After a month of progressively worsening pre-season football, the Buffalo Bills will gladly bring their fall session of practice games to a close this evening when they take on the Detroit Lions in each team's pre-season finale. Though the team's starters aren't expected to see much time (if any), there is still plenty to monitor as roster cut-downs are looming.
There are several intriguing battles, players and situations to keep track of - not the least of which is the battle we polled y'all about this morning. Head on in past the jump for all of the end-of-pre-season goodness.
Will Edwards play?
QB Trent Edwards has been the opposite of the toast of the town over the past two weeks. There is some speculation out there that Edwards, who sports a 46.9 quarterback rating this pre-season, might sit the game out entirely. He didn't play in last year's pre-season finale (also against Detroit), but he was dealing with a minor injury at the time, and was held out as a precautionary measure.
Edwards certainly hasn't been given much help this pre-season. He's entered each game without a game plan, three of the games without WR Terrell Owens (who probably will not play tonight), and has been asked to perform without those assets and behind a work-in-progress offensive line. Those aren't excuses, but should we have expected something different? If Edwards doesn't play tonight, I'm sure folks will be angry. At least, at that point, they'll be piling on someone else. I think Edwards will play, if only for a series.
We'll miss you, Marshawn
This is the last time we'll see Marshawn Lynch until October 4 - if he plays, that is. Lynch, as you're well aware, will serve a three-game suspension to start the season. He will not be eligible to practice or work out a team facilities until the week prior to the Bills' early-October matchup in Miami, when he'll make his (hopefully triumphant) return to the lineup. Keep your head down and your nose clean, Marshawn.
Final auditions for bubble players
Several veterans and youngsters, as you well know, are currently battling for roster spots. Here are a few key veterans who need solid performances to make sure that they remain Bills through the weekend.
TE Jonathan Stupar - Was the NFL's pre-season receiving leader through three games, but got completely blanked when he was bumped up the depth chart in Pittsburgh. Derek Fine probably won't play tonight, and Derek Schouman will see limited action, so Stupar gets another chance to make an impression. Another shutout obviously won't help his cause.
OT Jonathan Scott - Given Demetrius Bell's back injury, the possibility exists for the Bills to keep nine offensive linemen, at least to start the season. Scott has struggled of late, as has Brandon Rodd, another contender for the ninth lineman spot (if, again, it exists).
DE Chris Ellis - Just one of a handful of defensive ends with a lot to gain or lose tonight. (I could technically put Ryan Denney on this list, but the chances of him going anywhere are quite slim.) Ellis has had a surprisingly productive pre-season, which has likely saved his once-tenuous hold on a roster spot after a slow start to training camp. Still, given the flux at other positions, it's tough to call Ellis a lock.
DE Copeland Bryan - You have to feel for Bryan a little. He's clearly sixth on the DE list in terms of priority (i.e. he was neither drafted nor re-signed by this team), plus he's dealt with a nagging hamstring injury throughout the pre-season. Yet despite a very strong pre-season effort that includes two sacks and two forced fumbles, he might not even make the team.
Pretty much every reserve linebacker - The three starters aren't going anywhere. Neither is rookie fifth-round pick Nic Harris, who has been inconsistent but productive in the pre-season. That leaves two (with a small possibility for three) spots open for two of Marcus Buggs, Ryan Manalac, Alvin Bowen, Ashlee Palmer and Jon Corto to claim. With the exception of Manalac, this one is very close, and quite difficult to call. Obviously, a strong performance from any of these players could ultimately sway the coaching staff's decision in their favor.
CB Ashton Youboty - There isn't any realistic scenario that could play out this weekend in which Youboty gets cut. I'm not making any promises on the trade front, however - if the Bills don't like their depth at linebacker and want to swing a trade for a vet, Youboty is the player the team would most likely dangle. The chances are strong that Youboty will be on the field in New England (for the Bills) on September 14, but it's not a lock.
SS John Wendling - I won't even list Ko Simpson here, because I think it's close to a virtual certainty that his days in Buffalo are numbered. (Barring injury, of course. Knock on wood, everyone.) Wendling, however, is a different scenario altogether - he's been a centerpiece of Bobby April's special teams units for two years, but he's not a lock to make it this year, particularly considering the team's excellent depth at cornerback, defensive end and wide receiver.
Also, one last note - dig your thinking caps out of whatever crevasse you've left them in, because we've got a contest running from tomorrow (Friday) morning through roster cut-downs. Bet you can't guess what the contest entails; there will be a prize, however, so stay tuned.