On the Beat: 5 questions about the Bills

We head up to the Buffalo News and beat writer Tim Graham to get the lowdown on the 2-1 Bills.

1. How’s the defense coming together under Dave Wannstedt, specifically the ends?

TG: “There were concerns all around after the season-opening loss to the Jets. The Bills’ pass rush was negligent. Their cornerbacks were playing too far off the receivers. Their linebackers were nondescript. But all units have improved appreciably over the past two games. Defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson have been making an impact, and although they have only 2.5 sacks between them, they’re causing problems for opposing quarterbacks. Offensive lines are struggling to contain everybody. Defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus are playing remarkably well, with 4.5 sacks combined over the past two games.”


2. Who is the one Bills player most Patriots fans don’t know right now, but will by the end of the game on Sunday?

TG: “NFL fans should know safety Jairus Byrd because he was a rookie Pro Bowler in 2009, but he’s still underrated. Byrd has been strong despite playing with a foot injury the past two games. He’s a potential game-changer. He came into the league as a ball hawk but has evolved into an all-around defender.”

3. What’s the biggest weakness on the Bills’ offense you expect the Patriots to try to exploit?

TG: “The Bills’ passing game is vulnerable to big breakdowns. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t the type of quarterback who can win games on his own, and his receiving corps is thin. Other than top target Stevie Johnson, the receivers are a grab bag of unproven players. David Nelson, their second-leading receiver, went down with a season-ending knee injury in the opener. If the Patriots can take away the run and make the Bills throw to win, then the Bills will have problems.”

4. What’s the biggest weakness on the Bills’ defense you expect the Patriots to try to exploit?

TG: “The Bills start rookie Stephon Gilmore and sophomore Aaron Williams at cornerback, and their linebackers have been inconsistent. To negate the Bills’ pass rush, I can envision Tom Brady getting into a pitch-and-catch rhythm with Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski.”


5. Finally, Bills win on Sunday if….

TG: “… their running game can control the tempo and their pass rush can clutter the pocket, getting Brady off his game. The Bills are counting on this to happen. Their offensive line needs to be dominant for running backs Fred Jackson (who’s coming back from a knee injury) and Tashard Choice. If the Patriots settle into a quick passing attack, then they can dictate terms. And they’ve shown over the years they’re not too shabby at it.”

Thanks to Tim for his time. Make sure you check him out on Twitter, and also on the News’ Press Coverage blog.

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