I wasn’t in town to watch the Bills/Steelers preseason game as it happened. I followed along online as the Bills took a 7-0 lead and then started giving up points, never to score again. I took in the score, combined it with the social media reaction, and thought “I’m not missing much.”
Thanks to technology, the game would be waiting for me at home. I had programmed my DVR while hurtling through the historic Central Leatherstocking Region on the New York State Thruway. (I was in the passenger seat, so it’s cool.) After an exhausting weekend of thoroughbred racing, golf, and fantasy football in and around Saratoga, New York, I settled in late Sunday night to watch a preseason (ugh) football game of which I already knew the result (double ugh.) Oh, and the result was a lopsided Bills loss (several more ughs.) I made it through the first half and stuck around to see Vince Young’s first pass attempt land in the hands of Troy Polamalu. It was 2AM. I decided that I’d had enough.
I’ll likely go back and watch the 2nd half tonight but not because it matters. I just have the same disease that afflicts many of us this time of year. I want to watch football. Preseason football kind of looks like football. It’s the best we can do.
What I saw doesn’t seem to match up with what I’ve heard. With that in mind, here are 6 things I took out of the “game.”
- One half of one “football game” for your starters is a very small sample to make sweeping judgments. “The 3rd preseason game is the most similar to a regular season game.” Right. If you’re comparing it to other preseason football, it feels slightly more like football. If you’re comparing it to actual football, it feels like training camp. Here’s a good way to tell if a game is “real” or not. If the sideline reporter asks the head coach “How much will we see the starters in the second half?” and the head coach replies “No,” you’re not watching a real game.
- The beefed up defensive line comes as advertised. The return of Kyle Williams coupled with a perfectly-comfortable-in-year-two Marcell Dareus provides an inside combo to be feared. Dominant play by the tackles and quickness by Mario Williams and Chris Kelsay (I’ve always liked him as a DE, hated him as a LB) made life difficult for Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers in general. There’s a budding “I’ll meet you in the offensive backfield and then we’ll have a little party” camaraderie that is typically evident only with the best defensive units in the league. DE Mark Anderson, a major offseason acquisition, didn’t even play.
- Fred Jackson continues to impress every single time I watch him play… and we’ve all seen him play a lot of football by now. Have the Bills ever had a player that makes production look so easy? On the telecast, Steve Tasker (or maybe Ray Bentley) described his patience by saying “he never seems to be in a hurry.” Well put. Jackson will (and should) be the focal point of the 2012 Bills’ offense and he’s an elite talent at the RB position.
- The offense moved the ball efficiently and effectively early. Ryan Fitzpatrick stepped into a few throws and delivered them on a rope. He also intentionally threw the ball away several times and his final numbers reflected it. On the down side, Fitzpatrick had a couple of passes batted at the line and took a disconcerting numbers of hits just after delivering the ball. That said, my biggest concern going into the season at the QB is the league leading total of 23 interceptions in 2011. Protect that ball. Throw it away and let Brian Moorman do his thing.
- Brian Moorman. Wow. Kickers and punters talk about their “swing” in the same way that golfers do. Moorman has consistently been among the league’s best punters with his ability to “flip the field” but currently looks like a golfer with a new swing coach or an already excellent relief pitcher who has added a new pitch to his repertoire.
- Leodis McKelvin could be poised to shine as a nickel corner. His athletic ability has always been evident and, if he can stay out of his own head and just play, he can be a valuable asset. Yes, McKelvin is a former first round pick and you’d like to be able to expect more from him but, hey, Fred Jackson was undrafted so let’s call it a wash. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how a player landed on the roster.