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Bills/Saints Preview: What To Watch For

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Buffalo Bills (0-0) at New Orleans Saints (0-1)
8:00 PM, CBS

The Buffalo Bills open their 2007 campaign tonight on CBS with a nationally televised pre-season contest against the New Orleans Saints. After a long off-season in Buffalo, the team will finally take the field to show off their revamped offensive line and speedier defense.

Four Bills players are injured headed into the contest: OG Brad Butler and RB Josh Scobey did not make the trip and will remain in Buffalo to receive treatment for their respective injuries. OG Aaron Merz and SS Donte Whitner are both questionable to play as well. DE Anthony Hargrove's recent troubles with the law will not keep him out of action, as he is expected to suit up.

This is the first of four pre-season games for the Bills. For each game, Buffalo Rumblings will concentrate on four positional groups to keep a keen eye on and analyze for the fullest comprehensive pre-season coverage you can find anywhere. Here is what we'll be concentrating on tonight:

Offensive Skill Positions
I am specifically interested in keeping an eye on the RB and WR positions, but TE/HB and QB will be covered to an extent as well. Anthony Thomas will get the start at running back, with Marshawn Lynch to follow. Dwayne Wright, Shaud Williams and Fred Jackson will likely see a lot of time as well. As far as running backs go, I will be looking for the ability to pick up the blitz, catch the ball out of the backfield and their contributions elsewhere (for example, Williams and Jackson will likely be used as kick returners).

At wideout, I'm looking to see how our top four guys (Evans, Price, Reed, Parrish) are used when they're on the field together. It's not likely that too much of the regular season plan will be revealed, but I'm particularly interested to see how Parrish is utilized early. The contributions of Sam Aiken, Donovan Morgan and Jemalle Cornelius will be monitored closely as well.

Defensive Line
Even though Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush are unlikely to see much (if any) time, the Saints present a nice challenge for our run defense. Kyle Williams and Larry Tripplett, as starters, will likely only play a series or two, so this is a prime opportunity for John McCargo and Jason Jefferson to prove their worth. I'll be keeping track of the depth chart, rotation, and youngster Corey Mace as well. At end, the trio of Schobel/Kelsay/Denney won't play much, so I expect to see a lot of Hargrove, C.J. Ah You and Eric Powell, three guys vying for roster spots.

Keep an eye out for tackles who do a good job disrupting running lanes and channeling Saints backs right to our linebackers. Those will be the guys playing their responsibilities correctly.

Cornerbacks
The Saints are pretty young at wideout, but they are deep there as well. Once veterans Terrence McGee, Jason Webster and Kiwaukee Thomas sit, it's time for Ashton Youboty and Jabari Greer to prove that they deserve to be on the field as well. But my fascination for Buffalo's cornerbacks runs deeper than that - Riley Swanson, Eric Bassey and Reggie Lewis will be monitored closely as well, as any of them would be great additions to this team's practice squad.

I'll also be keeping an eye, to a lesser extent, on how nickel and dime packages work. Specifically, I'll be monitoring the safeties' role here, as it's likely that Whitner (if he plays) and Jim Leonhard will see time ahead of cornerbacks in these packages. That will give us a great indication as to how the Bills will strategize their personnel this season.

Buffalo Rumblings Game Day Open Thread: If you're looking for a place to get constant updates and fantastic football talk tonight, make sure you stop by Buffalo Rumblings' game day thread. I'll post the thread tonight about a half-hour before the game starts, and anyone who is registered for the site (it's free, by the way) can post comments and discussions throughout the entirety of the game. I hope to see a lot of you here tonight while the game's going on - there are some great analysts in our little community, so I'd love to hear from as many of you as possible. We'll see you tonight. Go Bills!