by Mario "Game" Granata
The second game of the preseason is in the books for the Buffalo Bills, and while they were victorious over the Carolina Panthers, there were still some question marks as to how the Bills will fair in 2014. Who is the owner going to be? Will the Bills trade CJ Spiller? How will EJ Manuel hold up? As the game progress, hopefully EJ Manuel will as well.
While much has been made of the Buffalo Bills and especially EJ Manuel in the first preseason game against the New York Giants in Canton, the one burning question remains: Can EJ Manuel lead the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs? That question and many more were not completely answered as the Bills defeated the Carolina Panthers on Friday, to gain what will hopefully be some momentum going into their next preseason battle.
Now, I realize that the preseason won't show much of what offenses, or defenses for that matter, will be doing during the regular season, but one has to come to the conclusion with such a young team, that there has to be some base packages that will make their wait into the 2014 season. EJ Manuel, has long been viewed as a raw rookie, who has trouble looking off his first read and progressing to his 2nd and 3rd target. So what did the Bills do? They sent fewer receivers out during passing plays. Although Manuel went 9-13 for 96 yards against the Panthers, 8 of those pass plays had 1 or 2 receivers in the play. Offering to max protect their most important position, and with Cordy Glenn still sidelined, the Bills were very 'vanilla' and wanted to give Manuel some confidence. Not a bad way to start, but the fact remains that when the regular season hits, and the defenses start to disguise their coverages, can Manuel get off his primary target and pick apart a defense? That question will be answered, and answered fast.
A bright spot for the Bills has been their defense. Under Jim Schwartz, the Bills have been very stout against the run in the early going, and seem to have a great amount of depth on this team at all positions.
Landen Cohen, who is on his 9th NFL team, has a non-stop motor, and can cause some problems for opposing offenses if inserted into the lineup in a backup role.
Manny Lawson, who is playing behind Jerry Hughes, should progress to eventually be the starter across Mario Williams, a position he was very comfortable with at NC State.
Keith Rivers was asked to cover Greg Olsen on a few plays, and while he has the speed to stay with Olsen, he seemed lost when it came to closing on the ball. Hopefully some more work will help in in that plight.
Aaron Williams has proven that he is not afraid to get his nose dirty, and even at times, he welcomes the challenge, coming up to plant ball carriers into the ground with some hard hits. With his previous experience at corner his first few years, that should help him when the games get more wide open as the season starts.
Rounding out the question marks on the defense will be the void that was left by Jarius Byrd. Duke Williams and Da'Norris Searcy have been battling neck and neck, and with the coverage of Searcy coming under question, don't be surprised if, in the early going, that "The Duke" claims the starting role, and Searcy plays some Weakside Linebacker, while Nigel Bradham serves his suspension.
Two other bright spots for the Bills have been '7/11' Chris Hogan and former San Francisco running back Anthony Dixon. Hogan has proven that hard work and dedication can pay off, at least in the early going, and one doesn't have to look long to see that Dixon has the heart to win. Not many players will take off from the 5 yard line, in a preseason game, to score a touchdown.
All in all, the talk of a new owner, CJ Spiller trade rumors, and EJ Manuel living up to being a 16th overall selection are all questions that eager Bills fans want answered...and answered fast.