The Bills open the 2018 regular season on the road against the Ravens.
It is the first time in 17 years things begins after a playoff appearance, but after plenty of changes across the roster, the odds are against the Bills repeating that feat, beginning in Baltimore (7.5 point underdogs).
Peterman's Redemption Tour Begins
The biggest story surrounding the Bills all preseason was who would win the three-man quarterback competition? Nathan Peterman earned the job and now looks to have a better performance than his historically-bad debut last November, throwing five first half interceptions against the Chargers. Peterman has repeatedly said he has moved on from that game in Los Angeles and teammates, coaches, and even owner Terry Pegula have backed that up. Still, taking away the snow game last December (where he somehow threw a touchdown pass before getting hurt), this is the first opportunity Peterman has to begin to write a new narrative to his career. While I do not foresee it happening Sunday, it is not farfetched to think the leash is short for Peterman with seventh overall pick Josh Allen waiting in the wings should things go poorly again.
Blocking is Where It Begins
The last time we saw the Bills starting offensive line in game action was the third preseason game, where the Bengals sacked Allen five times in the first half. They looked awful and didn't shy away from that afterwards. Head coach Sean McDermott and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll have given their vote of confidence this week that that unit will make the proper adjustments, while also admitting the Ravens defense will be quite the challenge. I'll admit I thought the concerns about the line were a bit overblown entering training camp, but the eye test suggests otherwise to this point. It doesn't matter who is under center, getting hand-offs, or catching passes if the offensive line doesn't sure things up
What Can Daboll Do?
It’s no secret the Bills offense was maddening to watch at times last season because of the play-calling. Out is Rick Dennison and in is Brian Daboll, who wants to bring a more multiple, fast-paced attack. We saw that a little in the preseason opener against the Panthers, where Peterman stormed the Bills offense down the field twice. LeSean McCoy calls Daboll a genius, while Peterman says Daboll calls him at night to discuss new wrinkles to plays. The St. Francis alum has referenced a lot how he has to cater things to the personnel he has. By most accounts, that personnel is limited, especially in the passing game. Let’s see how Daboll navigates things to avoid a stacked-box to stop Shady without throwing a second-year QB out there to win it with his arm.
The Bills pass rush ranked tied for 29th in the NFL a year ago with just 27 sacks. Bringing in Trent Murphy, Star Lotulelei, and Tremaine Edmunds is hoped to boost those numbers, not only by their individual production, but more so how their game can open things up for guys like Jerry Hughes, Lorenzo Alexander, and even Shaq Lawson. Joe Flacco is not a mobile quarterback, so moving him off his spot is key to Leslie Frazier’s unit. Murphy and Kyle Williams have been full go in practice this week after missing time with injuries, so it appears the front seven will have all the weapons at its disposal.
The Other 1st Rounder
It’s been nothing but rave reviews for Tremaine Edmunds from the moment he took the field with the Bills in rookie minicamp. His physical talents have been described as a “freak,” but it is the mental side that will be tested in his NFL debut Sunday. Edmunds is the quarterback of the defense, so it is his job to not only make sure he is where he is supposed to be, but everyone else. Frazier telling me Thursday he feels comfortable putting a lot of the playbook on the rookie’s plate based on what he has seen to this point. It certainly helps being surrounded by such a veteran group. Expect to see some mistakes and some flash plays from Edmunds, all part of the learning curve that he will encounter all season.
Who is on the Corner?
When Vontae Davis was signed in late February, it was assumed he would round out the Bills solid secondary. But as the preseason came to a close, it was Phillip Gaines seeing run with the first team as well as Davis. Who will play Sunday is up in the air, with Gaines also in the mix with Taron Johnson as the nickel corner. Frazier wouldn’t say if this uncertainty is more so based on a rise in play by Gaines or drop by Davis, but it is clear this former Pro Bowler coming off a big injury is not where the Bills hoped when brought in.