Buffalo's top two draft picks made their presence felt in their debut performance for the Bills. Their contributions helped put nine points on the board including the team's only touchdown. But in the end it wasn't enough as Washington claimed a 17-14 victory.
Both rookies had a hand in helping Buffalo's second string units and special teams provide the biggest highlights of the night for Bills. Second-round pick James Hardy had a 16-yard touchdown reception and Leodis McKelvin had a 45-punt return and 37-yard kick return that led to a field goal drive for the offense.
"It was certainly nice to see our top two picks show up on the field and show their abilities," said head coach Dick Jauron. "They certainly can both play better and they'll have to."
Trailing 14-6 late in the first half, Ashton Youboty, who started in place of Terrence McGee, but also played on the second unit, picked off a Todd Collins pass at the Redskins 49-yard line returned it 12 yards before tossing a lateral to Reggie Corner who took it down to the Washington 20.
"It felt good making a play," said Youboty. "We looked a little sluggish in the first half. We just did what we do in practice, make big plays."
Two plays later second-round pick James Hardy pulled in a fade pass from J.P. Losman for a touchdown in the right corner of the end zone to make it a two-point game (14-12). Losman then rolled out to his right on the two-point conversion attempt and hit Justin Jenkins to tie the game at 14 with just over a minute left in the first half.
But Hardy didn't want to make too much of a preseason touchdown.
"It was a good ball," said Hardy. "(J.P. Losman) threw a good pass on the play. But it's the preseason and preseason doesn't count. I'm just getting prepared for the regular season."
McKelvin's 37-yard kick return gave the second team offense a good drive start at their own 35. Roscoe Parrish then made a nice play on 1st-and-10 picking up 30 yards as he came back for a pass from Losman to get Buffalo into Washington territory. Losman kept the drive alive converting a 4th-and-1 sneak at the Redskins 26 while Jackson earned 24 yards on the drive that ended with a 25-yard Rian Lindell field goal to make it a one score game (14-6).
"It felt good to come out here and just try to compete and build and help the offense with my return ability," said McKelvin. "I'm just trying to get them the best field position or I'm going to try to score. I'm going to come out in the next preseason game and work very hard defensively and in the return game."
Special teams also set the tone at the outset of the game when John DiGiorgio and Dustin Fox forced a fumble on the opening kickoff that was recovered by Rian Lindell at the Washington 30-yard line, giving the offense fantastic field position.
"That was really good. John is a good player," said Jauron. "We know John, we know him well. It was a terrific way to start."
Starting offense sputters
Buffalo's offense picked up a big first down on 3rd-and-11, after a false start penalty backed them up to the Redskins' 31, when Trent Edwards hit Roscoe Parrish for an 18-yard pickup to set up 1st-and-10 at the Washington 13.
But the offense couldn't convert 2nd-and-5 and 3rd-and-5 opportunities into a touchdown or fresh set of downs as two Edwards passes fell incomplete forcing Buffalo to settle for a 26-yard field goal from Lindell and an early 3-0 lead.
"A little shaky," said Edwards when asked to assess the performance of the first string offense. "We had a couple of missed formations, a couple of forced passes, a couple of inaccurate throws, but that's going to happen in a preseason game. That's why we're playing these games. We want to work these kinks out."
Buffalo's revamped offensive line had good protection on the whole, but did have a couple of false starts that compromised drives.
"In their present positions it's changed," said Jauron of the line shuffling. "The illegal procedures are just something that we've got to get under control and we will. I believe that we will."
Meanwhile the Bills starting defense went six-and-out in their first stint on the field forcing the Redskins to punt near midfield as defensive tackle Marcus Stroud and Kawika Mitchell made their debuts with Buffalo. Stroud only played the first series before exiting the game.
"We didn't get many snaps but it was preseason," said Stroud. "We were definitely playing hard. We still have a lot of stuff we need to get better at but that's what the preseason is for, to get better."
Unfortunately the starting offense for Buffalo couldn't manage a first down on the ensuing possession. Fred Jackson picked up four yards on first down, but another false start penalty put Buffalo in a 2nd-and-11 situation from their own 15. A dropped pass followed by a batted pass led to a Bills punt.
Edwards knows where they have to be better next week when they face Pittsburgh in Toronto.
"(We have to) come out sharp," he said. "Understanding our formations and our plays - not being offsides and making mistakes that hurt ourselves."
Conversely, Washington put a lengthy 12-play drive together that culminated in a one-yard touchdown run by Clinton Portis on a fourth-and-goal play to take a 7-3 lead before the end of the first quarter.
The Redskins second string offense fared even better marching 65 yards on eight plays as they had double digit gains on half of the plays, including the 12-yard screen pass to Ladell Betts for the score to make it 14-3 before Buffalo climbed back into the game.
The only turnover for the Bills was a Dwayne Wright fumble in the open field following a hit from Washington safety Justin Hamilton that was recovered by the Redskins at the Buffalo 37. The turnover resulted in a field goal for Washington and put them back in front 17-14 early in the third.
Buffalo had a chance to tie the game early in the fourth quarter after a drive by the third-string offense stalled at the Washington 28, but Lindell's 47-yard effort was wide left.
Washington's third string offense then milked the clock late in the fourth quarter, but failed to add to their three-point lead (17-14) after a 4th down touchdown pass fell incomplete to force a turnover on downs with less than 30 seconds remaining.
Terrence McGee did not play Saturday night due to an ankle ailment.
"Terrence had a little issue with his ankle before the game," said Jauron. "We took him out and ran him (in warmups) and it was sore, so we just decided we'd give him the night off and nip it in the bud."