Bills Week One: Three Things to Look for on Sunday

Here we go ladies and gentleman.  The preseason is over and the Bills are only days away from meeting the Colts in Orchard Park.  The pundits are out in force but of course it's well documented that pre-season records give little indication of regular season results, good or bad.  As such, rather than read too much into our four friendlies, I'll be watching carefully this Sunday for indications of what to expect this season from the Bills.  Here's what I'm going to be watching:

1. How Tyrod makes decisions.  Tyrod Taylor won the starting job fair and square.  He made the plays in the preseason with his feet and with his arm.  There's no question he can throw the ball well and run the ball well.  That said, when running quarterbacks find themselves in a full-speed NFL game, the place they get most tripped up on is knowing when to run and when to throw.  Because they know they're mobile, players like Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III among others have had a tendency to be skittish, abandoning a play if there is not a receiver immediately available and running before letting the play develop.  When this happens, opposing defenses catch on that the QB will always run with a bit of pressure and start to punish him for it. And worse, the receivers stop expecting the ball and start giving up on routes earlier.  I'll be watching Sunday to see if Tyrod does a good job balancing the pass and the throw, running when he has to, not when he still has open receivers.

2. Does the offensive line step up.  There's been changes here since last year, but we all know change is hard.  A lot of the Bills offensive struggles the past few years have had to do with the inefficiency of the offensive line.  Running the ball is awfully hard when you don't get the blocking and quarterbacks from Fitzpatrick to Manuel to Orton will tell you that it is very hard to get in a rhythm throwing when you're getting knocked down or having to scramble every other play.  Protecting Tyrod will also make number 1 easier to accomplish.

3. Do the cornerbacks step up?  I'm specifically interested in Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby.  I want to see Gilmore continue to progress and shut down receivers, no surprise there.  But Darby is the one who could be make or break as a rookie with Leodis McKelvin still injured.  Darby had good plays, but was abused for some long throws and long penalties in the preseason.  Admittedly, the NFL's own review later said two of those pass interference calls should not have been penalties, but it will be critical for Darby to settle in.  Andrew Luck and the Colts have surely watched all the person tape on Darby and the Bills can't afford to have him keep getting beaten badly one on one when Rex Ryan is busy committing manpower to blitzes and rushes.  If he becomes a solid corner, it could be the push the Bills need to be not just a great pass rush and run defense, but a great overall defense.