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Sunday, August 14, 2011
Bills observations

By Matt Williamson

Observations from the Bills’ 10-3 preseason loss to the Bears:

Sacks!: The Bears might have the worst offensive line in football, but Buffalo deserves a lot of credit for sacking Chicago quarterbacks a whopping nine times. Shawne Merriman stood out in this capacity. If he is now close to the player he was just a few years ago in San Diego, that will be exactly what the Bills need so badly at outside linebacker. Merriman abused J'Marcus Webb -- who has no business starting at left tackle -- with regularity. Merriman won his one-on-one matchup with power, quickness and technique, which is very encouraging. Chicago was wise to get Jay Cutler out of the game even before the first quarter wrapped up. Cutler’s backup, Caleb Hanie, also could have done a better job of getting the ball out quicker.

Marcell Dareus: The rookie played terrifically in his debut for the Bills. I wrote last week what Dareus can do for this team from a schematic standpoint. We saw much of that against the Bears. He was particularly effective lined up at defensive tackle in the Bills’ four-man front, abusing Chicago’s right guards. Time and continuity should help the Bears’ line, but clearly Dareus brings a ton to the table. Dareus runs and changes directions extremely well for such a big man.

Bills OL needs work: As awful as the Bears’ offensive line looked in Week 1 of the preseason, Buffalo’s wasn’t all that spectacular either, particularly on the interior. Henry Melton is a real up-and-comer as Chicago’s 3 technique, and his quick get-off and penetration skills gave the Bills’ guards a tough time on numerous occasions. Running against the Bears should be a very difficult chore once again this season. Melton might make it tough on many guards this season.

…as does the run defense: While Chicago could not protect its passer, the Bears did open holes in the run game. Marion Barber was quick to get downhill. He was decisive and showed a better burst than I remember from his final days in Dallas. The Bills did not handle his physicality very well and too often failed to get him on the ground when given ample opportunity. Kahlil Bell, a similar type power runner, also gave Buffalo’s depth players a hard time.

Wideouts minus Evans: Lee Evans is now in Baltimore, so there is now a golden opportunity for one or several of the Bills’ young receivers to step up. While the quarterback ball placement didn’t help the cause early, no one out of this stable really stepped up against the Bears. It also should be noted that C.J. Spiller spent some time in the slot as well. His role needs to increase.

Brad Smith: We got a glimpse why the Bills signed Smith from the divisional rival Jets. They plan on using him in a wide variety of ways. He lined up as a Wildcat quarterback as a run threat, which could be a regular thing for the Bills on third-and-short situations. We already know that he is an upper-echelon kickoff returner and can be a factor on the edge or slot as a wideout, where he got some work in this game as well. He also threw the ball. Chan Gailey has a very good history of maximizing the talents of players similar to Smith.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL.