The Bills fancy themselves a physical football team. So how did they kick off their 2012 preseason schedule?
By having quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the first-team offense pass the ball 15 consecutive times and not run the ball once in a 7-6 loss to the Washington Redskins. That's going to change Friday when the Bills travel to Minnesota, coach Chan Gailey vowed.
"We have not run the ball as much as we wanted to in the preseason," Gailey said. "We made this week the week we are going to come back and work on the run game quite a bit."
The Bills have a very good 1-2 running game punch in Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller and while keeping them healthy during the preseason is Job One, they and their line need to develop a rhythm, a feel and a mindset for running the football.
Since it was just one preseason game, Jackson isn't worried about not getting any work against the Redskins. But he was glad to see the run game emphasized when the team got back to work in practice. The Bills break training camp at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y. on Tuesday and relocate to their normal training facilities in Orchard Park.
"A lot of people do not know we were very vanilla in the game," Jackson said. "We did not bring a lot so we did not do a lot. We came out here (in practice) and emphasized a lot of stuff like running the ball. But I think we are all right. We are progressing. We have to keep moving, keep putting together good practices. Once we get the groundwork laid out I think we will be OK."
If there was a silver lining in their drab offensive performance against Washington is that Fitzpatrick got a ton of work operating the no-huddle, which is a standard element of Buffalo's scheme. With the Redskins staying in their base 3-4 geared at stopping the run, he just kept calling passes. The issue was execution: Fitzpatrick completed just 6 of 14 passes for 61 yards and the offense was plagued by penalties.
"We wanted to get in the no-huddle and spread the ball around a little bit," Fitzpatrick said. "We did not do a very good job of executing. It is the first preseason game for us, and so we knew there was going to be some sloppy stuff. There was no game plan. We just wanted to go out there and try to get it figured out on the field, and we were not real successful."
Last year, Buffalo made significant gains on offense in Gailey's second year in charge, but despite averaging 4.9 yards a rushing play, the Bills passed the ball 578 times vs. 391 rushes. With the emergence of Spiller as an explosive change-of-pace tool, Buffalo would like to bring their pass/run ratio closer in line.
Over the next three preseason games, it's also important that the line gets a feel for running the ball. The Bills are breaking in a new left tackle in rookie Cordy Glenn and two starters are coming back from injuries, center Eric Wood (ACL) and right tackle Erik Pears (hernia).
"(Even though it's preseason) we still want to go out and we want to look sharp. We want to eliminate the penalties," Jackson said. "I think that is the No. 1 thing we can take from that game is we have to be sharper than we were Thursday. We are going to lose a lot of football games if we play like that. But at the same time, it is our first exhibition game. We cannot overreact but we do need to learn from it."
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