CLEVELAND – Here are 10 observations from the Bills' 19-17 victory against the Cleveland Browns on Friday night at FirstEnergy Stadium.
1. The Buffalo Bills’ offensive line did quarterback AJ McCarron and running back LeSean McCoy no favors. Whether it was failing to open holes or provide pass protection, the starting five up front was a mess. The Bills’ first four drives went for a total of 22 yards, with each going three-and-out. McCarron went 3 of 6 for 12 yards in those four drives. He missed Kelvin Benjamin long on his first throw, completed a short pass to McCoy that went for a loss of 1 yard and then scrambled for 6 yards on third-and-11, leading to Colton Schmidt’s first punt. Things didn’t get much better on the next three possessions.
2. The line’s struggles were really on display on Buffalo’s second drive. The drive started with a first-and-15 after a false start by fullback Patrick DiMarco. After an 8-yard completion to Benjamin, McCoy was dropped for a loss of 2 yards. Facing third-and-10, McCarron was sacked before having a chance to do much of anything. Both left guard Vlad Ducasse and center Russell Bodine, who started over Ryan Groy, took Cleveland defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi off the snap. Then, for some reason, both of them just stopped blocking Ogunjobi, allowing him a free path to McCarron. Brutal.
3. Tremaine Edmunds is struggling. The Bills’ prized rookie middle linebacker assisted on the first tackle of the game. From there, though, Edmunds was largely invisible. That’s been a troubling trend this summer, as impact plays have been few and far between during training camp and the first two preseason games. Plenty is made of the growing pains fellow first-round draft pick Josh Allen will go through, but the same is true for Edmunds. It’s not time to panic, but it would be nice to see Edmunds improve in the third week of the preseason.
4. The Bills’ run defense looked eerily like the 2017 version. Carlos Hyde gained 38 yards on the Browns’ first three offensive plays. After an incompletion by Tyrod Taylor, Duke Johnson gained 22 yards on back-to-back runs. After a 7-yard completion by Taylor, Hyde finished off the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. Preseason or not, it was an ugly showing for the Bills’ starting defense.
5. Speaking of Taylor, it was a nondescript outing against his former team. He finished 4 of 7 for 22 yards before handing things over to Baker Mayfield in the second quarter. Taylor also rushed once for 5 yards. Browns coach Hue Jackson has maintained that Taylor will be the starter over Mayfield, the No. 1 overall draft pick.
6. The No. 1 goal of any team in the preseason is to avoid injury. The Bills were unable to do that when team captain Kyle Williams went down with a right knee injury early in the second quarter. A short time later, the team announced Williams would not return. That’s not a surprise given that his night was likely over soon anyway. Williams left the locker room wearing a large brace on his right leg. He declined to speak with reporters. Coach Sean McDermott said the team would know more after further evaluation in Buffalo.
That wasn't the only injury, either. McCarron suffered a hairline fracture of his collarbone after getting hit in the first quarter, while tight end Jason Croom was also treated by trainers on the sideline for an undisclosed injury. Additionally, backup punter Cory Carter had to leave the game after being run into in the second half.
7. Go ahead and give Marcus Murphy a spot on the 53-man roster right now. The Bills’ backup running back had a terrific first half, rushing for 39 yards on just four carries and setting the offense up with a short field thanks to a 39-yard punt return. Additionally, one of the players Murphy is competing with for a spot, Travaris Cadet, fumbled late in the second quarter, although John Miller was able to alertly jump on the loose ball.
8. On the other side of the coin, it might be time to say goodbye to tight end Nick O’Leary. He was nowhere to be found in the first half, as Charles Clay, Jason Croom, Logan Thomas and Khari Lee all saw time ahead of O’Leary. That is not a good sign for his chances of making the roster, although O'Leary did make good use of the playing time he did get in the fourth quarter, finishing with a team-leading four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.
9. Kickers need practice, too. Stephen Hauschka hit a 53-yard field goal in the third quarter after Sean McDermott elected not to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the Cleveland 35-yard line. Put me down as one who would have liked to see the offense stay on the field.
10. Tyler Davis doesn’t have much of a chance at unseating Hauschka. That was true before Friday, but it became even clearer after Davis’ kickoff following Hauschka’s field goal went out of bounds. That’s the one thing he couldn’t afford to do. To make matters worse, Davis missed an extra point in the fourth quarter, as well as a field goal. Ouch.
Story topics: AJ McCarron/ Charles Clay/ Jason Croom/ Kelvin Benjamin/ Khari Lee/ Kyle Williams/ Marcus Murphy/ Nick O'Leary/ Patrick DiMarco/ Stephen Hauschka/ Travaris Cadet/ Tremaine Edmunds/ Tyler Davis/ Tyrod Taylor