BBD Staff Writer: Glenn Gifford
The 1982 classic album Combat Rock by The Clash had numerous hits. One of my favorites was the classic song “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” I found myself thinking about this chorus as I walked back to my car following the Buffalo Bills’ 20-16 preseason victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Friday night.
Roster decisions for the Bills coaching staff will be difficult. Coaches may be echoing the chorus of the Clash hit as they try to cut their roster down to 53 men. Many players improved their status with the team on Friday; others did not fare as well.
In our second installment of “5 Up, 5 Down,” we will again look at players who both improved and hurt their status with the Buffalo Bills during the most recent preseason games . With two preseason games left, the roster picture for the Buffalo Bills is starting to become a little clearer.
5 Up – Players who looked good on Friday
This will be a tough pill for Indianapolis Colts fans to swallow, but Jerry Hughes has demonstrated that he is an effective outside linebacker in Mike Pettine’s system. Hughes did not disappoint on Friday night, putting together a solid defensive effort complete with two quarterback sacks, a forced fumble and several defensive pressures.
Hughes appears to be a very “quick-twitch” player who is able to get off the line quickly. Hughes’ effort on Friday night leaves me feeling much better about the Bills’ depth at outside linebacker. Perhaps Buffalo has tapped into something by giving Hughes a second chance and putting him in a position to be successful? Whatever has happened with Jerry Hughes appears to be working.
The cheer from the crowd when EJ Manuel was announced as the quarterback to start the second half was proof enough that Bills fans want the team’s first-round pick from Florida State to be their starting quarterback. Manuel responded with a 10-for-12 performance and a touchdown, which likely put him in the lead to be the Bills’ starting quarterback.
Manuel may not have done anything great to win the competition, but he hasn’t done anything badly on the field to lose it. Unfortunately for the Bills, a knee procedure Sunday morning has ended Manuel’s preseason, which will force the team to start Kevin Kolb (more on Kolb later) if Manuel is not ready for Week 1.
I was already pretty confident that outside linebacker Marcus Dowtin would make this team, and his effort Friday helped his case. Dowtin has been a solid player throughout training camp, and he let his play do the talking during the second half Friday. Dowtin had a sack and was exceptional in coverage. He looked very good making solo tackles in the open field.
His coverage ability and sure tackling will be coveted on third downs. On two consecutive plays, Dowtin made solo tackles in the flats and limited the Vikings to short gains. He was disruptive as a blitzer, and plays with the same intensity he shows at training camp. Good work Marcus, your hard work should pay off with a roster spot.
Brandon Kaufman and Chris Hogan
Both Brandon Kaufman and Chris Hogan played well on Friday and, in my opinion, put themselves ahead of Da’Rick Rogers to make the Bills’ 53-man roster at wide receiver. Kaufman had two receptions for 45 yards while Hogan had four receptions for 34 yards. Hogan also made a nice special teams play on a punt; plays like those will be what separate Hogan from other receivers who contribute little in the way of special teams.
Both showed great hands and an ability to run after the catch. While I am unsure how much Stevie Johnson will play in the slot this year, Kaufman looks like a nice slot receiver. His hands and size make the pending tough decisions on who makes the roster at wide receiver even more difficult. Personally, I think Hogan has landed a spot.
I include left tackle Cordy Glenn on this list over some other candidates simply because Glenn played well on Friday and many fans have been worried about Glenn throughout training camp. Cordy was able to do well against Jared Allen and was able to protect quarterback Kevin Kolb effectively.
While Glenn is far from a complete package, his effort on Friday should be enough for Bills fans to realize that Cordy Glenn is a left tackle in the NFL. His brief stint at guard in training camp was more about the team’s lack of depth at guard than Glenn’s ability at tackle.
5 Down – Players who looked bad on Friday
I flirted with the idea of including Da’Norris Searcy on my list last week versus the Colts. The safety proved Friday that he deserves to be on this list.
He is a liability in pass coverage. He has difficulty covering tight ends. While Searcy may bring some physical play to the run game, this is a passing league and it will not take teams long to start picking on Searcy.
Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph was able to beat Searcy on fairly routine routes. Searcy will struggle in a system that blitzes often and relies on man-to-man coverage. Friday’s effort by Searcy caused me to go home and look up the stipulations surrounding the franchise tag, because his poor play showed how much the Bills need Jairus Byrd.
Cornerback Ron Brooks has worked his way on to this list for a second straight game. Brooks seems to have difficulty in coverage. While he brings physical play to the game, I have difficulty getting excited about a guy who tackles someone after they have made a catch 10 yards down the field (see Donte Whitner).
Brooks had an opportunity to make a play when Hughes sacked Matt Cassel and caused a fumble. All Brooks had to do was fall on the ball and the Bills would have gained possession deep in Vikings territory. Brooks could not manage to do this.
The Bills have coverage issues, and as of right now, Ron Brooks is not helping the Bills secondary.
The wind was taken out of the sails of Bills fans very early on Friday night with the poor play of veteran quarterback Kevin Kolb, who received the start versus the Vikings. The struggling quarterback looked tentative and rusty. He seemed uncomfortable in the pocket and made some pretty poor decisions.
While he seemed to improve as the second half was drawing to a close, it was at the six-minute mark of the first quarter when I heard the crowd starting the “We want EJ” chant. I think it is safe to say that Kolb is in a tough spot here in Buffalo. His 13 completions in 21 attempts, including an interception, did not sit well with the Buffalo crowd.
Kolb needed to shine Friday to win the hearts and minds of Bills fans. He didn’t! That said, the starting job will remain his to lose following Manuel’s knee surgery.
Rogers did little on the field and only received playing time in the fourth quarter. The reason he is on this list is his effort. I watched Rogers closely for every play he lined up for. Rogers tipped off with his body language which plays were going to be runs and which plays were going to be passes.
I informed some fellow season ticket holders in my row of Rogers’ effort, and we all began calling the play (run or pass) in advance based solely on Rogers’ body language with 100 percent accuracy. He carries himself much differently when he may be involved in a play. His effort on a Tuel fumble versus the Colts was questioned last week. His maturity and character caused him to go undrafted.
While Rogers is full of potential, he appears to be lazy and selfish. I get the impression that Rogers cares only about himself. Because of this, I would be prepared to keep guys like Brandon Kaufman, Chris Hogan or Marcus Easley while parting ways with the potential that is Da’Rick Rogers.
What a difference a week makes! Last week, Jumal Rolle was on my list as a standout for the Bills. This week, he is on my list for poor play.
Rolle was picked on and abused several times by the Vikings in the second half. He was targeted frequently by Vikings quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson on Minnesota’s touchdown drive in the 4th quarter.
Rolle struggled in coverage and was a big reason why the Vikings were able to both sustain drives and score points in the fourth quarter. He will need to pull a rabbit out of his hat to land a position with this team.
Let’s be honest about Friday’s game versus the Vikings. While the defense looked very impressive and Mike Pettine was able to get pressure on Vikings quarterbacks, the Bills’ starting offense under Kevin Kolb looked horrible. The Bills also showed an alarming lack of discipline, registering a whopping 14 penalties for 106 yards.
It was also the second straight game where the Bills were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Ron Brooks was flagged versus the Colts for taunting, and Marcus Easley was flagged for a 15-yard penalty Friday for making the first-down signal after a catch.
I mention and harp on the penalties because many have applauded Bills head coach Doug Marrone as a disciplinarian, but when your team accumulates three times as many penalties as your opponent, it speaks to a lack of discipline. I am curious to see how Marrone addresses the penalty issue, especially after the unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
The quarterback competition appeared to be over with Manuel on the inside track, but with Manuel out, the Bills now must improve with Kolb under center.
The defense was impressive Friday and many players had great days. It is worthy of mentioning again, especially because the defense was missing star defensive end Mario Williams and rookie inside linebacker Kiko Alonso.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has proven that he can dial up the pressure. I think it is fair to say, however, that although Leodis McKelvin is injured, the Bills do have some concern with secondary depth and will need both a cornerback and a safety to step up.
Tags: Brandon Kaufman, Chris Hogan, Cordy Glenn, Da'Norris Searcy, Da'Rick Rogers, EJ Manuel, Game Reviews, Jerry Hughes, Jumal Rolle, Kevin Kolb, Marcus Dowtin, Minnesota Vikings, Preseason, Ron Brooks