matt Leinart and are signing him. Wide receiver Brad Smith and running back Fred Jackson are also under consideration for emergency status, since both have played quarterback during their lifetime.
Like head coach Doug Marrone, all Bills fans are just hoping that Manuel will be perfectly healthy for Week One against the New England Patriots. This quarterback competition has unfortunately turned into a war of attrition, it seems. Whoever is left standing when September rolls around starts.
Another very important point coming out of this game is that the Bills paid for their aggressiveness on defense. During the first two weeks of preseason, the defense brought a lot of pressure and limited big plays by opposing offenses. Unfortunately, against Washington, the defense gave up a number of big plays. The pass rush did not generate pressure like the first two games and consequently the secondary had more pressure on it than previously. That pressure revealed that there are still a lot of issues to be resolved on the back end.
The cornerback position still has a lot of questions with the unit’s only guaranteed starter in Stephon Gilmore going down with a wrist injury. Behind him, the veterans on the roster have been inconsistent at best, occasionally turning in plays while giving up plays. The Bills have to be aggressive to keep quarterbacks off balanace and try to protect the cornerbacks, but if the pass rush is not being disruptive, life gets even tougher.
The safeties had issues as well. Aaron Williams, who has had a really good camp making the transition from corner to safety, had a miscommunication on third down to allow a big gain and a first down early in the game. Da’Norris Searcy, who has not had a good preseason, suffered an injury and did not return to the game. Behind them, the Bills are relying on rookies Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks, who have played okay but are still adjusting to the speed of the pro game. Jairus Byrd cannot get into game shape fast enough. The Bills need him desperately.
The news could have been much worse for the Bills, though. Star running back CJ Spiller went down in pain on his touchdown run, grabbing at his right knee. With the way he was acting and barely putting any weight on his leg, Bills fans everywhere were thinking 0-16 for the season. However, he ended up walking off the field under his own power. He even returned to the game, much to fans’ chagrin.
Yes, the game went almost as bad as a preseason game could have gone. What Bills fans can take to heart is that in preseason, it’s never as good as it looks nor as bad as it looks. With one preseason game left, Bills fans should just be hoping that the team stays healthy and the players who are injured return to health quickly. The regular season cannot come soon enough.