Buffalo Bills (1-1) vs Tennessee Titans (1-1)
7:00 PM, Ralph Wilson Stadium
In a game that is widely considered the most important pre-season game a team can play, the Buffalo Bills will square off against the Tennessee Titans tonight at Ralph Wilson Stadium. As it is the third pre-season game for each team, fans who attend the game or watch on television will likely be treated to a full half of each team's starters; Bills fans will definitely see a half of J.P. Losman, who could see a series or two in the third quarter as well.
With the starters set to see very little action in the fourth pre-season game, I'm choosing tonight to keep track of four positions that I feel are necessary to watch while the starters are in. Here's what I'll be watching for this evening:
Starter J.P. Losman has played a total of about three quarters thus far in the pre-season and has mostly been inconsistent. He has made a few plays - both with his arm and with his legs - but has had trouble sustaining drives and putting points up on the board. Tennessee has a good defense with some solid players, but they are not great by any means. I'm looking not for necessarily big plays from Losman and the offense, but the ability to drive the football down the field, sustain drives and capitalize on drives in the opponents' red zone. That will give the offense (and Bills fans) confidence heading into the regular season.
Behind Losman, rookie Trent Edwards is expected to see a lot of playing time once again; it would be nice to at least see Dick Jauron get Craig Nall a series or two so that he doesn't get rusty. I still maintain that Nall is the for-sure #2 guy, so if Jauron wants his #2 to be competent, he needs a few reps tonight.
Like Losman, the two starters (Lee Evans and Peerless Price) as well as Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish are expected to see extensive first-half action. At this point it is pretty clear what each of these four receivers brings to the table skill-wise; I will instead be concentrating on how the receivers are lined up. Who do we see in single-wide, multi-TE sets? Who lines up in which slot in four-wide formations? How is Price, the enigma of the group, utilized? These are questions I hope will be answered to an extent this evening.
Beyond the starting group, I'll be keeping a close eye on the race for a potential sixth wide receiver spot. Donovan Morgan seems to be the leading candidate right now, but I believe that Jonathan Smith has a shot at knocking him out of that role. Morgan has looked good in camp and in last week's Falcons game; if he can make a play or two tonight, he'll have put together a pretty good resume to stick on this roster.
I get the feeling that most Bills fans will be concentrating on the D-Line to an extent for a couple of reasons: it will be interesting to see how they approach containing Vince Young, and to keep track of the newest Bill, DE Al Wallace. The pass rush has a lot to prove with Ryan Denney out of the rotation indefinitely, and they have not had much success getting after the quarterback thus far in the pre-season. We should also expect better things out of the run defense, especially considering that Tennessee's rushing attack is anything but average. If we get shredded by LenDale White, we have problems.
Three players I'll be watching in particular are Kyle Williams, John McCargo and C.J. Ah You. Williams sort of goes unheralded in this defense, and when Bills fans think of him they think of cliches, not any particular playing style. I'll be watching to see how he approaches run and pass situations as well as how he performs. Ah You intrigues me as well, because with Wallace now on board, there might not be room for both Ah You and Eric Powell. With Anthony Hargrove suspended for four games, I believe that there is a very good chance that the Bills will keep five defensive ends, and Ah You has a golden opportunity to seize that spot out of Powell's hands. Let's see if he can impress tonight.
Like every other position, the starters will play a lot. Terrence McGee is an obvious lock for a starting spot, so while I'll likely notice any good/bad plays he makes, I will be watching Jason Webster. I'm anxious to see how he performs in this zone scheme and in particular how well he participates in run support. I think this guy is a very good player, so it will be interesting to see how he performs with his teammates tonight.
The nickel spot will also be of great interest to me. We know that Kiwaukee Thomas has that job locked down, but will Jabari Greer or Ashton Youboty get a few reps at that position with the first unit? My guess is yes. Also, I have noticed - particularly late in games - that Perry Fewell has sent Youboty on a lot of blitzes from that position, so I'll be keeping an eye on any blitzing the Bills do and whether or not it comes from the nickel slot or other positions.
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