By BBD Writer Eric Samulski
Well, we’re one week into the season, and it’s safe to say that much of the optimism that the Bills faithful had built up over the long offseason has diminished. Looking back at a brutal 48-28 drubbing at the hands of the Jets is never a fun task, but it comes with the territory as a fan. So, in order to figure out a few of the ways in which the Bills went off track this weekend, let’s look at the game’s biggest headlines and how the team answered some of the important questions we asked heading into the game.
First, the positives…
CJ Spiller Might Be a Legitimate Star in the NFL
(Question #2 was: Can Jackson and Spiller share a backfield?)
The question may not have been answered fully as Jackson left the field after a left leg injury, but Spiller was one Bill who certainly showed up to play. He showed great vision and really solid burst through the hole. Against a Jets running attack that held Fred Jackson in check in the first quarter, Spiller did significant damage and seemed like he was threat to take it to the house every time he touched the ball. After 14 carries for 169 yards and a TD (plus 25 yards receiving) it’s safe to say that the label of “Bust” should be forever removed from beside Spiller’s name.
The Bills Offensive Line Prevented The Jets From Getting Any Sacks
(There were no questions about the unit as a whole, just Cordy Glenn)
In typical Gailey fashion, the Bills tried to throw a lot of quick-hitters to prevent the Jets from getting any real pressure on Fitzpatrick. However, the Bills offensive line was also able to pass protect for extended periods of time on more than a few plays and had no real breakdowns against the Jets vaunted blitzing defense. In the running game, the offensive line was able to consistently open holes for Spiller, and even made Tashard Choice look good on a few plays. On the downside, Glenn did get beat pretty handily by Coples on a few occasions and Levitre did get called on a few false starts. However, overall, it was a pretty solid performance by the unit.
Bills Fans Aren’t Worried About John Potter Anymore.
(Question #7 was: Is John Potter worth a roster spot?)
I don’t know if Bills fans aren’t thinking about Potter because of his performance or because the team had so many bigger problems, but it’s not a good sign that this was one of the three positives that could be drawn from the game. Regardless, Potter induced touchbacks on every single kickoff except for one, and Joe McKnight returned that 24 yards and still only reached the 18-yard line. It’s a small victory, but he did what he was asked to do and prevented the Jets from doing any real damage on kick returns. Now if only he could also cover punts…
Now, onto the problem areas from the game:
Fitzpatrick is still not proving he was worth his contract
(Question #1 was: Which Fitz Will Show Up?)
Unfortunately, the Bills clearly got bad Fitz, or FitzTragic as he’s called, on Sunday afternoon. The Bills have grown accustomed to Fitz’s average arm strength and tendency to try to force a big play, but the Harvard grad is supposed to be one of the more intelligent quarterbacks in the game. Against the Jets he seemed completely lost. He took too long making his reads, didn’t tuck the ball and run enough, and misread the coverage on multiple occasions; including a horrendous interception thrown to Antonio Cromartie, which might have been one of the worst throws of his career. He seemed a step slow all game, which led to him consistently throwing balls behind his receivers.
The Bills are only going to go as far as quarterback play can take them. If Fitzpatrick can’t make the necessary adjustments and show real progress in week two, fans are going to continue to get restless. The NFL is becoming even more of a quarterback league in recent years, and the Bills can’t expect to make the playoffs unless they get adequate quarterback play. Another bad week from Fitz and people are going to start clamoring for Tarvaris Jackson.
The Bills Secondary Got Beat Handily by the Jets
(Question #3 was: Are the Bills too thin at corner?)
The Bills knew the secondary was a problem when they drafted Stephon Gilmore tenth overall, but the secondary seemed to respond by playing even worse than last year. They continuously gave the Jets receivers at least five yards of cushion and lost the physical battle every time they tried press coverage. Jets rookie Stephen Hill, who was supposed to be a raw WR won one-on-one battles against both Gilmore and second-year starter Aaron Williams multiple times during the game. However, the biggest disappointment for the Bills continued to be Leodis McKelvin. After flaming out as an outside corner, Gailey moved McKelvin to the slot where he supposedly excelled all preseason. Then the regular season started and it was the same old Leodis. The Jets went after him and beat him consistently. He just seems to have no ability to make a play on the ball, frequently getting turned around and left in the lurch. The Bills have to hope that the young players continue to grow and improve, but it might not be a bad idea to move Justin Rodgers into the slot; at least until Ron Brooks recovers from foot surgery.
The Defensive Line Failed to Show Up
(Question #4 was: Just how good is this defensive line?)
We thought that the Bills defensive line, going up against a banged up Jets offensive line, was due for a big day. It didn’t happen. Kyle Williams and Chris Kelsay were able to get penetration on a regular basis during the afternoon, and they held the Jets under 120 yards rushing, but the pressure on Sanchez was non-existent. Part of it was the simple fact that the Bills corners got beat so badly that Sanchez never really had to hold onto the ball for more than three seconds, but the Bills defensive ends very rarely won their one-on-one match-ups regardless. Mario Williams was doubled on about half of the snaps, but he also got stood up by an undrafted free agent way too often and seemed to lose all interest halfway through the game.
Chan Gailey and Company got Utterly Out-coached
(Another topic that didn’t even factor into my mind).
It was an embarrassing performance from Gailey and his coaches. After a disastrous end to last season, which continued over into the preseason, many Bills fans assumed that the team was simply waiting to unveil some new wrinkles in the regular season. Instead, the Bills offense failed to muster any real momentum, and the defense got beat throughout the entire four quarters. Keeping Fitzpatrick’s performance in mind, the blame really falls mostly on Wannstedt and his defensive coaches. The Bills made zero adjustments to counter the Jets offense, sent no blitzers to help get pressure on Sanchez, and seemed content to simply try to same play and hope for better results. It was a lazy performance.
Why Was Brad Smith Kept?
(Question #6 was: Is Brad Smith worth a roster spot?)
It’s probably unfair to criticize after one game, but when many Bills fans were upset that Smith was kept as the fifth wide receiver we asked if he would be a factor in the game. Maybe his injury played a part in his limited role, but he was still active for the game and the Bills ran zero Wildcat plays. In fact, I’m not exactly sure if Brad Smith was ever on the field. It’s a curious decision considering the Bills chose to make their rookie WR, TJ Graham, inactive for the game. Now, with David Nelson’s injury, Brad Smith will really need to step up as a pass catcher, however I’d look for Naaman Roosevelt to be signed this week as insurance.
Well, it was a tough way to start the season, but there are still fifteen more games to go. Here’s hoping that things turn around.