Here are my three thoughts from the Buffalo Bills' 27-17 preseason-ending victory against the Detroit Lions Thursday night:
1. I have to disagree with Sean McDermott. I understood his point when he said what Nathan Peterman did from the perspective of development as a young player was "bigger" than showing he has what it takes to be a starter for opening day if necessary. As a coach, McDermott needs to always be looking at his team through that wide-angle, long-term lens.
But as long as Tyrod Taylor's status is uncertain as he remains in concussion protocol, the focus must be on Sept. 10 and the New York Jets. Peterman showed Thursday night that his coach has a legitimate worst-case-scenario answer. Put another way, if Peterman had flopped badly, there would have been a whole lot more for McDermott and everyone else connected with the Bills to worry about for the next 10 days.
That didn't happen. Peterman gave as effective and efficient a performance as one could reasonably expect from a rookie NFL quarterback, even for a fourth preseason game. That's the kind of showing that should allow McDermott to sleep at least somewhat comfortably in the nights leading up to his head-coaching debut.
2. How about that depth at running back? One of the primary hand-wringing points in the offseason was the loss of restricted free agent Mike Gillislee to the New England Patriots. The general feeling was the Bills had screwed up by not making the tender on Gillislee high enough so the Pats wouldn't get away with parting with only a fifth-round draft pick after the Bills chose not to match New England's offer sheet for him.
Who would be there to make those high-impact plays Gillislee made when LeSean McCoy wasn't on the field? Who would be ready to step in if McCoy's 29-year-old body started relenting to the all of wear and tear that goes with carrying the football in the NFL?
How about Jonathan Williams, who had a beautiful 21-yard touchdown run against the Lions? How about the rest of what he did on the way to 53 yards on 10 carries (a 5.3-yard average)? How about what Joe Banyard and even Taiwan Jones (who had a 39-yard run to help set up Jordan Johnson's two-yard rushing TD) contributed to a 205-yard night on the ground for the Bills?
Williams will likely be the only one of the four still on the team after this weekend's cuts, but the overall outing by ball-carriers not named McCoy had to have been a source of confidence for McDermott and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison.
3. The Bills' preseason penalty crisis seems to have been resolved at the right time. Fourth exhibition games are supposed to be the absolute lowest form of pro football, and Thursday night's game hardly looked like something from the middle of the regular season.
But credit the Bills for having only five penalties for minus-60 yards (to the Lions' seven for minus-53 yards). Some of the infractions were maddeningly dumb. And special teams continue to be a magnet for yellow flags.
Still, after 25 accepted penalties in the first two preseason games, the Bills dropped to nine in their third one before nearly cutting that total in half in the finale.
McDermott promised to do something to address the penalty problem, and having officials at practice after the 15-penalty disaster at Philadelphia in the second preseason game was the primary solution. So far, so good.
Let's see how clean the Bills' act stays in that area during the regular season.