We’re finally enjoying real football, in a way. Half the faux season down represents more than a milestone on the way to Christmas on September 13. Preseason proves this sport is at least marginally exciting even when teams pretend to compete against each other, especially for those sick of intramural bashing at Buffalo Bills training camp. Visible improvements since this time last year almost make the interminable wait less sucky.
An important preseason seems like a contradiction. But a team tired of being shoved outside the ring has to show it can use turnbuckles as weapons. The Bills haven’t earned the right to yawn through semi-games. Displaying proficiency is essential for this particular club, which is why it’s joyous to see quarterbacks compete instead of the usual routine of hoping one is less worse. There’s palpable relief that passing plays have looked mostly good so far even though we’ve already forgotten the scores. Similarly, the offensive line seems to know how to maul and pull, which is infinitely more valuable now than points.
There aren’t high requirements in August for everyone. Take half the team. The defense can wave at ball carriers dashing past as long as they don’t learn bad habits. Opposing quarterbacks have looked frightened in both semi-contests so far, which is even more than we need to see. Happily sacking sad sack Johnny Football is a summer football bonus.
At the same time, new guys can get up to speed. Youngsters like Ron Darby are making use of the snaps to establish timing. He was understandably slow to adjust in his first live action against pros who aren’t teammates. An auspicious effort in his second try was heartening to see, especially since it’s better to learn now than during an early playoff race. Meanwhile, some veterans who have already proven themselves can rest injuries or even just bruises.
Some players should be encouraged to slack. Most notably, LeSean McCoy has the permission of everyone with any interest in this franchise to stand on the sidelines trying on New Era caps until games affect standings. The Bills are suddenly thin at rushing, but it’s a better issue to cope with right now than next month. They may as well let fans enter to play tailback during the final preseason games. Their Twitter account can share contest links like they do with chances to win club seats.
Everyone knows the remedial sections that need to catch up. Another alcoholic root beer won’t help us forget how woeful the offense looked last season. Players often seemed like they were each near individual wormholes that caused everyone to bolt in a different time frame. Aside from passing, rushing, and scoring, the unit looked good. The inability to advance the ball in purportedly meaningless contests last summer was a portent of a challenging season. By contrast, simple connections on throws where semi-competent quarterbacks receive enough time to propel a football have made this August fun.
This anxious stretch is a preview of new schemes for a thoroughly new team. We’re easing into the first season of full Pegula installation after the franchise’s quarterback joined the huddle midway into last season’s opening quarter. Of course, the action hasn’t really started despite the simulacrum of competitors in uniform. But Bills fans can enjoy dress rehearsals with the sense that real performances will finally be thrilling.
To fulfill the promise of Bills 2.0, players who haven’t had the chance to thrive during regular contests need to demonstrate their worth now. It’s nice to see the defensive line continue to head where they please. Simultaneously, their offensive counterparts generally look as if they’re capable of preventing the same phenomenon. They’ve both look okay even though only one has something to prove.
Reading too much into football simulations is as foolish as Browns fans buying Manziel jerseys. But it’s still nice to see Buffalo’s quarterbacks initiate such apparent miracles as completed passes. Tyrod Taylor hitting less renowned targets is as good a sign as EJ Manuel scoring with the scout team backups. It’s unfair to test guys without a full supporting cast. But situations are never perfect, which is another important lesson to be learned now. Achievements despite circumstances are this moment’s goal. There are plays to be made that are bigger than any snap. These games do count.