Fast 4Ward – Storylines to Watch: Bills at Ravens

Inside The Buffalo Huddle
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Buffalo Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman gestures during the second half of a preseason NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

Nathan Peterman and Ryan Groy have been named the Bills starting quarterback and center, respectively.  However there are still questions about how the offense and team will perform on the road in Week 1 against the Ravens.

1. Can the Bills protect Nathan Peterman?

Through the first three preseason games the Bills allowed 16 sacks, six of which took place in the “dress rehearsal” against the Bengals as they looked to find some continuity following the retirement of center Eric Wood and release of guard Richie Incognito.

(They also allowed five in the preseason finale, with mostly third and fourth teamers playing.)

McDermott shuffled his rotations throughout the preseason and heading into the opener there are still questions about how the unit will perform.

Last season, according to PFF the Ravens front seven generated 244 pressures on opposing quarterbacks — ninth most in the league.

Can the Bills OL hold up against a relentless pass rush and give Peterman enough time in the pocket?

2. Ball-Hawking Defense

The Bills don’t get to ease into the regular season, facing defenses that are considered some of the best heading into 2018, and it begins with the Ravens on Sunday.

Baltimore led the NFL with 22 interceptions last season. However, they’ll be without CB Jimmy Smith, who was suspended the first four games of the regular season.

If the Bills aren’t able to keep Peterman upright, allow him time to go through his progressions and make good decisions with the football, it could turn into a passing day disaster in Baltimore.

3. Secondary options and questions

The Bills D finished with 18 interceptions last season — good for sixth in the NFL. However, there are questions as to who could start opposite Tre’Davious White.

When asked on Monday who would be playing along with the second year cornerback, head coach Sean McDermott gave a five word answer — “We’re still working on that.”

Vontae Davis had been signed to replace EJ Gaines, but the veteran DB struggled throughout the preseason and is locked in a positional battle with Phillip Gaines.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will likely want to test Buffalo’s secondary and spread the ball around to Michael Crabtree and John Brown, who joined the team in free agency.

4. Can the Bills generate a pass rush?

If there is one thing the Bills struggled with last season, it was getting to the quarterback. According to the analytics website Pro Football Focus, the Bills generated the fifth fewest pressures with 195.  To help improve those numbers, they went out and signed Trent Murphy in free agency. 

While the defensive end returned to practice Monday, he missed several weeks of camp with a groin injury. 

Kyle Williams (knee) was also back on the field Monday.  Along with Williams, if Star Lotulelei and Harrison Phillips’ can force pressure up the middle, get Flacco off his base and provide Murphy, Jerry Hughes and even Shaq Lawson time to swarm, it could be a good start to the season.

Next Up:

Wednesday, Sept. 5

Bills HC Sean McDermott press conference

Thursday, Sept. 6

Bill OC Brian Daboll press conference

Bills DC Leslie Frazier press conference

Friday, Sept. 7

Bills HC Sean McDermott press conference

Sunday, Sept. 9

Bills (0-0) at Ravens (0-0)

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