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Kimberley A. Martin’s Hot Read: Bills’ culture change, rebuild will be a slow process

Expect frustrating times ahead, Bills fans.

But if you’re lucky, the foundation of what general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott are trying to build will be fertile ground for sustainable success.

Prior to the start of Saturday’s preseason game in Baltimore, the pair sent home their high-priced defensive tackle, Marcell Dareus, for violating team rules. It was just another transgression on a growing list of missteps for the 27-year-old, who signed a six-year deal with $60 million guaranteed.

Beane would not disclose specifics, but the message already had been sent.

The culture change is fully underway within the organization.

The tangible tweaks can be seen in the Bills locker room, where McDermott rearranged locker stall assignments to ensure running backs, linebackers, linemen (and every other position) are randomly interspersed within the spacious room. Then, came the stunning announcement that Dareus had been told to leave Baltimore and head back to Buffalo.

“Sean and I, we have expectations,” Beane explained to reporters before the game. “We have standards that everybody has to live by, and if you’re not, then you’re not going to be here.”

Changing a culture is a slow, arduous process. Establishing a new team identity as a first-time head coach is an ever big undertaking. And turning a competitive roster into a perennial playoff contender is an even tougher task.

But while McDermott aims to make those necessary changes, he must address the on-field issues that are plaguing his team. And soon.

  • Penalties proved to be a major red flag (literally) against the Ravens on Saturday. After committing 10 penalties for 106 yards in Week 1 of the preseason vs. the Vikings, and 15 for 131 yards last week against the Eagles, the Bills had nine penalties for 64 yards vs. Baltimore. (Luckily for the Bills, the Ravens were even more undisciplined: 13 for 126).
  • The Bills’ offense was stagnant for much of the first half until backup Nate Peterman (playing in relief of the concussed Tyrod Taylor) helped engineer an 11-play, 83-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by fullback Mike Tolbert in the waning seconds of the second quarter.
  • Their rushing attack was anemic in the first half (16 total yards) against the Ravens’ starting defense. LeSean McCoy carried six times for seven yards in two quarters of work.

Questions abound as the Bills inch closer to their regular-season opener against the New York Jets on Sept. 10. And in some ways, the third and most important preseason game, raised more questions about the state of the Bills, Taylor’s health, cohesion on the offensive line, and Dareus’ future in Buffalo.

Change is here, Bills fans.

Be patient.

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