Sunday, August 28, 2011

Some signs of life from the Bills offense

Nearly three decades of covering the NFL have taught me not to read too much into preseason performances. That said, I was encouraged by several things I witnessed from my press box perch at the Ralph last night during the Bills 35-32 overtime victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Game Three of the preseason is usually the most telling because that’s the game you usually play your starters the longest, and the contest in which you might even do some game-planning.

Chan Gailey had his first-teamers in there for an entire half and the offense, in particular, looked very sharp. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was at the top of his game, completing 11-of-12 passes for 165 yards and two scores – an 11-yarder to Marcus Easley and a 52-yard bomb to Stevie Johnson.

The pass to Easley was one of those trademark Fitz gunslinger passes, where he took a chance and zipped it in there against tight coverage. Easley made a nice grab.

The TD hook-up with Johnson was the result of Fitz recognizing one-on-one coverage before the snap and banking on Johnson beating his man. Fitz’s arm strength and accuracy aren’t his strong suits, but he lofted a perfect ball to Johnson on the fly pattern and No. 13 hauled it in for six.

Easley, playing in place of the injured Donald Jones, seized his opportunity by catching five passes for 51 yards. The second-year player from Connecticut who spent all of last season on injured reserve has emerged as the likely candidate to be the No. 2 receiver in the Bills offense.

Another positive development from the game was the overall performance of the offensive line. This much-maligned, always-in-flux unit did a decent job of protecting Fitz and opening holes for Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Gailey opened with Andy Levitre at left guard and Demetreus Bell at left tackle, though Levitre did see some time later at left tackle. Both appeared to perform well, so maybe there will be some stability there after all.

Again, I try not to get too excited about preseason contests because everything is pretty vanilla and Jacksonville was without its primary weapon, running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Still, there were some positives to be taken from this game as the Bills prep for their season opener two weeks from today in Kansas City.


I think it's a travesty that NFL teams that play in taxpayer-funded stadiums are allowed to black-out games. And when they don't show home exhibition games they take the absurdity to a new level. I wish some politician with some guts would take the NFL to task about this, but the league and its army of corporate attorneys and Washington lobbyists apparently are too powerful a foe. Once again, the fans (who just so happen to be taxpayers and consumers) get shafted. Ridiculous.

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