CAPACCIO: Bills-Panthers Arrow Up/Arrow Down

August 10, 2018
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ORCHARD PARK, NY - Bills football is finally back.  So let's get to what stood out both good and bad in their preseason opener, a 28-23 loss to the Carolina Panthers:
 

ARROW UP

QB Play X 3

The Bills, and their fans, could not have scripted a better night for their QBs. Nathan Peterman hit on his first nine passes, looking decisive and confident. His only blemish was an interception that was slightly behind RB Chris Ivory but should still probably have been caught. He finished 9 of 10 for 119 yards, a touchdown and the pick. A.J. McCarron followed that up with a strong performance of his own, going 7 for 10 for 116 yards. He did a great job of stepping up in the pocket and firing the ball where it needed to be. Then there was Josh Allen, who wasn’t quite as strong as the other two, but played well nonetheless. His completion percentage wasn’t very good at 47-percent (9 for 19 for 116 yards), but one ball was cleanly dropped by Austin Proehl and on two others Robert Forster arguably should have gotten to. Allen also hit Ray-Ray McCloud with a laser between two defenders for a touchdown and he showed the arm strength that people who've seen him at training camp have raved about.  Allen also ran three times for 29 yards (9.7 average) showing terrific athleticism for a QB his size.

RB Marcus Murphy 

Murphy lead the Bills in rushing with 35 yards, but it was his elusiveness that caught many fans’ eyes.  He was able to avoid tacklers and find open space on several runs and was rewarded with a touchdown.

DE Shaq Lawson

With Trent Murphy‘s injury making him unavailable to play, Lawson was presented with a huge opportunity to prove he’s a player this team can rely on to be a big contributor.  He took that opportunity and ran with it showing up in both the run and passing game on defense.  I really liked his effort all night long, which is something people have questioned about him in the past.

DT Harrison Phillips

The rookie defensive tackle started in place of Kyle Williams who ironically, he’s often compared to.  And he played just like the thirteen year veteran for most of the night, including garnering a sack when he used his great strength to push an interior lineman back into the quarterback and give him nowhere to go.

WR Kelvin Benjamin

Benjamin started the game on fire, catching pass after pass from Nathan Peterman, including a 28 yard touchdown strike.  He finished with four catches for 59 yards and that TD.  He looked smooth and agile if there were any questions about him coming off his knee surgery.

OC Brian Daboll

I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, but if this preseason game is any indication at all, the Bills are no longer stuck in the dinosaur age on offense.  Daboll used creativity in personnel, formations, and play-calling all night.  And the best part was, even with all that, there wasn’t any confusion on the part of the players, which goes straight to a good job of preparing them for everything they would be doing.


ARROW DOWN

RB Keith Ford

The young running back did not help himself given the opportunity that was presented with so much playing time. He failed to pick up a blitz on Josh Allen‘s first series, resulting in a sack of the QB. Then he had two pre-snap penalties that hurt Bills drives. He had been looking very good the last week or so of training camp, but Thursday night was a step back.

WR Robert Foster

The undrafted free agent out of Alabama was the talk of OTAs, minicamp, and the first few practices of training camp. But then the pads came on and he started having issues with getting open and holding onto the football. Thursday all of that showed up. Foster may have been able to get to an Allen pass just out of his reach if he had dove for the ball. Then later, he stopped while Allen was scrambling, and when the QB threw it back deep his way, Foster couldn’t catch up to it. If he had kept his feet moving he might have had a chance. After such a strong start to camp, Foster is now probably on the outside looking in.

Short passes for big gains given up

While the starting defense was in the game, the only real issue they had was allowing screens and dump passes to go for good yardage. It allowed the Panthers to keep drives alive and eventually score. Tackling was an issue on a couple of them.

3rd offensive line

Allen was under duress too often, and it was especially true when the third string offensive line was in the game (the other two QBs didn’t play with the group). They also committed penalties that stalled drives and had the offense going backwards. Their performance as a group did not instill a lot of faith in the depth of the line.
 

THE BIG PICTURE

The most important thing to come out of this game was that each of the QBs played well. The “downside” to that (which of course really isn’t a downside) would be that there is still no separation at the top of the quarterback battle. Many were hoping to get a leader come out of the pack after this game. But it’s obviously a good problem to have instead of a bad one, which would have been the case if all three had fallen flat. That wasn’t the case at all. All three have kept their name in this race for at least another week. So we’ll see what happens when they face the Browns in Cleveland next Friday night. Overall, this was a very encouraging outing for preseason game number one for the Bills. It was also a beautiful night in Orchard Park with a good crowd that saw a pretty entertaining game. When’s the last time we said that about a Bills game in the preseason?
 

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