Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bills' first-teamers stout on defense, flat on offense


The Buffalo Bills run defense? Good. Their passing game? Ugly. Here's some quick thoughts following the few first-team drives from the first official appearance at the Hall of Fame game against the New York Giants:

- Buffalo's defensive execution under new coach Jim Schwartz looked solid, particularly in the run-stopping department. Linebacker Brandon Spikes and defensive end Mario Williams each blew up a Giants rushing play in the backfield, while safety Da'Norris Searcy showed his tackling abilities, as well.

On the pass rush, it was Kyle Williams making a splash, as the veteran logged a sack and forced fumble on quarterback Eli Manning that led to the team's first score. The Giants were able to find some success in some screen plays, though the defense kept the gains marginal.

- It was very apparent that Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel still has a lot of work to do if the passing offense is to take the next step under his tutelage. The sophomore signal-caller went 2-for-7, had two passed batted down at the line and another nearly intercepted as he stared down rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins on a slant play after the defensive turnover.

He also attempted two unsuccessful deep passes to both Watkins and newcomer Mike Williams (starters on the perimeter), though the placement on those passes wasn't terrible. The team's third-down woes are still apparent, as they were unable to keep their drive going near the end zone and had to settle for a field goal. Both third-down attempts with Manuel under center were incomplete.

- On the offensive line, rookie Seantrel Henderson started at left tackle, getting paired up with the dangerous passing-rushing abilities of Jason Pierre-Paul. Henderson held his own, however, keeping Manuel free from danger in the couple of drives he participated in. Pierre-Paul did register one of those batted passes, though. The line did a fair job blocking on the whole for the team's running backs, which was a mix of last year's starters, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.

- In the kicking department, Dan Carpenter nailed a 30-yarder for the game's first score, but it was Dustin Hopkins -- still trying to earn a spot as a specialist -- who handled the kickoffs. The youngster put his first three attempts through the back of the end zone (the third coming after a Robert Woods touchdown near the end of the second half), which seemingly kept his hopes for a roster spot alive, for now.

Of note, it was New York which attempted the first-ever extra point from the new 33-yard distance, and Josh Brown converted. Carpenter nailed his first attempt, as well.

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