Aug. 9, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman (56) before a game against the Washington Redskins at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE
There wasn't an awful lot for Buffalo Bills fans to get excited about in the team's 7-6 pre-season loss to the Washington Redskins. Any time non-starters are showing well, however, that can only be good news. These five non-starters caught my eye Thursday night.
WR T.J. Graham. He carried his camp momentum into live action, leading the team in receptions (three) and yards (37) while playing with the second and third units. The raw rookie needs technical refinement, but is so quick and fast that he often separates from corners with ease - and with a couple of good throws from backup quarterbacks, Graham might have been touted as a star in the making after this game. He looks like he may contribute by the end of his first season.
DE Shawne Merriman. Just as he did last pre-season, before his Achilles began flaring up again, Merriman proved against Washington that if healthy, he can still be a factor as a pass rusher. The key, of course, will be keeping him healthy. Merriman spent most of his time at left end Thursday, for what it's worth.
DT Spencer Johnson. Johnson's eventual place on the roster hasn't ever really been in doubt, but I think we're going to see more of this guy on the field than most realize. Dave Wannstedt is going to use a lot of defensive linemen on game days, and having reserves like Johnson - who repeatedly crashed into the Redskins' backfield on Thursday - spurs that effort. Johnson may be the most valuable defensive reserve on the team. He's a good player.
CB Ron Brooks. He looked like a rookie in coverage - particularly when asked to play zone, as he was a step slow breaking on the ball - but Brooks also showed of his elite athleticism in man coverage, hauling in an interception and dropping a second. Brooks, in many respects, is similar to Graham: he's raw, but he's a superb athlete. There's a ton of upside with this guy.
K John Potter. I'm among the many Bills fans uncomfortable with the idea of a team that's annually thinned out by dozens of injuries keeping two kickers. Potter proved on Thursday, however, that he's very adept at what he was brought here to do: kick the laces off of a football. He repeatedly kicked the ball out of the end zone in warm-ups, and then registered three touchbacks in live action. For his next trick, I'd like to see him attempt a field goal.
What other non-starters impressed you, Bills fans?