By Ch2 Sports Director Ed Kilgore
Just what was that all about?
Before we talk about the game, has the NFL ever come up with a worse idea than moving the kickoffs up five yards? It was really fun watching virtually every single kickoff from both teams sail through the end zone. I know the league wants to take some risk of injury out of the game, and kickoffs are dangerous, but they are also one of THE most exciting aspects of football.
After watching the first half of the Bills pre season effort, or lack thereof, at Denver, it seemed hard to believe both these teams were 4-12 last season. The Broncos offense, at least the passing game, looked all but unstoppable, while Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills offense looked like training camp started last week.
Even if Shawne Merriman had played, I'm not sure if it would have made much difference. Kyle Orton, and later Brady Quinn, had plenty of time to set up and throw, and their receivers always seemed to be wide open. Fitz, on the other hand, was often rushed and hit as his o-line was either overmatched or simply missed assignments, and either his receivers seemed blanketed, or Fitz misfired. His line of 6-17 for 44 yard and an int just won't get it done.
The pick wasn't his fault, we should point out, as Marcus Easley mishandled a perfectly thrown ball, leading to the ball popping in the air for the easy int. Easley, to his credit, did look good after that against the Broncos backups with Tyler Thigpen at qb, showing good speed and hands downfield. Now if he can only stay healthy for a few minutes.
Speaking of Thigpen, and while it was against backups, he was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal Bills effort. He engineered a nice 80 yard, 13-play drive that ended with the Bills only touchdown in two games (ouch), a nice corner toss to Felton Huggins.
Chan Gailey was visibly upset in a short on-field tv interview at the half, and it was good to see that, because his team was just physically man handled up front. While the Bills did do a decent job against the run - I'll give 'em that - they applied almost no pressure until the game was essentially over.
Young Danny Batten does continue to impress though, and he's earned a starting job after a couple solid pre season games. Top pick Marcell Dareus looks every bit the player the Bills thought he would be, which is a refreshing change from recent #1's. NT Terrell Troup also looks like he'll be a factor, giving the Bills some depth behind Kyle Williams in the middle of the 3-4.
It's scary to say this, but this Bills' team still has an offensive line that struggles in pass protection, and unless that changes, the offense will also struggle. The o-line did a decent job in terms of the running game, which is somewhat encouraging. Speaking of which, Fred Jackson remains the clear choice as #1, and C.J. Spiller still looks like he's learning at times.
He had 6 carries for 10 yards, but on 5 of the carries he didn't gain a thing. He also missed a couple blitz pickups, but was hardly alone in that department. At one point Cordero Howard, who usually doesn't play right tackle, totally ignored a man lined up past his outside shoulder with nobody else there to help. Howard ignored him and blocked inside, leaving an untouched shot at the qb. Amazing.
It was nice to see veteran Terrence McGee make a big play at the end of the half by alertly grabbing a tipped ball that he nearly took the distance the other way. McGee has always been a favorite of mine, because he's a FOOTBALL player, and if he can stay healthy he'll be a big plus once again.
As discouraging as this game was from the Bills' perspective, it is only pre season, and it was, afterall, Denver's home opener after a lackluster first game.
It would be nice to see the Bills come out with that kind of fire this Saturday against Jacksonville at the Ralph.