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Jay Skurski's 10 observations: What happened to the Bills' secondary?

Jay Skurski

BALTIMORE – Where is the Buffalo Bills’ secondary that was supposed to challenge for the unofficial crown of “best in the NFL?”

It certainly was nowhere to be found inside M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, where the Baltimore Ravens blew the doors off the Bills, 47-3, in the season opener.

“They beat the hell out of us today,” safety Jordan Poyer said of the Ravens.

Yes, Jordan. Yes they did.

So, the easy question is, why?

“I can't answer that for you,” safety Micah Hyde said. “I think a lot of things. I've got to watch the film to see exactly what happened. I know there's a lot of things we've got to work on. It's just not a good showing, man. It is one game. We've been in this position before, dating back to last season when the wheels fell off, but we got it back going. So that's the plan. It's just one game.”

“You know, that’s tough to say without watching the film,” Poyer echoed. “They were just more prepared. They were the better team than us today. We’ve just got to watch the film and get better.”

That won’t be a fun meeting room to be in Monday. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco went 25 of 34 for 236 yards and three touchdowns in a driving rain before departing the game in the third quarter.  Time after time, there were receivers or tight ends running wide open over the middle.

“We know we’re better than what we gave out there today,” Poyer said.

It’s time for the secondary to start showing it.

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2. Brandon Beane has generally received positive reviews of his performance as the Buffalo Bills’ general manager.

Beane shouldn’t be exempt from second guessing, though, and one of those instances came up Sunday. The announcement that Vontae Davis would be inactive for the season opener against the Ravens sends up a red flag about that signing. Davis was not listed on the injury report heading into the game, meaning the decision was presumably made by judging his performance in the preseason. The 10-year veteran hinted Friday that he was not where he wanted to be physically as he tries to come back from a torn groin that ended his 2017 season.

“Eventually, I’m going to play. That’s not the question,” he told The Buffalo News. “It’s just me getting to where I need to be after a very significant injury last year. That’s the main thing. The coaches have just been working with me and, obviously, want me to get back to being the player I can be from a significant injury.”

Davis was asked in the locker room after Sunday’s game what reason he was given for being made inactive.

“I don’t know, you got to ask coach,” he said. “Coach makes that decision.”

Was it a surprise?

“No. I mean, I've been in the league long enough,” he said. “This ain't the first time I've been inactive. It's part of the game.”

With Davis out of the lineup, Phillip Gaines started opposite Tre’Davious White. Credit Beane for adding Gaines as a backup plan, but he was meant to compete for the nickel cornerback job, not the one he ended up in.

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The Bills let a good player in E.J. Gaines go after last season with the idea that Davis could replace him. Even though it’s only a one-year contract, Davis is being paid like a starter. His contract could be worth up to $5 million, $3.5 million of which is guaranteed.

So far, that has not been a good return on investment. The same can be said of Beane’s decisions to sign quarterback AJ McCarron and trade for wide receiver Corey Coleman. When the team moved on from those players – trading McCarron to Oakland and cutting Coleman – it left behind $5.6 million in “dead money” on the team’s salary cap. That’s bad money management.

It didn’t take long for Gaines to get noticed Sunday in a bad way. The Ravens converted a second-and-26 play on their opening drive when Gaines got turned around in coverage by Ravens receiver John Brown. Flacco found Brown for a 29-yard gain. It should never be that easy for an offense to convert second and 26.

Right before halftime, Gaines gave up a 12-yard touchdown catch to Michael Crabtree that put the Ravens up, 26-0. It was a fitting end to one of the worst 30 minutes of football ever played by the Bills.

3. Of course, much of that has to do with the offense. Where do we even begin with that train wreck? Barring an injury, it’s hard to see how the team can ever put Nathan Peterman in the lineup again. Before he was mercifully pulled in the third quarter, Peterman went 5 of 18 for 24 yards and two interceptions – a passer rating of 0.0. In two of Peterman’s three regular-season starts, he has played objectively horrible. It took less than two quarters for his strong preseason to be entirely erased. Maybe Beane can give that fifth-round draft pick back to the Raiders for McCarron.

4. It was a horrific homecoming for Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, the St. Francis High School product who is in his first season running the Buffalo offense. The Bills teetered on the edge of setting offensive records for futility before putting up some garbage-time yards, but that couldn’t disguise the ugly showing. At times, it looked like the Ravens knew exactly what was coming.

“We knew where their offensive coordinator came from,” Ravens safety Tony Jefferson said. “He was in New England and Kansas City. That’s his game – to spread you out and try to find matchups. We prepared for that all week – even in weeks before that. We were really prepared for it.”

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5. Every fear about the offensive line looked dead on Sunday. Penalties, failing to pass protect, giving the running backs nowhere to go … you name it, the offensive line did it against the Ravens. Peterman was sacked three times before getting benched, while rookie Josh Allen was sacked three times in the third quarter alone after taking over. At least at quarterback, the Bills can turn things over to Allen in search of a spark. There is no such move that can be made along the line. This is what they’ve got – and it’s not good.

“We were backed up and obviously penalties didn’t help us at all,” center Ryan Groy said. “A lot of penalties. We were behind the sticks quite a bit and you can’t do that. It’s tough … we get behind the chains and they’re bringing a lot of stuff at you.”

About those penalties …

6. Sean McDermott called the amount of penalties his team took in the preseason “unacceptable.” He could say that again Sunday. The Bills were flagged 10 times for 100 yards. Perhaps the most egregious: Linebacker Deon Lacey jumped offside on fourth and 5 with the Ravens lined up to punt, giving Baltimore a free first down. If it wasn’t that, maybe it was this …

7. It came long after the outcome was already decided, but Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins lost his composure in the third quarter and took a personal foul when he shoved a Ravens defender to the ground. Dawkins was asked Thursday by ESPN’s Mike Rodak about the Bills facing the longest Super Bowl odds.

“I think that you (reporters) are the only guys that make us think about stuff like that,” Dawkins told Rodak. “You guys are the guys who brought that (expletive) in the locker room.” So you can take that and go somewhere with it.”

Note to Dawkins: Sunday’s showing won’t do anything to erase those negative opinions about the Bills. Your anger in this case is misplaced.

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8. The lone injury suffered by the Bills was to Taron Johnson, who left with a shoulder injury midway through the second quarter and did not return.

He told The Buffalo News after the game that he did not think the injury was serious, but that he would have additional testing Monday.

“Hopefully I’ll be back in time for the next game,” he said.

The Bills used safety Rafael Bush as their nickel cornerback after that since they started the game with just four cornerbacks.

9. So as to not be overly negative, there was one bright spot in the first half. New punter Corey Bojorquez punted five times for an average of 50.8 yards. Of course, Bojorquez dropped his first attempt at a punt in the third quarter, resulting in a turnover that gave the Ravens the ball at the Buffalo 14-yard line and set up a Baltimore touchdown. When it rains, it pours, right?

10. Bright spot No. 2: Rookie middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds had a four-play sequence in the second quarter that looked like this: Sack, pass defensed, assisted tackle, forced fumble. So there’s that.

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