I cannot possibly undersell how great it feels to be talking about an upcoming Buffalo Bills football game with an opposing blogger. Kevin Ewoldt of SB Nation's Redskins affiliate, Hogs Haven (no, not "Hog Shaven"), was kind enough to join me this morning to drop a little knowledge about some of the Redskins players that key Bills of interest will be competing against this evening. A similar post is featured at the Haven this morning, as well.
Here's how this works: I gave Kevin the names of five Bills players that I'm keeping a close eye on tonight, and asked him to set the scene for tonight's matchups involving those players. Here's how that conversation unfolded.
Shawn Nelson (TE): An intriguing athlete with good size and fluidity, Nelson is currently second on the depth chart, but will likely see first-team reps in two-tight end sets and possibly as a slot receiver. Buffalo hasn't had an impact receiving tight end in years, and Nelson has a golden opportunity to become a go-to receiver in an offense that really only features Lee Evans as a proven commodity. Which linebacker/slot corner might draw Nelson as a coverage responsibility with the first and second units, and which second-team ends/strong-side 'backers might Nelson be required to block in the run game?
Ewoldt: If Nelson is in the slot and the Redskins' first-team goes to a nickel package, Shawn will see Carlos Rogers. Rogers and DeAngelo Hall are the two starting corners, but in nickel packages, Phillip Buchanon (yep, he's still alive) will play CB and Rogers moves inside. It's anyone's guess who'd he see further down the depth chart, but it will be one of the following three youngsters, all vying for roster spots: Kevin Barnes, Ramzee Robinson, and Justin Tryon.
Cordaro Howard (RG): The undrafted free agent out of Georgia Tech is likely to get the start at right guard in lieu of Eric Wood, who is being eased back into the lineup after his gruesome leg injury last November. Howard is likely to keep playing with the second and third units, though he could shift out to right tackle later on in the game. Buffalo is desperate for depth along the offensive line, and I'm curious as to who Howard might be required to block - both in the run game and the pass game - as we chart his progress.
Ewoldt: Howard has his hands full, because on the Redskins' left side of the defense (LDE, LILB, LOLB), across all depths, there are no rookies. Adam Carriker is the starting end, and Phillip Daniels is the backup. Both are behemoth, starting-quality veterans that bring it on every play. If that's not enough, coordinator Jim Haslett will be blitzing linebackers Andre Carter or second-stringer Lorenzo Alexander from that side. London Fletcher will be the ILB Howard first faces on run plays over his side. Fletcher's backup, H.B. Blades, is a smaller guy, but is a smart veteran.
Torell Troup (NT): As you so eloquently put it, Kevin, the nose tackle is the nucleus to the 3-4 defense, and from what I've seen of Troup in person this summer, Buffalo's got themselves a brutal bowling ball for a nucleus. I anticipate he'll see spot duty against Washington's first-team offense on run downs, but I'm more interested in hearing which interior linemen will be required to block Troup when he plays with the second (and possibly third) units.
Ewoldt: Casey Rabach is the first-team center and has handled some of the best NTs consistently (Jay Ratliff twice a year to name one). From there, things get real dicey. No. 2 on the depth chart is Kory Lichtensteiger. Kory was a fourth-round pick by Shanahan in 2008, but saw limited action and was actually waived early last year by the . Behind Kory is seventh-round draft pick Erik Cook, a standout center from New Mexico. Cook is a tall 6'6", so I'd expect a decent NT to get low leverage and get some push on him.
Chris Kelsay (SLB): Many thought that Kelsay, an average athlete playing out of position as a 3-4 outside linebacker, would be a casualty of the Bills' scheme change. Yet here he is, running with the ones on the strong side. I'll be paying close attention to how well he defends the run, but more importantly, how acceptable he looks in coverage against some solid tight ends that the Redskins employ. Please talk about the players Kelsay might be required to cover in the short and flat areas.
Ewoldt: A coach could not ask for a better test covering tight ends than playing the Redskins. Chris Cooley and Fred Davis are easily the best two-TE set in the NFL. Cooley's strength is he has that Dallas Clark-like ability to simply get open and move the ball upfield. Davis, the third-year tight end out of USC, had a break-out season last year filling in for Cooley, who was put on IR. Fred has amazing speed, size, and hands for a TE. I have yet to see anyone that can cover this kid (fantasy football notice). I'll be curious to see what the Bills (or any team) do when the Redskins use two-TE sets.
Antonio Coleman (JLB): Another undrafted free agent that has been impressive in camp as a pass rusher. The former Auburn star plays the jack position on the weak side, meaning that most of his reps will likely come against the Redskins' second- and third-team left tackles. I have no idea who those players might be, but am hopeful that they're quick athletes so that I can be inordinately excited if Coleman beats them once or twice.
Ewoldt: This will be a good matchup for Redskins fan to watch as well. William Robinson, a perennial backup, saw a lot of action at right guard last year after the slew of season-ending injuries the Redskins OL was hit with. He played OK, but I have yet to see him perform at camp as LT. Coleman should be able to get by him. Third-string LT is Selvish Capers, who played RT for West Virginia defending Pat White's blind side. It appears the Redskins got a steal selecting him in the seventh round, because he has gotten rave reviews for his balance and handwork. He's nowhere near starter ready, but it'll be interesting to see these two rookies go at it.