Grading the Bills
RUNNING GAME: A
It’s Week One, and I’m running out of ways to describe just how good LeSean McCoy is. The Bills’ best offensive player picked right up where he left off in 2016, gaining 110 yards on 22 carries. He’s great is the easiest way to say it. Mike Tolbert was the clear No. 2 running back, getting 10 carries behind McCoy and plunging in for a 1-yard touchdown among them. Tyrod Taylor was his usual threat on the ground with 38 yards.
PASSING GAME: B
The final numbers for Taylor look pretty good – 16 of 28, 224 yards, two touchdowns, one interception. It is concerning, though, that he completed just four passes to receivers. Taylor said afterward the game plan was to attack the Jets’ linebackers in coverage, which led to a combined 15 targets for McCoy and tight end Charles Clay that produced nine catches, 102 yards and a touchdown. We’ll buy that for this week, but more will be needed from the receivers soon.
RUN DEFENSE: A+
You can’t argue with 38 yards allowed on just 15 carries – an average of 2.5 per rush. The Bills controlled the line of scrimmage, making use of a heavy rotation up front that saw backups like Eddie Yarbrough and Adolphus Washington get meaningful snaps. Linebacker Ramon Humber was flying to the ball, leading the team with 13 tackles. One area of concern: Marcell Dareus was held off the stat sheet entirely.
PASS DEFENSE: B
The new safety duo of Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer looked like a big upgrade from last year’s pairing of Corey Graham and the cast of misfits who tried to replace Aaron Williams after he got hurt. Rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White should have had an interception, but did finish with four tackles and two passes defensed. Aside from one shaky drive, the pass defense overall was solid. One concern: The shoulder injury suffered by starting cornerback E.J. Gaines, who had a solid debut until getting hurt.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
It wasn’t a great start for Stephen Hauschka, as he missed a 46-yard field goal wide left in ideal weather conditions. Colton Schmidt punted six times for 42.8 yards, but his net average was just 35 after one of his punts went for a touchback. That’s mostly because Taiwan Jones couldn’t down the ball despite being in decent position. The coverage units were fine.
Sean McDermott elected not to use a challenge on a complicated play on the Bills’ first drive. After the Jets’ Juston Burris recorded an interception, he appeared to fumble at the end of his run back. Officials ruled him down by contact, though, and McDermott kept the flag in his pocket. The Bills’ time management was fine, and six penalties against wasn’t bad, either. The team stayed composed when the Jets pulled within 2 points in the second half. Taking McCoy out on first-and-goal from the 2-yard line, then running Tolbert out wide was a classic case of overthinking it.
Grading the Jets
RUNNING GAME: F
Matt Forte, 31, looked like retirement is imminent, gaining just 16 yards on six carries. Bilal Powell wasn’t much better, with seven attempts producing just 22 yards. Why wasn’t he used more? Quarterback Josh McCown scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak, one of the few times the offensive line got any push.
PASSING GAME: C-
McCown got into a nice rhythm on a touchdown drive in the second half. He completed 26 of 39 passes, but was intercepted twice. Newcomer Jermaine Kearse looked good, with seven catches for 59 yards. Forte had a pair of drops in what was a miserable game for him.
RUN DEFENSE: D
This was thought to be the strength of the Jets, but McCoy killed them on cutback runs. “If everybody just stays in their gap on defense, then we’ll be good,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. That didn’t happen Sunday, and they weren’t. It’s easy to say New York missed recently traded Sheldon Richardson up front. Linebacker Demario Davis did rack up 14 tackles.
PASS DEFENSE: B
The Bills attacked the Jets’ linebackers, Davis included, in coverage. Rookie safety Marcus Maye was victimized on the Bills’ first touchdown. Buster Skrine blew the tackle that led to a 47-yard gain by Jordan Matthews. The Jets batted two passes down against Taylor early, and Juston Burris recorded an interception.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B+
Kicker Chandler Catanzaro surprised some by making the roster, but he looked like he deserved a spot by nailing 48- and 52-yard field goals in the first half. Punter Lachlan Edwards had one shankopotamus, but otherwise averaged 43.7 net yards. Kalif Raymond had a 25-yard punt return. Coverage units were strong.
What in the name of Doug Marrone is going on here? Down 9 with 4 minutes to go, Todd Bowles inexplicably decided to punt. Why, I can’t even begin to know. Bowles said something about playing field position, but what a ridiculous decision. Bilal Powell, possibly the team’s best offensive player, didn’t get his first touch until there was a little more than 3 minutes left in the first half. Yikes.