Prior to the start of yesterday’s preseason matchup with the New York Giants, the Bills received two more bits of bad news to close out a week that was filled with nothing but. For starters, the team announced the cutting of 2nd year RB Karlos Williams. Williams was slated to be suspended for the first four games of the season, but he also came into training camp overweight and out of shape. Ultimately, the Bills decided that he wasn’t worth the trouble, and sent him packing. This is a player one year removed from a fairly impressive rookie campaign.
Not long after that news dropped, word came from the Bills that their highest paid player would be checking himself into rehab. DT Marcell Dareus left the stadium a few hours before kickoff and it was later learned that he decided the best decision would be to rehabilitate himself and hopefully get his life back in order. Dareus, like Williams, is not eligible to play until Week 5 due to a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
So after a week of injuries, suspensions, and cuts, the Bills still had to suit up and play a football game, and much to the surprise of most fans and media members, they played admirably. The Bills were able to put the distractions behind them and shutout the Giants 21-0. Tyrod Taylor threw for 132 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions, and backup QB EJ Manuel led two touchdown drives of his own. The starting defense held Eli Manning in check and didn’t allow the Giants’ offense to do much of anything.
The first quarter didn’t offer much in the way of scoring, but it gave us a solid look at the starting units on both sides of the ball. The defense was the most impressive, besides one play on the Giants’ first drive where Eli Manning took advantage of poor coverage from Ronald Darby on Odell Beckham Jr, and hit the receiver for a 22-yard gain. Other than that play, the Giants couldn’t muster up any offensive momentum against a stingy Bills defense. Jerry Hughes was in the backfield on several plays as Duke Williams was constantly flying towards the ball and making tackles. It was a very strong showing by the starters.
As the game wore on, we saw much of the same strong play from the second and third string units. EJ Manuel had a solid day despite being a little off the mark on most of his throws. He did however throw a perfect lob pass to WR Greg Little in the end zone for a score during the second quarter. He then led a drive that ended in a Jonathan Williams touchdown run. The second and third string defense continued their strong play throughout the day.
The Bills also won the turnover battle, getting four takeaways versus the Giants’ two, including two interceptions late in the game and two fumble recoveries. They were able to convert both fumble recoveries into touchdowns, and their lone turnovers came on a Jerome Felton catch-and-run in the red zone and a late interception by QB Cardale Jones.
All in all, this is exactly the kind of game that Bills fans were hoping for, especially after a tough week of off-field distractions. If Rex and his brother Rob can continue to get results out of a depleted defensive unit, and Tyrod Taylor can continue to improve and produce points on offense, then perhaps the Bills can finally compete for a division title in 2016. It’s only preseason though. One step at a time.