BBD Editor: Dan Hope
The New York Giants won Sunday night’s Hall of Fame Game, 17-13, over the Buffalo Bills.
The good news for the Bills is that the Hall of Fame Game is just the first of five preseason games, meaning not only that tonight’s result is meaningless to the regular season, but also that the Bills have four games to improve upon the things that didn’t work well.
Check out all the live blog posts from the night to see who stood out and who struggled from the first quarter to the fourth. And check back to Buffalo Bills Draft all week, where we’ll have more analysis on the Hall of Fame Game and look ahead to the Bills’ first game on their traditional preseason schedule, which comes Friday against the Carolina Panthers.
Third-string left tackle Edawn Coughman has been beaten badly on two straight plays to give up heavy pass-rush pressure. That’s largely inconsequential—Coughman is a massive long shot to make the roster. The second play was a blind-side strip sack of Thad Lewis by Giants defensive end Jordan Stanton, but after fellow Giants defensive end Kerry Wynn dropped his attempt to scoop up the ball, Cyrus Kouandjio was able to hustle to it and dive upon it to retain possession for the Bills.
Kouandjio has had a rough performance in his preseason debut, but the Bills should like to see the display of athleticism and hustle by him on that play to dive on the loose ball.
By the fourth quarter, the players are game are mostly third- and fourth-string types, but one player who has stood out in the second half has been Bills defensive tackle Landon Cohen. Cohen is showing impressive burst off the snap and has made a number of big stops in the backfield.
Cohen is not the only Bills DT to impress tonight—Stefan Charles also had a good showing in the first half, showing some quickness and ability to beat blockers with his hands—but Cohen is strengthening his case tonight for a roster spot. The combined performances of Charles and Cohen could ratchet up the pressure of Corbin Bryant, another rotational defensive tackle on the team, who did not make much impact on this contest.
The New York Giants have taken the lead, 17-13, on the first big play of the night. Ryan Nassib just launched a deep ball against a one-on-one matchup to the right sideline, but Giants wide receiver Corey Washington took advantage of it with a leaping grab above cornerback Michael Carter. Carter proceeded to fall down and Washington ran away from him for a 73-yard touchdown.
Nassib hasn’t done much tonight to make Bills fans long to have him (remember when he, not EJ Manuel, was expected to be Buffalo’s No. 8 overall pick last year?), but he has shown off a big arm. Carter was already a huge long shot to make the Bills’ roster, but the play certainly could help Washington, who showed his ability to make a big play.
A hit from Nat Berhe forced a fumble by Bills tight end Chris Gragg on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Bills recovered but brought on Jake Dombrowski to punt on the next play.
Gragg has had three catches but not much to show for them tonight. He still has a good shot at a roster spot given Buffalo’s lack of depth at the position, but he needs to start to prove himself.
The Bills have re-taken the lead, 13-10, on a 51-yard field goal drilled by Dan Carpenter.
Dustin Hopkins has done his job well tonight, sending all three of his first-half kickoffs through the back of the end zone, but as long as Carpenter keeps taking care of business on field goals, Hopkins’ chances of making the team remain fairly bleak.
There is 4:08 left to play in the third quarter.
Bryce Brown saw his first extensive action on the Buffalo Bills’ first series of the second half, and he was impressive. Brown showed speed going outside both left and right, and gained 40 yards on four rushing attempts. Granted, Brown’s success is now coming against backups on the Giants defense, players who might not have the usual speed of starters, but Brown is showing why the Bills now have one of the deepest running back groups in the NFL.
It wasn’t as good of a series for the running back currently ahead of him on the depth chart, Anthony Dixon. Expected to be a short-yardage/goal line specialist, he got shut down on a 3rd-and-1 rushing attempt. The series continued as Evan Rodriguez converted 4th-and-1 on a fullback handoff, but ended on the next play when Thad Lewis was intercepted on a deep ball to the end zone by Zack Bowman.
The first turnover on the night for the Bills came with less than a minute to play in the first half. Covered tightly by Zack Bowman, T.J. Graham had a Jeff Tuel pass knocked away from him, and Cooper Taylor intercepted it in the end zone. The interception prompted a kneel down, leaving the game tied 10-10 at halftime.
Chris Hogan and Marcus Easley probably already should have been ahead of Graham in the battle for wide receiver roster spots, but so far tonight that case is being strengthened. Hogan actually came into the game before Robert Woods, surprisingly, and has done a nice job getting open, with three catches for 12 yards. Easley, as previously mentioned, continues to show his value on special teams.
Are the Buffalo Bills going to be carried by their defense and special teams again this season? They have been so far tonight. For the second time in this game, Marcus Easley exploded off the left edge unblocked to bring heat on the punter. This time, he blocked it to give the Bills great field position.
Easley is not one of the Bills’ better receivers, but he’s showing tonight, just as he did last year, that his special teams value makes him worth keeping on the roster.
The game is tied, 10-10, after four series by both teams.
On the Bills’ most recent series, Cyrus Kouandjio checked in at right tackle. The results were not pretty. He was beaten badly on two straight pass-rushes by Damontre Moore, the first of which allowed Moore to get a straight rush at Tuel and drop him with a heavy hit. Reports thus far have not been praising of Kouandjio, and so far, he’s done nothing to make the Bills look any better for selecting him in the second round. It’s early, and he has plenty of time still to improve, but he has a long way to go if he is going to challenge Erik Pears for his starting job.
Overanalyze this: Jeff Tuel just led a touchdown drive against the New York Giants’ first-team defense.
In all serious, Tuel was impressive on his first series of the game. He made smart decisions with the football, completing 8 of 11 passes for 43 yards, and also showed off his wheels on a 13-yard option keeper run off a fake handoff. Also impressive on the drive: wide receiver Robert Woods, who made a leaping catch for 9 yards, gained 12 yards on a smooth inside slant and then caught a 2-yard pass on the left side of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.
The Bills lead, 10-7.
The New York Giants just scored their first points of the game on a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that gives them a 7-3 lead over the Bills. The fact that they have moved the ball at will should not be of too much concern to Bills fans, as the Giants’ first-team defense was against the Bills’ second unit on that series. However, this drive has displayed why Preston Brown could struggle if he is asked to replace Kiko Alonso at weakside linebacker.
Working with the second-team defense tonight, Brown has had a tough series against a run-heavy Giants drive. On three occasions now—twice by Rashad Jennings, once by Andre Williams—the Giants attacked the left side of the field with a run and the Bills have been unable to get out in space quickly enough to stop it. One of the biggest reasons why has been Brown, who simply does not have the lateral agility and range that the Bills had on their defense with Alonso.
Thanks to the defensive turnover, the Buffalo Bills have scored their first points of the game on a 30-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter.
EJ Manuel is struggling thus far in this game. He has more passes knocked down by Giants defenders (three) than passes completed (two). Two of those passes were batted down at the line of scrimmage, while another was nearly caught by leaping Giants linebacker Jacquian Williams. At 6-foot-5, Manuel should not be having that many passes knocked down near the line of scrimmage—he needs to get his passes out higher and do a better job of not staring down his targets.
The Buffalo Bills defense has come up with their first big play of the preseason. Defensive end Jerry Hughes did a great job going inside the left tackle to bring pressure, defensive tackle Kyle Williams beat a guard across the middle and Williams was able to get to the quarterback for a strip sack, which was recovered inside the 25-yard line by Keith Rivers. So far, the Bills defense is doing a terrific job hustling to the ball and bringing heat from their defensive line.
There was nothing unfamiliar about the first series of this game for the Bills offense and defense. The defense looked terrific on its first series, forcing a 3-and-out. Noticeable was cornerback Corey Graham, who made a nice hit on Jerrel Jernigan to force a first-down drop, and weak-side linebacker Nigel Bradham, who rallied to the ball to get in on second- and third-down stops.
The offense was forced to punt after one first down, but there were two promising signs. First of all, Seantrel Henderson controlled Jason Pierre-Paul in one-on-one situations on multiple passing plays, a very promising start for the rookie left tackle. Secondly, EJ Manuel showed his willingness to launch the ball deep to Sammy Watkins, something he needs to be comfortable doing this year, though he did overshoot the ball for an incompletion.
The NFL preseason is underway! Dustin Hopkins, who needs to be excellent on kickoffs all preseason to prove himself worthy of keeping on the roster as a kickoff specialist, got off to a good start with a kickoff through the back of the end zone for a touchback.
There are no mandatory inactives for preseason games, but the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants have both announced which players will not dress tonight.
CB Leodis McKelvin
CB Stephon Gilmore
TE Tony Moeaki
TE Scott Chandler
WR Marquise Goodwin
Starting lineups have not been announced, but if the Bills hold true to their initial depth chart, Corey Graham and Nickell Robey would start in place of McKelvin and Gilmore. Robey will almost certainly kick inside to the slot in nickel packages, with either Ross Cockrell or Ron Brooks taking his place on the outside (and perhaps in the starting lineup ahead of Robey). At tight end, the Bills only have Lee Smith, Chris Gragg and Dominique Jones in uniform. Goodwin, a young player who has been somewhat injury-prone thus far in his career, is certainly a player the Bills would likely to have out there for more work, but they have plenty of wide receivers to take his place.
New York Giants
DE Robert Ayers
LB Jon Beason
OT Will Beatty
WR Odell Beckham
TE Xavier Grimble
G Eric Herman
KR Trindon Holliday
CB Bennett Jackson
CB Trumaine McBride
DT Mike Patterson
LB Spencer Paysinger
RB David Wilson
Beatty and Patterson are both listed as starters on the Giants’ initial depth chart, while Beason and Paysinger are expected to reprise starting spots once healthy. Ayers, Beckham and Wilson are also players who were expected to play key roles for the Giants if healthy, though Wilson’s career appears to be in doubt due to a neck injury.
Ultimately, inactives don’t matter much for a preseason game, especially the first of five games, as it is likely that all veteran starters will be out of the game before the second quarter. The injury situations of all these players, however, will be something to monitor as August rolls along.