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Bills open Williams' regime with futility
Bills Struggle out of the gates in preseason opener.
by Rick Anderson, webmaster of Bills Thunder
August 13, 2001

The beginning of the Gregg Williams era was a flop. Call it only a preseason game, but the fact remains the Buffalo Bills came out of the gates like drunken sailors to commence Williams' Regime of Terror. The St. Louis Rams showed Williams and his young team, that they are not ready for prime time. Not yet anyway.

Preseason games are meant to experiment and try out all the youngsters. That Williams did and he may be scratching his head after that embarrassing loss in front of only 25,000 in Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday evening.

"You can see there were too many negative plays to start the ballgame out, and throughout the ballgame - that's not the way we like to play," said Williams.

Rob Johnson, the anointed No. 1 quarterback after the Bills booted Doug Flutie during the offseason, was another big disappointment of the night. Johnson completed 3 of 5 passes for a grand total of 13 yards. His second string replacement, Alex Van Pelt completed 6 out of 11 for 54 yards. Johnson, who the Bills are hoping steps up to the plate in the newly installed West Coast offense, still doesn't look comfortable with the system.

The only real bright spot of the game for Buffalo was second round draft choice, Travis Henry, who pranced for a 25-yard touchdown run to go along with 47 yards on 6 carries. Henry, appears to have the early lead on the running back position, as Shawn Bryson and Sammy Morris looked as if they were not interested in the job. Morris touched the ball for a net gain of zero. Bryson was even worse, if that seems possible, as he got minus 1 yard on 4 carries. Not something that Super Bowl teams built on.

Henry's electrifying run in the second quarter actually got the fans out of their seats for one of the few times in the game. His gallop tied the game at 7 and had the fans thinking of a possible opening preseason upset. That was not to be as the Rams came back from a 10-7 deficit (Steve Christie kicked a 35-yarder in the third quarter) with 17 unanswered points in the forth quarter.

The Bills defense, minus a lot of stars of the past few years, seems to be a sudden weakness. Erik Flowers had as much passion on the field as a 10-year old going back to school right after Labor Day. The rest of the D didn't have that horrible of a night, but it still wasn't enough to contend with the finely oiled Rams offense.

"I thought we gave up too many plays in the passing game early, and hopefully the young guys will calm down and get a chance to show what they should be doing," said Williams. "There were a couple of nice plays by the young guys in the secondary late in the ballgame."

"We were tackling well early, but overall our tackling has to improve on the back end of our defense."

Outside of Henry, the Bills offense looked even more pathetic than last season. Williams defended his first string quarterback, Johnson.

"Rob Johnson did a good job early of getting us out of a couple of bad plays (changing the play at the line)," praised Williams. "He created a couple of opportunities with his feet. One of the steps I wanted to see with Rob was being intelligent when he used his feet and not take the unnecessary hit."

Johnson, who wasn't sacked, credited his offensive line for some good protection.

"I thought the O-line did a good job of pass protecting,"said Johnson. "We obviously would have liked to have done more on first down. We didn't run the ball as well as we'd like. Hopefully, next week I'll get to play a little more and put the ball in the end zone."

Williams was obviously impressed with Henry.

"I saw Travis Henry run the ball pretty effectively," Williams gleamed. "I thought he carried the ball with an attitude. Every single time Travis gets the opportunity to play, he's showing that he deserves a little more time. He's going to get even more time next week."

Henry seems to be the back the Bills have been missing since Thurman Thomas departed. Henry seems to have the moves and ability to find the seams to be an effective NFL running back.

Now all he has to do is to smooth some of the rough edges and he may be the starter come opening game.

"Yeah, I'm happy," elated Henry. "The offensive line blocked well. I just tried to get into a groove. I hit the holes and I ran hard. On the touchdown, I just saw a crease and I hit it. It was an off tackle. All I tried to do was run to daylight and I did. Every opportunity I get, I'm just trying to make the best of it."

Williams, who has been holding something akin to a Marine boot camp in Pittsford, has gone on record to saying that he believes the Bills will make the playoffs. This is only preseason and there is a long road to haul before the regular season opener.

To sum up the beginning of the Gregg Williams/Rob Johnson/Tom Donahoe era, Williams said it best:

"I saw some good positive things to build on," reflected Williams, "but again, there were too many mental errors."

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