BBD Staff Writer: Glenn Gifford
Sunday night marked the long-awaited return of the AMC television hit Breaking Bad. While the world awaits the fate of Walter White, Buffalo Bills fans received a brief glimpse into their possible 2013 fate on Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis.
A film review of Sunday’s game has given Buffalo their own version of players who decided, in their season debut with the Bills, to “break bad.” In an effort to remain positive, we will also look at some players who broke bad habits and had a positive debut on Sunday.
Our first installment of “5 Up, 5 Down” for the Bills’ 2013 preseason looks at players who helped or hurt their case to make the Buffalo Bills roster and/or earn greater playing time, although I tried to keep my focus on rookies and players on the bubble to make the team.
How about we consider the position of kickoff returner filled? Who’s with me? Marquise Goodwin had two quality kickoff returns on Sunday, include one for a 107-yard touchdown. Goodwin displayed lightning quickness and will be a threat to break one long every time he touches the ball. Although Leodis McKelvin was out with injury, Goodwin really made a case to be the Bills’ kickoff return man on Sunday.
You read that correctly Bills fans, Marcus Easley. Since 2010 we have been hearing about the one-time fourth-round pick’s potential to be a big-time wide receiver. A plethora of injuries, however, have hampered Easley’s chances and plunged him down the depth chart.
Sunday saw the emergence of Easley (albeit versus the Colts’ second-team defense) as a receiving threat. He made seven receptions for a total of 94 yards, leading the Bills in both categories. While I am not ready to anoint Easley as a member of the team just yet, he really helped his chances with his performance on Sunday.
Crezdon Butler and Jumal Rolle
Cornerback Crezdon Butler made several plays on Sunday that helped his case to make the team. Butler has been the target of some criticism in training camp; he was in a fight at one training camp practice and victimized by the offense in others. I personally witnessed two practices where Butler looked less than stellar.
On Sunday, Butler had an interception, three total pass defenses and 2 stops on third down that stopped Colts drives. He made two very nice open-field tackles and had a very solid game. Butler may be around for a while longer after his performance in the preseason opener.
Another cornerback, undrafted rookie Jumal Rolle, made two consecutive pass defenses late in the fourth quarter, one of which was an interception return for a touchdown. Rolle, an undrafted free agent from Division II school Catawba, showed enough late in the game on Sunday to merit him a continued look by the coaches. Way to make the most of your opportunity, Jumal.
Manny Lawson made some nice plays on Sunday. He had a tipped pass that led to the Butler interception. He also made some quality tackles against the Colts’ first unit and excelled in coverage. On a team that is desperate for some help at outside linebacker, free-agent addition Lawson demonstrated that when in the proper system, he can be an effective player.
EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel
EJ Manuel got off to a shaky start Sunday, but seemed to improve as the game progressed. I made a point of watching Colts coverage on the NFL network to get a non-biased view of his performance, and both Colts announcers as well as NFL Network’s Warren Sapp seemed impressed with his performance toward the end of the half.
In particular, both sets of commentators were pleased with his command of the offense during the final two minutes of the first half. While Manuel’s numbers are nothing to write home about, his poise and ability to lead the team down the field under time constraints was impressive. He made smart plays to conserve the clock and was impressive with his drive-ending, 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dorin Dickerson.
I was also pleased with the plays Manuel made on his feet. He finished the game with 28 yards rushing on 3 carries.
Undrafted rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel did just as good if not better than EJ Manuel on Sunday. Tuel’s stats are more impressive, but they do reflect time against the Colts’ second- and third-string defenses. Nonetheless, Tuel shows good command of the offense and has done a wonderful job making the most of his opportunity for increased repetitions since Kevin Kolb’s mat slip.
5 Down – Players who “Broke Bad”
On a team that is waiting for a cornerback other than Stephon Gilmore to emerge as a legitimate starter, Ron Brooks did little on Sunday to let Bills fans think that he is anything other than a depth player.
Brooks had a 15-yard penalty for taunting that extended a drive. Taunting? Ron Brooks needs to shut his mouth and let his play do the talking. Getting a stupid penalty when you are fighting for a starting job is not acceptable.
Getting torched by T.Y. Hilton for a touchdown doesn’t help Brooks’ case either. His big hit on Coby Fleener that caused a fumble is not enough to keep Ron off this list. Brooks also taunted Fleener after his fumble-causing hit, but he wasn’t called for a penalty.
Did Alan Branch play today? I saw very little from Alan Bramch. The one thing that I did notice on my film review was his ability to quit on plays that are not going his way. I hate when players give “selective effort.” Branch’s play on Sunday was selective and showed little effort.
Considered a quality free-agent signing by Buffalo, Branch seems to be little more than an average defensive line rotational depth player. It’s time for Branch to pick up his game. On the 2013 Buffalo Bills defensive line, Mr. Branch is expendable.
The battle for kicker is not over by any means and I did not like the fact that Dustin Hopkins booted a kick off out of bounds, but Rian Lindell is officially on notice. Hopkins got the start, made his field goals and PATs and put three of his five kickoffs into the end zone. Hopkins would represent a savings in salary on the roster and as we all know, football is a business.
Kiko Alonso and Nigel Bradham
Fans may be a little miffed that I included Alonso on this list. While Kiko did have a fortunate pass break up in coverage on a would-be touchdown throw by Andrew Luck, he was not a stand out today. He struggled in coverage on a few occasions and really seemed to have some over-pursuit issues as the game progressed.
Nigel Bradham had similar issues to Alonso. I include both new inside linebackers on this list because I did not come away from Sunday’s game with a confident feeling that the Bills will be able to shut down the run.
Fans need to remember that Bradham is a second-year player and Alonso is a rookie. There will be some growing pains. The Colts are by no means a rushing power house, but their first-team offense moved the ball on the ground.
To say that I am worried about the left guard position would be an understatement. I spent the postgame breaking down Colin Brown’s film, and he officially broke bad! He seems lethargic and really tends to bend at the waist when blocking. It appears that defensive players dictate how Brown blocks. He did not do enough while facing the Colts’ first-team to put my mind at ease with regards to the left guard position.
Doug Legursky appeared to fare slightly better when running against the Colts second-team defense, and I would not be surprised if the left guard turnstile makes a few more rotations during the preseason before a winner is crowned at that position. Regardless of who wins the competition, I have not been thrilled at camp with the play of either Brown or Legursky. Sunday failed to do anything but further muddy the left guard waters.
In the end, the Bills scored 44 points and won the game. It appears as if the uptempo offense that Buffalo has been working on was a factor in the second half. It also appears as if Buffalo won the first round of the Kelvin Sheppard/Jerry Hughes trade, as Hughes outperformed Sheppard on the field today. I was pleased with the Bills depth in the second half, and it appears that they are an improved team.
The defense’s inability to cover the tight end is still a concern, but the preseason is a time for the defense and their multiple looks to gel.
Which players do you think made a positive or negative impression on Sunday?
Tags: Alan Branch, Colin Brown, Crezdon Butler, EJ Manuel, Game Reviews, Indianapolis Colts, Jeff Tuel, Jumal Rolle, Kiko Alonso, Manny Lawson, Marcus Easley, Marquise Goodwin, Nigel Bradham, Preseason, Preseason Takeaways, Rian Lindell, Ron Brooks