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Revisiting Bills' defensive players to watch

8/5/2014

Before the Buffalo Bills kicked off their preseason in the Hall of Fame game, we identified seven defensive players to keep an eye on during the contest.

Let's circle back on their playing time and performances Sunday against the New York Giants:

Preston Brown -- Brown played in 33 snaps, tied for the most among Bills defenders. He entered the game on the Giants' third offensive drive through their first possession of the third quarter. He aligned exclusively at 'Mike' linebacker and was also on the field in the nickel package. In the running game, he showed some physicality against offensive linemen but was pushed around more often than not. On the positive side, he showed good pursuit coming from the weakside of the formation to tackle Rashad Jennings on an 8-yard run in the first quarter. On the negative end, he over-ran Jennings on a 12-yard gain two plays later and could have taken a better angle on Andre Williams' 21-yard run later on that drive. In the second quarter, Brown broke into the backfield but whiffed trying to tackle Peyton Hillis on a three-yard run. In the passing game, he leaped to pick off Ryan Nassib on a pass over the middle, on a play called back by penalty. Overall, it was a so-so night for Brown. It was his struggles -- at times -- in run defense that surprised us, as that was Brown's strength in college.

 Randell Johnson -- Johnson played in 24 snaps, entering the game on the third defensive series and playing through the third quarter. He came off the field for sub packages, limiting his snap count. More of an on-the-line, edge player, Johnson may lack the instincts of some linebackers used to playing off the line. He misread gaps on a few plays and took some poor angles in pursuit, including on Williams' 21-yard run in the first quarter. On the plus side, he was a strong tackler, taking down Hillis with a thud on a run in the third quarter. Johnson isn't a candidate to replace Kiko Alonso the weak side, but he's a project on the strong side.

Jimmy Gaines -- Gaines played in 24 snaps, initially coming on as a fourth linebacker when the Giants went to their heavy personnel in the second quarter. After that, his playing time was limited to the fourth quarter. That slips him off our radar a bit.

Ron Brooks -- With Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin not playing, Brooks started and played 26 snaps. That's a continuation of where he's been slotted in camp and generally a good sign for his roster spot. Brooks' receiver was targeted only when the Giants' offense was on the field, a 5-yard gain by Jerrel Jernigan in which Brooks made a nice, wrap-up tackle. He wasn't targeted after Eli Manning left the game.

Ross Cockrell -- Cockrell, a fourth-round pick, played less than what we had expected with just 17 snaps. Mario Butler was the first sub in at cornerback, while Bobby Felder came on next. Cockrell came on with the nickel and played through the fourth quarter. Nassib targeted Cockrell's receiver in the second quarter on a deep post pattern. Cockrell trailed in coverage but the pass, as best as can be seen from the camera angle, came in too strong. There was a similar play later in the quarter where Cockrell had tighter coverage and the throw also came in high, down the seam to Julian Talley.

Duke Williams -- Williams played 33 snaps, tied with Brown for most on the defense. He entered the game late in the first quarter and came off after the first drive of the third quarter. Other than his hard hit on Andre Williams in the second quarter, there isn't much to evaluate on Williams, given our camera angle. The Giants didn't target the deep part of the field much on Sunday night.

Jonathan Meeks -- Meeks played 24 snaps, taking over in the second quarter after Da'Norris Searcy got an extra series on the field. Meeks played through the first drive of the third quarter and was mostly aligned "in the box" as a safety. He missed a tackle on a 25-yard gain by Giants receiver Marcus Harris in the second quarter.