Where's Alan Branch? That was our first thought when the Bills' second-team defense saw its first action late in the first quarter. The Bills used Stefan Charles and Corbin Bryant as their top two reserves at defensive tackle behind Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams. Branch didn't see the field until after the two-minute warning of the first half, and then not again until later in the third quarter. For a 29-year old veteran who signed a three-year extension with nearly $4 million in guaranteed money last December, that is surprising. Branch failed the Bills' conditioning test to start camp, but presumably was the favorite to start if Dareus faces a suspension to start the season. Branch's roster spot might not be in jeopardy, but his playing time in Sunday's game indicates his position on the team has slipped since last season.
Linebacker Brandon Spikes said after Tuesday's practice that the defense "dominated" when the first team was on the field Sunday. Much of that success can be attributed to the push generated by the front four on the defensive line, which leads to this thought: How much will defensive end Jerry Hughes benefit next offseason from playing with three Pro Bowlers this season? Though the Bills' decision not to extend Hughes this offseason makes sense -- you probably want to see more than 16 games of production before handing out a long-term deal -- Hughes could hit it big in free agency next spring. If Williams and Dareus create double-teams inside, Hughes will face a lot of single-man protection on the outside.
As Seantrel Henderson and battles on the right side of the line have been the centers of attention along the offensive line, left guard Chris Williams has flown under the radar. He played the entire first quarter and the first drive of the second quarter Sunday. He was solid in pass protection. Against the run, he had a few notable breakdowns. Williams tried to cut block Jonathan Hankins on the back side of a Fred Jackson run but couldn't execute, allowing Hankins to stop Jackson in the backfield. That replay was shown on national television, so it was hard to miss. In the second quarter, Giants linebacker Devon Kennard was quick to diagnose a Bryce Brown run to the left, shooting the gap to Williams' left. Williams was slow to get off an inside double team and was blown back by Kennard, who stopped Brown for a loss.