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Bills' McDermott downplays playing Panthers

(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

(TSX / STATS) -- ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Sean McDermott is not biting on the storyline of him going back to Carolina where he served the previous six seasons as defensive coordinator. The Buffalo Bills head coach is spewing out all the coach-speak he can on the topic, claiming it will be just another game.

"It'll probably be a little different, just so soon in our process here," McDermott said. "It may be different in Week 2 versus Week 12 back in that stadium and just seeing the people I just left not too long ago. That'll be, just from the human side of it, a little bit different. I'm focused. Our team is focused. Right now, the focus is just really on getting ourselves to continue to grow, and that'll be important for us this week."

It's tough to figure whether either side will have an advantage in this game based on their familiarity with each other. McDermott certainly knows the Carolina roster, but Panthers head coach Ron Rivera knows what McDermott is trying to accomplish, especially on defense.

"I don't know about that, I'm not out there playing, so that's hard to say, an advantage," McDermott said. "We've got to put in our time and earn the right to win, in which we plan on doing that."

If anything, McDermott said he may have to temper what he knows about the Panthers, knowing full well Rivera will have to account for McDermott's prior knowledge of the Panthers' schemes and personnel.

"There's probably a tendency to make an over-adjustment from time to time," he said, referencing other coaches who go back to face their former teams. "I've been through these before, whether it's been myself or other coaches on staff, and how you handle it is important. Again, I'm not out there playing quarterback, thank God. I'm not out there playing defense. Our guys are going to be the ones that are out there. What's most important is what they know, not what I know. At the end of the day it's a game of football, it's a reaction game and an anticipation game. There is a tendency, I'd say, to make an over-adjustment, we just have to be smart with that."

Both teams are coming off excellent defensive performances accomplished against terrible offenses. The Bills limited the Jets to 38 yards rushing, 214 yards overall, 11 first downs and 12 points. The Panthers held San Francisco to 51 yards rushing, 217 overall, 13 first downs, and a mere field goal. Both defenses forced two turnovers.

In this game, the Panthers have a decided advantage in that their defense gets another crack at a sub-par offense. Running back LeSean McCoy is a true threat, but he's really the only big threat the Bills have. Their passing game is hindered by a lack of quality wide receivers and a quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, who struggles to throw the ball downfield with consistent accuracy. Also, the Bills' offense, while strong in the run game, has a tough time keeping heat off Taylor, and it's only because of Taylor's outstanding scrambling that he avoids sacks.

On the other side, the Bills will be confronted with an actual NFL quarterback in Cam Newton. Last week, Josh McCown was basically helpless, but Newton presents multiple problems both as a passer and runner, and he has several weapons the Bills will have to deal with, led by running backs Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey, tight end Greg Olsen, and receivers Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess and Russell Shepard.

"It's a huge challenge," McDermott said of his old team's offense. "He (Newton) was an MVP of the league for a reason a couple years ago and I had a front-row seat to watch him on a day-to-day basis and watch his strengths; the size, the speed, the power, the arm strength. That's what we're up against, and then you add the other weapons that they have, that'll be a huge challenge for us. We've got a lot of work to do this week."

--The Bills are painfully thin at linebacker, but they made an intriguing signing on Tuesday when they brought in Jelani Jenkins. He was originally a fourth-round pick of the Dolphins in 2013 and during his four seasons in Miami he was in on 219 tackles, second on the team during that span behind only Reshad Jones.

He left Miami via free agency in the spring and signed with the Raiders, but it didn't work out in Oakland. Last week he was placed on injured reserve and then came to an injury settlement with the team for the purpose of getting released. He figures to play a role as a backup to both Lorenzo Alexander and Ramon Humber.

"Jelani has played in this league, both defensively and special teams," said Bills head coach Sean McDermott. "He's played outside mostly, so that's where we'll start him off. The important part now is acclimating him to our system and what we do and getting him comfortable so he can play fast. He came from a good system years ago at the University of Florida, and (he has) some of the athletic attributes we look for in linebackers. He can run, he can diagnose, he's a very instinctive player, and those are some of the things we saw on tape."

--The fact that Marcell Dareus, the highest-paid player on the team, played the fewest defensive snaps of anyone on the front line, raised a few eyebrows among those who follow the team, but McDermott said there's nothing to read into that. Dareus has had several indiscretions during his time in Buffalo, including being sent home by McDermott prior to the third preseason game because he missed all of the team buses transporting the team from the hotel to the stadium in Baltimore.

McDermott said his snap count (he played 59 percent of the time) was merely a function of rotating linemen in order to keep everyone fresh, and his behavior and his big contract do not factor into that mix. "When it comes to what it takes to win a football game, I don't think about those things," McDermott said. "I think about what's going to give us the best chance to win, and that's keeping players fresh up front. That's what we believe in, I don't factor those other areas into it. I know some of this may be what people are used to seeing, and we're focused on what we do, and how we win, and getting better every week. Whatever's in that bucket, that's what we're focused on."

Actually, McDermott said Dareus played well, even though he was not credited with any type of stat - no tackles, assists, QB pressures or sacks. "I thought Marcell played a good game," said McDermott. "Defensive tackle is probably one of the most unselfish positions on the football field. Just by the nature of the position, usually you're freeing someone else up to make a play. Every time (linebacker) Ramon Humber is free to the ball, something else is happening in front of him that's allowing him to make the play and Marcell was doing some of that. And, after that, it's just about rolling fresh defensive linemen. We want fresh bodies up front."

NOTES: LB Jelani Jenkins was signed to provide depth at a position group of need. Jenkins played four years for the Dolphins and recorded 219 tackles. CB Greg Mabin was waived to make room. ... QB Joe Webb, who was brought in to also play special teams, was in on 20 kicking game snaps, though he did not make a tackle. ... FB Patrick DiMarco didn't have much of a role in the opener as he was on the field for only 26 percent of the offensive snaps. He did play 10 special teams snap. ... WR Zay Jones got off to a slow start in his rookie season as he caught only one pass out of four targets for 21 yards. ... G Richie Incognito graded out well as the Bills ran for 190 yards, but he did have two holding penalties in the opener. ... DT Marcell Dareus played the fewest amount of snaps (34) of any of the four starting defensive linemen. ... CB E.J. Gaines suffered a shoulder contusion in the game, but he was able to practice and is expected to play in the game. ... DT Jerel Worthy remains absent from practice due to a concussion and he isn't expected to make the trip to Carolina. ... LB Preston Brown was on the field for every defensive snap, but he was in on only three tackles. Part of the reason was that the Jets ran the ball only 15 times in the game. ... K Steven Hauschka missed his only field-goal attempt from 46 yards, but he did make all three of his PATs.

Updated September 13, 2017

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