DT Williams fighting off S. Johnson for starting role (Photo Source)
The Buffalo Bills have made the trip to Indianapolis, where they are set to take on the Colts in tonight's pre-season game at the newly constructed - and absolutely gorgeous - Lucas Oil Stadium. The Bills will be without three key players - QB Trent Edwards, WR James Hardy and WR Roscoe Parrish - for this matchup, and the Colts are missing some starters as well, most prominently QB Peyton Manning.
Despite the starters missing the one pre-season game that's important to a team's growth - especially a team as young as the Bills - there will still be some positional battles and players in unique positions that we'll be keeping an eye on. We sincerely hope that you'll join us for tonight's open thread; here's what we'll be watching for:
Hamdan vs. Baker: It has become excruciatingly obvious that the Bills will be relying on J.P. Losman as a starting option at some point during the 2008 season. With that in mind, it's probably high time to start paying a bit more attention to the battle for the team's third quarterback spot raging between Gibran Hamdan and Matt Baker. One of these guys might actually be our primary backup for stretches during this season. It is prudent, therefore, to know a bit more about these two players.
Dwayne Wright: He's 2/2 this pre-season; unlike in baseball, that's not a good thing - Wright has fumbled in each of this pre-season's two games. Rookie sixth-round pick Xavier Omon is far more than just a challenger to Wright's job as the third back now. Wright has looked good running the ball, but he needs to protect the rock, or he won't be a part of this final roster.
Jenkins, Huggins and Johnson: We can only guess, but we're predicting that Josh Reed - due to the problems he's had with his lower back - won't play as much as the rest of the starters tonight. Lee Evans might not see a huge work load either, though he's expected to play much of the first half. With Hardy and Parrish out, we're going to see a lot of playing time for the three receivers fighting for one to two spots - Justin Jenkins, Felton Huggins and rookie Steve Johnson. The time is now for them to prove that they belong on this team.
Langston Walker: Dwight Freeney is making his first start of the pre-season tonight for Indianapolis, and with that, Walker faces by far his stiffest challenge since his move from right to left tackle. Walker handled Jason Taylor relatively well in Washington, but Freeney steps the challenge up a notch. We're expecting Ron From NM to keep an eye on #68, but we'll be watching closely as well.
Demetrius Bell: See Walker, but substitute Freeney's name for any of a number of the Colts' reserve ends who have ridiculous speed, most prominently rookie Marcus Howard. I'm very intrigued with this kid, as most of you know, and he'll get tested tonight.
Williams vs. Johnson (vs. McCargo?): Apparently, there's a battle raging for the starting tackle spot next to Marcus Stroud, and the two main combatants are Kyle Williams and Spencer Johnson. The winner of the battle's title may in reality be only a figurehead position, but we've spent enough time with our eyes glued to Marcus Stroud this pre-season to know he's legit; it's time to get more familiar with his running mates.
Angelo Crowell: Buffalo's starting strong-side linebacker makes his 2008 pre-season debut tonight. Will he look rusty? How does he look in pass coverage? How will he operate next to, in essence, two new teammates in Paul Posluszny and Kawika Mitchell? Well, that's why we're watching him tonight.
Cornerback rotation: The third pre-season game is followed swiftly by initial roster cut-downs and the fourth pre-season game - this coming Thursday against the Lions - so Buffalo's cornerback battle is about to get furiously heated. Ashton Youboty will again get most of our focus, but we're expecting Leodis McKelvin to take a step forward in the competition tonight as well.