© Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press
As it's the preseason for the refs, camera crews, networks alongside the players, it's also the preseason for me in terms of getting myself back in that writing rhythm and mindset. Typically, I would write these late Sunday night or Monday at work, thinking I was meeting a solid 24-hour turnaround. These Friday games just mess me up heading into the weekend because I can never find the time. Also, I've been very in my head around what more I can do with these recaps. I want to change things up a bit, but I also don't want to lose the core of how they read. I'm still TBD (no pun intended) on that. With that, these thoughts aren't going to be just around players, but where the team seems to be a while in preparation for this upcoming season. Excuse the cobwebs and scattered nature; I'm just trying to warm up.
Also, I'm not wasting much time on players who have no shot of making this team. That goes for the horrific performance of the offensive line in the second half. It's just not worth my or your time.
1 - Preseason Context - Preseason games are not real games. I see so many fans who live and die by what they see in the preseason, and it's never made much sense to me. I'm not going to waste my time googling this, but I know there's a stat out there that shows how poorly 4-0 preseason teams perform in the regular season and, to the contrary, how well 0-4 teams will do. The preseason is about individual match-ups in the most basic of settings. There aren't any trick plays, stunts, disguises, audibles, pulls, or anything else. The preseason comes down to a very simple message to all players: Execute the fundamentals and beat the person in front of you. That's it. Case and point, if anyone thinks we are going to run as much as we did in the Lions game in the regular season, you are seriously crazy. So please, take these games for what they are, practice against other teams with fans and a clock.
2 - Rousseau - It's incredibly natural for most fans to see what our first-round pick can do during the preseason game, and my eyes were locked in on the lumberjack every play he was on the field. However, I believe there is a large amount of context to be found in what he was asked to do and the offense he was up against. The Lions gained most of their yardage on quick curl routes and 3rd downs. They struggled to move down the field with ease and got the ball off quickly. Rousseau (I need a nickname for this kid quickly) was matched up against arguable the 3rd best prospect, and best overall OT in the draft, in Penei Sewell. With no support, Rousseau was able to push Sewell back on multiple plays, one even resulting in an arm sack (which shows this kid's strength). While this is from just one quarter, it's easy to see the potential this kid has, and I'd give him an A+ for his very first on-field performance. (Side note: Honorable mention to Oliver, who was playing out of position, got double-teamed frequently, and still got some decent push up the middle)
3 - Running backs - We saw success early in the game with draw plays up the middle, and Motor had two nice plays where he showed burst and the strength to break some arm tackles. He also had a nice touchdown catch in the second quarter, which was overshadowed by the fact that he was out on the field in the first place. Outside of that, there wasn't much to be excited about from the run game. It didn't help that we made it obvious early that we had zero intention of passing the ball or any starters at pass catcher besides Knox and Gabe. I was not very impressed with Breida as he didn't show that outside speed we are looking to have. Antonio Williams, who many wanted to see move up the depth chart, had a very lackluster day, but it's hard to evaluate him behind the putrid offensive line that was blocking for him.
4 - This is typically where I post lyrics from a song by one band for the entire season. One year, I did movie quotes, but that was harder. I've used the Grateful Dead (Always for you, Bill), Dave Matthews, and Barenaked Ladies in the past. This year, I haven't decided what I'm going to do. If you read this and have ideas, let me know. I'll post this same message in all three game recaps and see if there's a consensus.
5 - Bass - In full transparency, I've always enjoyed the jokes about kickers in the NFL. While I understand the mental pressure of having the game on the line, I still never put much thought into kickers. If they made the kick, they did their job. If they missed, cut 'em! Bass has slowly changed the way I pay attention to kickers. Early last season, you could clearly see the power of his leg as he would just boom the ball off his foot. But also, you could see the ball had a strange trajectory when he kicked it as if the ball had a mind of its own. There were definitely moments early one where many wondered if we kept the wrong kicker, and we saw him improve as the season went on until we got to the point where you expected him to hit everything. So far, through training camp and in this game, he truly is Bass-omatic. His swagger and confidence each time he walks onto the field is evident, and his kicks are going right down the middle with the same level of power. It's been interesting to watch his development, and I hope he keeps it going.
6 - Haack - Of all the offseason moves I didn't understand, not resigning Bojo is one of them. Beane made some cryptic comments that led me to believe Bojo wanted to get paid, but then he took a competition role with the Rams. While we didn't punt a lot last season, I figured Bojo was a no-brainer to be resigned and wouldn't cost a lot (which he didn't for the Rams). However, after just one game of watching Haack, I'm good. This guy has an absolute leg and is a pure assassin with it. I don't understand why the Dolphins let him go. He pinned two punts inside the 20 from the opposite side of the field and really had a good showing. This, like so many other things, is just proof of why I'm a fan and Beane is a Wizard.
7 - Refs - After a full weekend of preseason games, I'm officially on notice of the refs. There were WAY too many flags in this game, and the theme was leading with the helmet. Like holding, I can't deny that this happens a lot in every game, but many of these looked like calls that normally don't get flagged. I'm hoping this was an exhibition for the refs, and they are leaning towards guilty until proven innocent while they practice, but if not, we are going to be in for a long season.
8 - Fromm - Typically, when I write these, I don't have the time to read other people's comments about the game. However, with my aforementioned delay, I see a lot of Fromm bashing going on. A lot of context needs to be considered here. He was a 3rd string quarterback last season who hardly gets any reps. There was no preseason last year, and practices were limited. This year, he's still a 3rd string QB (maybe), and this game was his very first live-action against another team. Take that, put him behind an abysmal offensive line and rookie receivers, and he still found a way to lead a game-winning drive. All I'm saying is, there's nothing to really evaluate him on from this game. I have wondered if Mitch would become a trade candidate if other QB's keep going down around the league, but I still don't know that Fromm is our number 2 quarterback. Webb looked very comfortable and made some good throws. (Side note: Allen and Webb are seen around each other a lot, and I think Allen helps him out more than anyone else)
9 - Boogie - From the time he was drafted, all the analysts say that Boogie was the most pro-ready of any of our draft picks. With that, I was very surprised to see him still on the field well into the second half. He was lining up more on the right side but also lined up at DT a few times. I can't say I saw a lot in him to give me optimism and he seemed held in check in one-on-one match-ups. There's not much to say here, but I did watch him and Epenesa a bunch and don't see any threat to Addison or Hughes. The playing time of Boogie, Epenesa, and Obada was definitely interesting.
10 - Progress - As we went through the drought, preseason was always a telling sign to me regarding where our team was regarding evaluations. It wasn't about the Bills so much as the other teams. Teams that knew their starting lineup and scheme would trot their starters out for a series, go 6-6, and score points on the first drive. It was truly a practice for them while we are trying to figure out who will be 7 of our 11 starters. In this game, it really felt like we were the other team. We didn't have the majority of our starters out there, and I feel comfortable saying our talent dominated theirs. It was nice to watch the Lions rotate guys in and evaluate, with job battles on the line, while we just showed up because we have to. This game was a prime example of why some teams don't want preseason games, and others need it. It's nice to be on the other side.
My grudge - I'm wrong a lot. Like, a lot. Guys I target in the draft typically perform opposite my expectations, and Beane is proven, Wizard. However, with the drafting of two DE's in this draft and Epenesa still not looking like someone ready to earn that starting spot, I'm still annoyed that we passed on Dobbins, who was taken one pick later by the Raven. When I look at this team and see Hughes, Addison, Rousseau, Boogie, and Obada and realize we would have Dobbins in this offense, I feel like Beane missed there.