AFC East: 080912 preseason obs

Observation deck: Saints-Patriots

August, 9, 2012
8/09/12
10:42
PM ET

The reigning AFC champion New England Patriots began their 2012 preseason with a 7-6 win over the New Orleans Saints.

Here are some notes and observations:

What I liked: It was an impressive night for New England's running game. Second-year tailbacks Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen both were stellar in the Patriots’ preseason debut. Ridley got off to a good start, rushing for 40 yards on eight carries with the first team. Vereen showed his big-play ability by leading New England with 64 yards on 11 carries against the backups. Both tailbacks are pushing for the starting job. There are a lot of questions about New England’s youth at running back, but the preseason opener erased some of those concerns.

What I didn't like: I did not like what I saw from New England's starting offensive line. For now, the Patriots must rely on new faces with the status of right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back) and guards Logan Mankins (knee) and Brian Waters (personal) up in the air. But the replacements looked out of sync with penalties and missed assignments. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was crunched in the first quarter on a sack and fumbled. He finished 4-of-7 for 30 yards and a fumble.

Rough day for Solder: Continuing on the trend of the offensive line, it was a tough start for second-year left tackle Nate Solder. He had two holding calls in the first quarter. Solder is an important member of the offensive line -- his job is to protect Brady’s blindside, and he has to play better.

Rookies shine: The Patriots' two first-round picks have looked impressive in training camp, and it was a good sign to see that carry over to the preseason opener. Patriots rookie defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont'a Hightower played well in their NFL debut. Both were active and combined for four tackles. Jones and Hightower are trying to carve out their roles in the defense.

Safeties first: New England's starting safeties both recorded turnovers. Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory both had interceptions. This is a good sign for New England's 31st-ranked pass defense from a year ago. Gregory was a free-agent addition and seems to be meshing well with Chung.

Observation deck: Redskins-Bills

August, 9, 2012
8/09/12
10:20
PM ET

The new-look Buffalo Bills began their 2012 season with a 7-6 loss to the Washington Redskins at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Here are some notes and observations:

What I liked: Buffalo's new-look defense got off to a great start, which is exactly what the Bills want. Buffalo forced a three-and-out against Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, then recovered a fumble on the first two series. Bills safety George Wilson's fumble recovery set up Buffalo's first points of the exhibition season, which was a field goal by Rian Lindell. Griffin eventually had some success throwing on Washington's third drive. But the Bills played well defensively throughout the game.

What I didn't like: The Bills' starting offense didn't do much. Buffalo's first team scored just three points in four drives, which was a gift from the defense after a turnover. The Bills also had a Steve Johnson touchdown catch negated with a penalty. Rookie left tackle Cordy Glenn also had a false start. Bills starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw early and often. He was 6-of-14 for 61 yards. The Bills didn't run the ball entire first quarter, but we will get to that next.

Change of pace: The reason Buffalo didn't run the ball in the first quarter was due to an interesting wrinkle. The Bills used a no-huddle offense with the starters. It's a nice change of pace and it will be interesting to see if the Bills will stick with this in the regular season. The no-huddle can be risky if it doesn't work. But it shows two things: First, the coaches have confidence in Fitzpatrick. Second, the Bills feel their defense is improved. Still, the Bills need more balance than what the starters showed Thursday night if this no-huddle offense will be successful.

Return of Kyle: This is the first game back for Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams, and he played well in limited snaps. Williams missed much of 2011 with a foot and Achilles injury. But he showed some of his old form by recording a tackle and was disruptive in the first two drives.

Young debuts in Buffalo: Backup quarterback Vince Young had to wait a while. But he finally made his Buffalo debut in the third quarter after Fitzpatrick and Tyler Thigpen both had their time on the field. Young still needs work passing. He was 5-for-12 with 50 yards, but Young did rush for 37 yards. Young is in competition with Thigpen for the No. 2 job. Thigpen was 3-for-8 with 38 yards and an interception.

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