After four long, boring, miserable meaningless pre-season games, the Buffalo Bills will mercifully bring the pre-season to a close tomorrow night when they host the Detroit Lions in each team's final tune-up for the regular season. For the Bills and their much-maligned offense, it will be the last chance for many players to fine tune their games in a live setting before the Bills' regular season opener, two Mondays from now in New England.
Bills head coach Dick Jauron revealed on Wednesday that his starters would not see much time, if any. Many veterans coming off of injuries, such as WR Terrell Owens and DE Aaron Schobel, will likely be held out of action to make sure they're completely healthy for the games that count. Other starters - such as QB Trent Edwards, for example - could play, but will likely only see a series or two.
In the 2008 pre-season finale (also against Detroit), Jauron allowed only one of his starters to take the field - FS Ko Simpson. Third-string QB Gibran Hamdan got the start at quarterback that night while Edwards and J.P. Losman watched from the sidelines. The Bills lost that game at home 14-6.
From where I sit, it seems highly unlikely that we'll see a repeat of that decision. For one, the Bills have a brand new offensive line whose starters could use an extra drive or two worth of reps against actual NFL players before heading to New England. Edwards, who has struggled mightily of late, could use a solid drive siimply to boost his confidence a bit. RB Marshawn Lynch, who will miss the first three games of the season due to suspension, will likely see a series before heading to the shelf. Owens and Lee Evans are virtual locks to sit this one out.
Defensively, veterans such as Schobel, Marcus Stroud, Terrence McGee and perhaps even Kawika Mitchell probably won't play. Paul Posluszny might not, either, as he's currently got a nice gash on his chin that keeps opening up on him. Other young starters, from Kyle Williams straight through Leodis McKelvin, will get the "series or two" treatment.
Still plenty to learn
I suspect that many folks who still have their knickers in a twist about the current state of the Bills will be upset that the starters will see little to no time against Detroit. As long as some of the key youngsters we're relying on play, even if it's just a bit, I'm OK with the decision. Players like Owens and Schobel aren't going to get anything out of playing one pre-season series anyways.
The real interest in this game comes from the second units, who are likely to play a ton. Jauron was sending a message to his entire team, veterans and youngsters alike, when he did not deny that Demetrius Bell (who will miss the Detroit game) could unseat Langston Walker at left tackle - nobody should be comfortable. We'll give any job away if a player is deserving of a promotion. Rarely does Jauron do something like that through the media. But it is what it is, and opportunity is now knocking for younger players.
Steve Johnson is a good example. Is it possible that he could start stealing slot reps from Josh Reed? Reed is a known commidity, but Johnson isn't - and he's flashed immense potential. Shawn Nelson has a chance to secure lots of playing time in this game. So does Aaron Maybin, Chris Ellis, Copeland Bryan, Reggie Corner and perhaps even Jairus Byrd.
In many ways, the pre-season finale is the most intriguing pre-season game of the season. A strong performance can lock up a roster spot, just as it did for Bryan a year ago. As I said above - as long as select young starters get some reps, I'm OK with the starters sitting out the majority of this game. This game is about picking the 53 guys you're going to go to battle with four the next four months - and there is still plenty of intrigue on that front.