Aug 17, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams (94) attempts to get around Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Phil Loadholt (71) during the first quarter at the Metrodome. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE
The Buffalo Bills are set to play their starters for about 30 plays - the rough equivalent of one half - in tonight's penultimate exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here's what we're most interested to keep track of as the game takes place this evening.
Sharpness of the first-team offense. Chan Gailey's top offense has left a lot on the table this pre-season, even as they've moved the ball well at times and had scoring drives. Penalties and miscues have plagued the unit. This week, however, the team has installed a basic game plan - and that should (that's the operative word) mean that the team plays a crisper brand of football.
The offensive tackles. We already know that Cordy Glenn will be the starting left tackle this year; this is his first test since that announcement came down. Glenn has blocked fairly well this pre-season, but has also been flagged three times. Meanwhile, with starting right tackle Erik Pears out - and with serious doubts beginning to blossom about his Week 1 availability - tonight would be a good night for Chris Hairston to restore some faith in him after a rough start to his pre-season.
The defensive end rotation. The race for the fourth defensive end spot is on following the release of Shawne Merriman, and we're likely going to see a lot of Kyle Moore, Robert Eddins and Jarron Gilbert with the starters tonight as rotational players with Mark Anderson sidelined. All three are likely to see equal reps as they duke it out for one or two roster spots; it should be a very interesting evening at that position.
Linebacker tweaking. For the second time in three pre-season games, Arthur Moats will start at strong-side linebacker. His chief competition for that job, Kirk Morrison, will likely spend the bulk of the evening working with the second unit at middle linebacker, paving the way for rookie Nigel Bradham to see some early looks as Moats' backup. This could be the first sign that the linebacker depth chart is settling, and if the unit plays well, things could solidify by the end of the night.
Just-healthy cornerbacks. Both veteran Terrence McGee and sophomore Justin Rogers are expected to suit up tonight after missing a bunch of time with their respective ailments. With the top three cornerbacks looking settled heading into Week 1 at the very least, McGee and Rogers will get their first major opportunities to climb back into the nickel-and-up packages in tonight's contest.