CAPACCIO: Bills-Browns: In front of and behind the sticks

The good and the bad from preseason game No. 2

Sal Capaccio
August 18, 2018 - 2:32 am

Photo: Ken Blaze - USA TODAY Sports

The arrows have been retired. Maybe. I’ve been trying to find something different to call them that makes more football sense, so-to-speak.

So, after thousands of suggestions emailed, tweeted, and called in to me (not really, but I did have some), at least for this week, I’m going with The Sticks, as in playing in front of or behind the sticks. That’s what coaches and players like to say about moving the ball. They’re either playing Behind the Sticks (negative) or Staying In Front of the Sticks (positive).

So let’s try it.

The Bills beat the Browns 19-17, so that means I start with the good.
 

IN FRONT OF THE STICKS

  • QB Josh Allen

The rookie looked good. He completed 9-of-13 passes (69.2%) for 60 yards. And although that 60 yards isn’t a particularly high number (only 4.6 YPA), that’s actually a positive step for Allen because he was taking what the defense gave him, instead of trying to throw home run balls every few passes. That said, there were a couple he misplaced, like his first pass of the game that he whizzed by a wide open Kelvin Benjamin’s head and a swing pass he should have put in a much better spot to Marcus Murphy. But his defining preseason moment came when he led the Bills on a 15-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a two-yard touchdown pass to Rod Streater on 3rd-and-goal. Allen avoided two pass-rushers, kept his eyes downfield, stepped up in the pocket and fired a laser into the back of the end zone. He also did a great job of using his legs to get out of trouble, running three times for a total of 18 yards.
 

  • QB Nathan Peterman

Allen had such a nice night, people either seemed to forget about or not even pay attention to what Peterman did. He was excellent, going 8-for-10 for 113 yards and a touchdown. Through two preseason games, Peterman is now 17-for-20 for 221 yards. Friday night, he played most of the second half, mostly with the third-team offense, and threw the ball on time, with rhythm, usually finding the open receiver.
 

  • RB Marcus Murphy

Another terrific showing for Murphy, who’s fighting for the third running back spot. Not only did he show the same elusiveness, as he did in last week’s game against the Panthers, running the ball four times for 36 yards (9.0 yards per-carry), he also had a huge punt return for another 39 yards. He’s clearly stated his case so far that he belongs on the roster.
 

  • TE Nick O’Leary

O’Leary was the benefactor of several of those Peterman passes, hauling in four balls for 70 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown. For the night, O’Leary had more than double the amount of receiving yards as the next highest player on either team.
 

  • K Stephen Hauschka

“House Money” picked up right there he left off last season, connecting on a 53-yard field goal and another 33-yard try.
 

  • Third down defense 

The Bills did a great job of not allowing the Browns to convert on third downs, holding them to 3-of-12 (25%) for the game. Cleveland didn’t convert a third down attempt at all in the first half (0-for-4).
 

  • DE Terrence Fede 

The free agent signing started the second half with a sack of Browns’ rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, then added another quarterback hurry later.
 

  • S Siran Neal

The rookie defensive back also had a sack and a quarterback hurry. The sack came after he, briefly, went out of the game after getting banged up on a big hit.

 

BEHIND THE STICKS

  • First team offense

There’s just no way to single anyone out here. A.J. McCarron’s first pass was right on the money, but dropped by Kelvin Benjamin. However, McCarron wasn’t very sharp himself after that. He also didn’t get much help in front of him. The offensive line was having a tough time pass protecting on almost every drop back, and didn’t do much better in the run-blocking department. The first unit went three-and-out on their first four series of the game. Those 12 plays totaled only seven net yards. The Bills didn’t get a first down until Josh Allen was at the helm in the second quarter.
 

  • RB Travaris Cadet

It doesn’t help Cadet that he’s in a battle with Marcus Murphy, and Murphy once again played well. However, Cadet didn’t help his chances with his own performance. He carried the ball five times for only eight yards and also fumbled once.
 

  • K Tyler Davis

Davis had basically no shot of making the roster anyway, but he didn’t do much for his chances of hooking on with another team, either, by missing an extra-point attempt, then getting a chance at a 45-yard field goal and sailing that one wide left, as well.
 

  • Run defense

The Bills allowed a total of 164 yards on the ground and 5.1 yards per-carry. Plenty of that damage was done while starters were on the field. The Browns ran for 115 yards in the first half. Preseason or not, that’s something that needs to be cleaned up quickly.
 

  • Second half Penalties

After committing only two penalties through the entire first half, the Bills had seven flags thrown on them in the second 30 minutes for a total of 9-for-63 yards marched off. Since most were in the second half, that’s a lot of second and third stringers that aren’t doing themselves any favors trying to make the team. But no matter what unit committed them, head coach Sean McDermott won’t be happy.

 

THE BIG PICTURE

I could write an entire column on the negative things that happened in this game. I could also do that for all the positives. It had plenty of everything which, I guess, is what’s expected in preseason and what it’s for. However, there are plenty of things to clean up before next week’s third preseason contest against the Cincinnati Bengals, usually a dress rehearsal for the regular season.

The biggest story to come out of this game was the injury to McCarron. It was reported he suffered a hairline fracture of his collarbone, which would certainly put him out of the race for the opening week No. 1 quarterback job if that’s the case. But we’ll now have to wait and get confirmation from the team on his status and, in the meantime, wonder if that leaves only Allen and Peterman as the two who will vie for the job. And if that’s the case, has Peterman’s strong play and one-year experience put him in the driver’s seat? Has Allen done enough to show that he gives them the ability to win better than anyone else? Or are we in for one more week of the WHOSDAQ (Who’s the quarterback?). We’ll start to find out Sunday when the team returns to Orchard Park for practice now that training camp has ended.


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