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Bills Win Preseason Opener
The draft picks were everything as advertised on Friday night. First round pick Erik Flowers was very active, constantly pressuring the quarterback recording one sack and forcing a fumble. Third round pick Corey Moore saved the game with his blocked field goal but was also harassing the quarterback and added a sack. He does have to watch his aggression as he was called for a roughing the passer penalty. Fourth round pick Avion Black showed he is more than just a kick returner. He put on a fantastic display of speed on his 34 yard touchdown reception. He also looked good returning kicks averaging 22 yards on three returns. He also seems to be ahead of fellow draft pick Drew Haddad as the punt returner. He didn't return any punts but did a fine job making the fair catches. Our Take: One thing is for sure, the Bills scouting staff is among the best in the league.
It was a bit of a surprise to see Shawn Bryson in the lineup after aggravating his knee injury this week in practice. Luckily the MRI was negative and he was able to get his first game action in two years. He showed he is fine and also showed tremendous speed on his 73 yard touchdown reception off of a screen pass that was the game winning score. Our Take: Bryson has moved ahead of Jonathan Linton in our depth chart.
The first string offense looked very good on the opening drive of 72 yards in 6 plays highlighted by a 23 yard completion on third and 8 from Rob Johnson to Jay Riemersma. Antowain Smith capped the drive with a 16 yard touchdown run. Our Take: Smith calls this his make or break year, and he ran with authority trying to prove to everyone that he is fully healthy now. If he keeps up this intensity and doesn't get anymore nagging injuries he can become the feature back the Bills expect him to be.
There was some negatives in the win. The first string defense gave up a long time consuming drive that ended with a field goal. The special teams coverage units gave up a long kickoff and a long punt return. Our Take: The bend but don't break defense went out with the Walt Corey era. They need to work on that. The special teams will undergo many changes over the next few weeks as the coaches weed out some players. Hopefully the final product will be much better than they showed Friday night.
There were other players who helped and hurt themselves on Friday. Backup strong safety Raion Hill had a very nice game with five tackles and he was always around the ball. He was in on a fourth down stop on the goal line and recovered a fumble. Keith Newman picked up where he left off in practice. He played a very solid game and looks ready to be a starter. In the battle for the starting free safety spot Keion Carpenter outplayed Daryl Porter. On the negative side, rookie tight end Ivan Gustafson had two drops and will be an early cut. Running Back Lennox Gordon was running out the clock well at the end with a four yard average until he fumbled the ball away giving the Bengals a chance to win. Our Take: Coach Phillips said no jobs will be won or lost over one preseason game but impressions definitely were made. Porter may lose out on the starting free safety spot, but he also may win the fourth cornerback spot by default.
On the practice fields at St. Johns Fisher, the club took it easier this week than last since they spent time preparing for a game. There was only a walk through on Thursday that was nothing more than practicing substitutions. Wednesday had a morning walk through and a mellow afternoon practice that was cut short by rain, as was Tuesday's afternoon session. The lower key practices came after a heated battle on Monday where there were three different fights. On the field the club started specializing and practiced various situations much of the week. Our Take: Phillips says the fights are a good sign. He feels it means the club is ready to see other opponents. We agree, is long as nobody gets hurt. That is probably the reason the practices were mellower as the week progressed.
Alex Van Pelt stepped on the practice field Monday morning for the first time and ran a perfect two minute drill, he would repeat that performance during the preseason game on Friday night. His afternoon practice showed some rust. His two nice scrambles in the preseason game were huge plays but didn't make anybody forget about Doug Flutie. Our Take: Van Pelt now has the rust off and has settled in two his spot as the backup QB. The team has confidence in him and that is just as important as his experience.
The club made three roster moves this week. They cut kicker Dan Giancola and signed kicker Jon Hilbert to replace him. They also cut WR Todd Floyd to make room for Van Pelt on the roster. Our Take: The kicker move means Steve Christie's job is safe. Floyd never was going to catch up with the rest of the receivers.
The only big injury this week was to WR hopeful Kwame Cavil. He suffered a strained left calf muscle and may not return for another week. For updated information check out our injury page. Our Take: This injury assures Jeremy McDaniel of the third receiver spot, and leaves Cavil fighting for a fourth or fifth spot. Black's play may have moved him ahead of Cavil as well.
Owner Ralph Wilson gave 5,000 tickets away to Buffalo and Rochester area youth groups to Friday night's game. Our Take: Classy move by a classy owner, but there were only 38,000 people there leaving the stadium half empty.
In ex-Bills news, Steve Tasker was the only Bill named to the illustrious All-NFL team. He is there as the special teams ace. Tasker called it the greatest honor of his career. Our Take: This is a truly great honor considering the difficulty of getting on it. Congratulations Steve!
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