C.J. Spiller: The Bills survived what may have been their biggest injury scare of the day when C.J. Spiller grabbed his knee in pain after scoring the Bills’ only touchdown of the day on a 2-yard run. Fortunately for the Bills, Spiller turned out to be fine and even returned to the game, though not for much action.
He looked as good as ever running the ball, showing his speed and quickness on the perimeter as he gained 39 yards on eight attempts. The Bills would be smart, however, to sit Spiller for their final preseason game. Everyone already knows what Spiller can bring to the table, so there is no reason to put him at risk of injury on Thursday in a meaningless game.
Wide Receivers: Stevie Johnson returned to the lineup Saturday, and led the Bills with four receptions for 28 yards. He made one of the best catches of the day with a leaping 12-yard catch on a pass thrown high between two defenders. Johnson’s day, however, was dampened by a first-quarter fumble.
Overall, it wasn’t much of a day for the Bills wide receivers. That can mostly pinned upon the poor play of the quarterbacks, but the receivers also take a share of the blame for doing little to make the quarterbacks look better.
Left Guard Still An Issue? The Bills’ offensive line didn’t do anything spectacular on Saturday, but they did an overall solid job of protecting the Bills’ quarterbacks (Kolb’s injury appeared to occur on a scramble downfield). One player whose performance continued to be uninspiring, however, was left guard Colin Brown.
Brown appears to be firmly in line to start at left guard, considering he has worked as the starter in each of the Bills’ first three preseason games. As the Bills replace star Andy Levitre this season, however, that position is going from one of their biggest strengths to one of their points of weakness.
Brown was beat badly around his outside shoulder to give up a sack to Redskins outside linebacker Darryl Tapp on Saturday, and he didn’t make much noise as a run blocker.
Defensive Front Seven: The Buffalo Bills’ defensive front seven really stood out in the team’s first three preseason games for the consistency in which they brought pressure on their opponents. This was not as much the case on Saturday, at least for the first-team defense.
The Bills had three sacks, but all three of those came in the second half when the Redskins had moved on to their backup offensive line. Pass-rushers Mario Williams, Manny Lawson, Alex Carrington and Jerry Hughes did not generate as much pressure as they did in the first two games, and none of them were great in run defense.
The Bills’ linebackers also had their share of struggles. Specifically, second-year linebacker Nigel Bradham struggled to make plays against the run and had numerous missed tackle opportunities. Bradham could have used a good performance to make people forget his marijuana arrest earlier this week, but he didn’t do much to make his week better today.
The Bills did, however, have some bright spots on their defensive front seven, and the biggest of those was defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. Dareus had a disruptive performance, highlighted by the plays he made to force the Redskins to settle for field goals on two promising drives.
On the Redskins’ second drive of the game, after the Redskins made some big plays to drive into the red zone, Dareus had a strong goal-to-go sequence to lead the Bills’ defensive effort. On first down, he led a run-stuffing effort at the line of scrimmage for a tackle for loss. Two plays, he ran an effective stunt with Mario Williams to bring pressure on Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman and force an incompletion.
Dareus also showed up in a big way to stall the Redskins’ final drive of the half. On a run to the second-down run to the left by Roy Helu, Dareus slid over to the left accordingly and shut down Helu for another tackle for loss. On the next play, Dareus worked between two Redskins blockers to bring pressure up the middle and hit Redskins quarterback Pat White as he threw, forcing an incompletion.
In the second half, the Bills had a number of standouts on their second-team defense.
Outside linebacker Jamaal Westerman is a long shot to make the team given the Bills’ depth at the edge-rushing position, but he did a very good job of setting the edge and generating pursuit on Saturday. Inside linebackers Arthur Moats and Chris White also did a good job of strengthening their holds on roster spots with strong second-half showings; White did have one missed tackle on a Chris Thompson run, but he had an overall good day including a key goal-line tackle on a fourth-quarter 3rd-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
Shawn Powell: The star of the day for the Buffalo Bills may very well have been their punter, Shawn Powell, who played an important role given the team’s futility on offense (155 total yards).
Powell’s inconsistency has been a problem, but he was consistently good on Saturday. He averaged 52.8 yards per punt and got good hangtime on his punts as well. The Bills’ punt coverage was not as good, giving up an average of 12.6 yards on five returns, but that still leaves Powell with an average of 44.9 net yards per punt.
Tags: Aaron Williams, Arthur Moats, C.J. Spiller, Chris White, Colin Brown, Da'Norris Searcy, Duke Williams, Game Reviews, Injuries, Jamaal Westerman, Jeff Tuel, Jonathan Meeks, Kevin Kolb, Leodis McKelvin, Marcell Dareus, Nickell Robey, Preseason, Preseason Takeaways, Ron Brooks, Shawn Powell, Stephon Gilmore, Stevie Johnson, Washington Redskins, Week 3