Buffalo Bills vs. Detroit Lions Preview
If there was any week in the preseason to give a “traditional” game preview rife with matchups, x-factors, and score predictions this would be it. The third preseason game has always been a dress rehearsal for the regular season, a chance for starters to remember what it is like to “come out and play after halftime”.
However, numerous teams broke that trend last night, and it will be interesting to see if any more follow suit, including Sean McDermott. I am not a betting man, but if I was I would predict the starters’ reps this week look more like last week vs. Carolina than traditional game three workloads.
Preseason Week 3: What to Look For
Allen has shown much improvement in his game thus far in the preseason. If there is something I want to see from him it is that he keeps up with his consistency. It also wouldn’t hurt to see him connect on at least one deep ball or maybe even toss a touchdown pass to get one of each under his belt heading into the regular season.
We have seen McCoy and Gore split the first unit reps by game over the first two weeks. Is this the week we see them both rotate in a single game? I think it is more that likely Devin Singletary gets his shot with the first unit, and it will be interesting to see how he responds.
Running Back Depth
Keep an eye out on the running back depth as they will get a bulk of the touches over the next two weeks. Can Yeldon or Murphy do enough to convince the Bills to part ways with LeSean McCoy? More than likely not but that is what it will take for one of those two to crack the 53 man roster. Senorise Perry, on the other hand, just needs to show he isn’t a liability with the football on offense, and, combined with his special teams’ prowess, he could easily slide onto the roster as the fourth running back.
Zay Jones & Robert Foster
Zay Jones was targeted early and often Week One, but wasn’t targeted once Week Two. It will be interesting to see how many targets he gets in Week Three and just how integral to the offense he will be. He has even started to play special teams snaps in practice.
Robert Foster has been invisible all off-season, so it will be interesting to see if the team makes an attempt to intentionally get him some targets this week.
The Battle for Wide Receiver Six
Last week the coaching staff made it a point to get Ray-Ray McCloud and Duke Williams the most run with Matt Barkley to give them a proper evaluation. It will be interesting to see the ramifications of those performances. Is it now Cam Phillip’s and Nick Easley’s turn? Hopefully, you read that question in a Chan Gailey voice. Does Isaiah McKenzie get more than one snap? Did Ray-Ray and Duke earn the right to stay with Barkley? What will it all mean in terms of how the staff feels about each player?
The Return of Dawson Knox
It will be interesting to see how often and with whom Dawson Knox plays in week number three. He has been out almost a month with a hamstring injury. In his absence, Tommy Sweeney has worked well with the ones and has been building chemistry with Allen that was on display last week.
The Swing Tackle
As of right now, Cody Ford is the defacto “swing tackle”. If Dawkins or Nsekhe were to miss time, Ford would transition from guard to play the tackle position. Ryan Bates was brought in to lighten this load, but his length has kept him mostly inside at Center. De’Ondre Wesley has shown flashes of good play. Connor McDermott has been concussed.
Can any of the depth along the offensive line exterior show enough flashes to win the third tackle job, or will Ford have to be Mr. Versatile until the Bills can fill that need on the open market?
The Interior Offensive Line
The battle rages on for positioning within the offensive line interior. The first unit has not been great, so it will be important to continuously keep on eye on Jon Feliciano and Spencer Long. The longer it takes Ty Nsekhe to get back, the longer Cody Ford has to play right tackle and miss out on valuable reps inside.
Wyatt Teller continued his stellar play last week. In my humble opinion, he has done enough to warrant either the 9th offensive line spot or enough to warrant the 8th spot if the Bills go sans swing tackle and leave those duties to Ford.
Ryan Bates graded out especially well at center last week from Pro Football Focus. Could he be making a push for a roster spot based solely on his play inside and not on his versatility? The guy could end up as a homegrown version of Jeremiah Sirles.
The Battle for Defensive End Four
Eddie Yarbrough and Sam Acho are on the outside looking in. Mike Love and Daryl Johnson will continue to battle each other for that final roster spot at defensive end. Could the Bills keep five? Could the Bills try and deal the expiring contract of Shaq Lawson? It all depends on Love’s play. If he flashes some pass rush pop this week, the Bills may have a hard time sneaking him onto the practice squad.
The starting three, plus Corey Thompson appear to be locked in. Can Julian Stanford show he’s important enough as a backup middle linebacker to combine with his special teams’ ability to save his roster spot? Can Maurice Alexander and Deon Lacey do the same on the outside? Vosean Joseph may have to continue to flash at least something this week in order to fully secure a spot despite his fifth-round pedigree. Tyrell Dodson has been playing well with his extensive third team run but appears destined for the practice squad.
Levi Wallace appears entrenched at the number two corner. Kevin Johnson appears safe as well and will keep Wallace on his toes all season. That, in combination with White and Taron Johnson, leaves a spot for most likely one more cornerback. It appears from the reps with the top unit that that role is earmarked for the veteran Captain Munnerlyn. But I wouldn’t discount a bad game from him and a good game from Lafayette Pitts flipping those odds.
It will be interesting to watch Siran Neal’s usage. He has played early and then continued late into both previous games. Do the Bills really want to keep him and are giving him as much practice as possible, or is he getting every opportunity to save his job and not doing enough to get pulled out of mop-up duty?
In the secondary, Kurt Coleman and Jaquan Johnson appear to be safe. Big games from Dean MArlowe have had seemingly little effect on the depth chart. It will be interesting to see if the trend of sitting Coleman and giving the Johnson and Marlowe combo the bulk of the second-team reps continues.
All eyes will be on Steven Hauschka. Another missed field goal may send the city of Buffalo into a full-blown panic. With Cory Carter out with an injury, Corey Bojorquez will get a full game to prove he can be the guy. He has been putrid through two games. Recently released Ryan Allen could be waiting in the wings if Bojorquez doesn’t put on a show.