Plenty Of Concerns
QB, O-Line, Defense Up In The Air For Bills
ORCHARD PARK — The Bills’ quarterback competition is still unsettled. Their defense showed signs of looking lost in giving up a touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage against Cincinnati.
And Buffalo’s patchwork offensive line is getting manhandled.
These are not encouraging signs less than two weeks before the Bills open the regular season at Baltimore.
“It’s a wake-up call for all of us,” center Ryan Groy said Monday, a day after the line was pushed around in giving up five sacks in the first half of a 26-13 preseason loss to the Bengals. “We couldn’t get anything going. Hurt ourselves pre-snap. Didn’t protect the quarterback. Did pretty much of everything on the do-not-do list.”
The level of concern was no different on defense after Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton burned Buffalo’s defense for 180 yards passing and two touchdowns on five series — including a 57-yarder to John Ross on the opening snap.
“We couldn’t stop them, man,” cornerback Tre’Davious White said. “We weren’t able to do anything yesterday. They were able to pick their spots and they were able to exploit them.”
As for quarterback, coach Sean McDermott is still not ready to name the Bills’ season-opening starter, never mind which of his three quarterbacks will start in Buffalo’s final preseason tuneup at Chicago on Thursday.
“No further quarterback developments,” he said.
Rookie first-round pick Josh Allen’s steady progress took a considerable step back against the Bengals. In his first preseason start , he completed 6 of 12 passes for 34 yards, was sacked five times for 39 yards and managed just three first downs over seven-plus series before being pulled to be evaluated for a possible concussion.
Allen was cleared to return for the start of the second half, but remained on the sideline while Nathan Peterman mopped up.
Peterman, Buffalo’s returning backup, has put up the best numbers this preseason, though he’s had just two series against an opponent’s starting defense.
As for AJ McCarron, the offseason free agent addition was cleared for practice Monday, some 10 days after being sidelined by a bruised right throwing shoulder during a 19-17 win at Cleveland.
The Bills are a work in progress at best a little over eight months after sneaking into the playoffs to end a 17-year postseason drought, which had been the longest active streak in North America’s four major professional sports.
The current struggles reflect a roster still in the midst of being overhauled entering McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane’s second seasons on the job.
Only 15 players are left with two or more years of experience in Buffalo.
Though the depth chart is not yet set, there is a chance the Bills will feature as many as seven starters with one or fewer season of NFL experience. And that includes the possibility of Allen or Peterman starting at quarterback.
Difficult as Allen’s outing was against Cincinnati, McDermott considered it a valuable learning experience for the strong-armed, yet raw quarterback in getting his first opportunity to face a starting NFL defense.
“I know the numbers didn’t really show a great performance necessarily, but then again, there’s a lot of things that go into that as well,” he said.
“I did like his poise in the pocket to an extent. I thought he got us in and out of the huddle for the most part and managed some of the highs and lows,” McDermott added. “That’s all part of playing that quarterback position and leading a football team.”
CB COMPETITION: McDermott said the starting cornerback spot opposite White is still up for grabs between veteran free agent additions Vontae Davis and Phillip Gaines. Davis, a nine-year veteran, has struggled. He slipped while attempting to cover Ross on the opening play.
SEEING YELLOW: McDermott is frustrated by the Bills being flagged 32 times for 257 yards in three preseason games. That includes 13 penalties for 125 yards against the Bengals. “It’s unacceptable,” he said.
HONORING McCAIN: The flags in front of the Bills headquarters remained at half-staff Monday in honor of Sen. John McCain, who died of a malignant brain tumor on Saturday. The team also held a moment of silence before kickoff Sunday.
INJURED: LB Julian Stanford is listed as week to week after hurting his nose against Cincinnati.