Week 1: Buffalo Bills Report Card vs. Baltimore Ravens
Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander is always going to shoot you straight. He's not going to bore you to tears with the typical NFL cliches, and after the Bills' were pummeled 47-3 by the Ravens on Sunday, he did what he always does - he got to the heart of the matter.
“It’s one game, you never want to open the season like that,” he said. “It was a teaching tape as to how not to play the Baltimore Ravens. Everything that you don’t want to do against them, we did it. It was a complete team effort in this butt whipping today.”
Sure was, and the Buffalo Maven report card reflects that.
QUARTERBACK: F – Nathan Peterman was historically bad as he posted a 0.0 passer rating. Do you know how difficult that it is to accomplish? Peterman looked completely incapable of generating any ball movement. He poses no threat as a passer, and to make matters worse, he had a serious case of the happy feet in the pocket. Josh Allen made his debut out of necessity, and predictably, he wasn’t much better, but that’s the thing; he was better. The QBs combined to complete a laughable 11 of 33 passes for 98 yards, two interceptions, and six shacks for a cumulative QB rating of 17.1.
RUNNING BACK: C-minus – LeSean McCoy is in for a long year. He is going to be targeted every week because he’s the one offensive player on the team who can hurt a defense. The Ravens were keying on him every snap he was on the field, and the result was seven carries for 22 yards behind a line that can’t open holes. Marcus Murphy may have moved past Chris Ivory on the depth chart and he was one of the lone bright spots – a stretch, perhaps – as he carried six times for 31 yards.
WIDE RECEIVER: F – Kelvin Benjamin is No. 1 on the Bills’ depth chart, but he played like a guy who should have been inactive. Benjamin has great size, but he just doesn’t utilize it. He also runs sloppy routes and does not make the tough catches. Looking back, it’s not a surprise why the Panthers traded him, and they went looking in the right place because Bills’ GM Brandon Beane was part of the front office in Carolina that drafted him in 2014. Zay Jones had three catches during garbage time, which essentially lasted about three quarters. Slot man Jeremy Kerley had two catches for seven meaningless yards.
TIGHT END: D – Charles Clay was targeted twice, and he caught neither pass, plus he was nailed for a holding penalty. At some point, you have to wonder if the Bills start going with their younger players like Logan Thomas (one catch for 24 yards) and Jason Croom (two for 18 yards). Clay is the best blocker of the three, but what the Bills need at tight end is someone who can get open and be a threat down the seam. Clay was thought to be that player when the Bills overpaid him four years ago, but he’s not anymore.
OFFENSIVE LINE: F – It was as bad as everyone thought going into the game. Not all six sacks were their fault, though. Both Peterman and Allen held the ball too long, and the reason for that is the wide receivers couldn’t get open. It all goes hand in hand. Still, the Ravens overpowered the Bills’ blockers and it was evident not just in the sacks, but the numerous times the QBs were flushed out of the pocket when it collapsed. In the run game, there were only a few instances where a lane was created as the Bills’ RBs (taking QB scrambles out) averaged only 3.3 yards per attempt. Ryan Groy beat out Russell Bodine at center, and he was like an EZ-Pass lane up the middle where breakdowns can’t be commonplace. Overall, the line was flagged for six penalties. Awful.
DEFENSIVE LINE: D – Jerry Hughes was once a top-notch pass rusher; he isn’t anymore. He had one chance for a sack and he somehow missed Joe Flacco. Trent Murphy and Kyle Williams shared one of the two sacks the Bills registered, but it came well after the game was decided. The Bills’ lack of a pass rush is a continuing problem from last year, and upgrades they made in the offseason did not make a bit of difference in this game. Against the run, the Bills weren’t bad as the Ravens managed just 3.4 yards per carry, but Baltimore also scored three rushing touchdowns, meaning in crunch time, the line got pushed out of the way.
LINEBACKER: C – Really the lone positive of the day was the play of rookie Tremaine Edmunds and second-year man Matt Milano. Edmunds filled the stat sheet with seven tackles, a sack, two broken up passes and a forced fumble. Milano was in on eight stops and recovered that fumble, and two of his tackles were for loss as he was flying around. Lorenzo Alexander had a couple big hits among his six tackles, and he also broke up a pass. One issue, though, was pass coverage, especially early when Flacco kept finding open tight ends over the middle.
SECONDARY: D – Supposedly the strength of the team, but it wasn’t. The Bills have a big problem at cornerback as Sean McDermott didn’t even dress Vontae Davis and instead started Phillip Gaines who was terrible. Flacco picked on him early and often. Safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde were not sharp, and a defense that allowed only 14 touchdown passes all of 2017 gave up three to the Ravens, one to each of Baltimore’s top three wide receivers. Further, nickel CB Taron Johnson had to leave the game with a shoulder injury.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus – Everyone had a hand in the mistakes. The Bills gave up a 51-yard punt return which led to a field goal. New punter Corey Bojorquez kicked the ball well and averaged a solid 49.6 yards (42.9 net), but he also fumbled a snap at the Bills’ 14 that set up a third-quarter TD. Stephen Hauschka missed a 51-yard field goal. And backup LB Deon Lacey jumped offside on a Ravens punt which gave Baltimore a first down. Marcus Murphy was impressive in the return game. He had 165 yards on five kickoff returns including a 49-yarder, and he had a 9-yard punt return after he replaced Jeremy Kerley.
COACHING: F – McDermott said it after the game. The first place he has to look is at himself, and he’s right. He did not have his team ready to play in the opener, in any phase. It was a team-wide atrocity from the opening kickoff to the final gun, an unacceptable performance in every way. On the offensive side, Brian Daboll has a lot of work to do, and not much with which to work. His offense has a tall mountain to climb given the players he has at his disposal. On defense, if Leslie Frazier can’t find a way to dial up more pass rush, the Bills’ are going to get gashed through the air every week.