Buffalo Bills Stock Watch: 3 Up, 3 Down For Week 1
3 Up, 3 Down For The Bills
The Buffalo Bills lost a squeaker to the New England Patriots in their home opener on Sunday by a score of 23-21. It was an auspicious debut for the new regime as they fought hard against a tough opponent only to lose a late lead and once again fall to the Pats.
The offense was efficient if not unspectacular. It was an inspired effort by rookie QB E.J. Manuel, but the Bills failed to take any chances and Pro Bowl RB C.J. Spiller was bottled up all day by the Pats' defense. While the offensive line held its own in the passing game, Spiller did not have much room to work with on run plays. It was a disappointing outing for the wide receiving corps as they combined for only four catches the entire game. Stevie Johnson dropped a big third down pass in which he was wide open late in the game which could have been a crucial play.
Defensively things were much better than last year, however, there is still room for improvement. Pats RB Shane Vereen ran for over 100 yards, and the Bills couldn't stop the Pats' running game all day. It was a much better effort in the passing game as the Bills held Tom Brady to 56 percent completion. They forced three turnovers, including two made by Brady alone, and put pressure on him all day. They had two sacks, but against a quarterback with less pocket presence than Brady (ie. 99 percent of the rest of the league) this kind of pressure will produce more sacks and mistakes if it stays consistent.
All in all it was a solid effort by the Bills, but they need to learn how to finish close games. Here are 3 guys in the Bills lineup whose stock is up and whose stock is down following the Week 1 loss to the Pats.
Stock UP: S Da'Norris Searcy
Searcy had big shoes to fill when he replaced Pro Bowl S Jairus Byrd in the starting lineup and came up big. He recorded eight tackles, a sack and recovered a fumble and ran it back for a touchdown. The TD was a huge momentum swing at the time for the Bills. Bills DC Mike Pettine loves to use three safeties, and Searcy made a case for playing time even when Byrd is back.
Stock DOWN: G Colin Brown
The Bills went in-house to replace G Andy Levitre with Brown, and he stunk up the joint on Sunday. He was manhandled by Vince Wilfork all game long and helped contribute to a sub-par day for Spiller in the run game. The Bills will have to run left to be successful, and if Brown can't handle the duties he's liable to be replaced in the lineup.
Stock UP: QB E.J. Manuel
Manuel had a good debut for the Bills. He was efficient and limited his mistakes. He went 18-of-27 for 150 yards and two nice TD passes. He didn't take too many chances downfield, but that was likely more of the byproduct of the game plan. Manuel looked very comfortable on the field, and his confidence should grow with each successful game.
Stock DOWN: WR T.J. Graham
The WRs overall had a down day, but Graham was particularly invisible. Despite being on the field for 95 percent of the offensive snaps he had no receptions and only touched the ball once on an end-around that gained five yards. While more plays should be designed to run through Graham he also needs to get open when he is not the primary receiver. Clearly that didn't happen on Sunday.
Stock UP: RB Fred Jackson
Jackson was the forgotten man in the Bills' running game, but he provided a spark when Spiller struggled early on. Jackson looked in mid-season form on Sunday, rushing for 67 yards on 13 carries. The advantage of a productive Jackson is that teams will have to spend more time game-planning the two-headed monster rather than focusing solely on Spiller.
Stock DOWN: RB C.J. Spiller
Spiller had a lot of hype coming into the season, but he didn't live up to it in Week 1. He averaged 2.4 yards per carry on 17 carries, a far cry from the 6.0 average of last season. The Pats clearly game-planned around Spiller and it affected him. Spiller will have to be better in order for the Bills to win games. Hopefully a healthy Jackson will help him going forward.