The Buffalo Bills were throttled in their 2010 pre-season opener, dropping a 42-17 contest on the road against the Washington Redskins. Tonight, the Bills will try to take their first baby step of the season when they host the Indianapolis Colts at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
There's plenty to keep track of, as usual, and we'll do our best to be as comprehensive in our coverage on the first pass-through as possible. There are five topics that will be of particular interest to us tonight, however.
Aaron Maybin's involvement with the first-team defense. George Edwards was very vanilla with his defensive calls last week, playing predominantly out of two defensive alignments. Maybin is the go-to pass rush specialist on the team at the moment, but in the loss to Washington, he played on just four of 23 snaps with the first-team defense. That's as much time as Antonio Coleman got with the ones, folks. Down and distance will play a role here, but Maybin needs to get more reps against ones, and with Buffalo's ones. With Peyton Manning and company not likely to play much tonight, he'll have to settle for the latter, if he gets that break at all.
Nickel and Dime packages. Last week, when the Bills switched to their four-linemen nickel package (their second-most utilized alignment of the night with the first team), Bryan Scott came onto the field to play a nickel linebacker role. With Paul Posluszny and Keith Ellison set to return to the lineup, the Bills are getting back their two best coverage linebackers. We're curious to see if either of the returnees take Scott's reps, or if the backup strong safety is a mainstay in that package. It'll also be interesting to see if another cornerback steals dime reps from Reggie Corner, who got roughed up pretty badly in D.C.
The return game. This goes both ways (here come the easy jokes). First and foremost, the Bills unveiled an unusual depth chart at kick and punt returner, so we know which guys the team wants to get a look at in that capacity. Chad Jackson stands to make the biggest gain as the first-team kick returner; he's moving up the depth chart at receiver thanks to various injuries, and a strong performance as the kick returner would do wonders for his bid to make the team. On the flip side, the Bills made Brandon Banks look like Dante Hall last Friday night, so improvements in covering kicks and punts should be a high priority for Bruce DeHaven's special teams units.
The running game. This is generalized, because there are a few different items that we can roll into one sub-heading. First and foremost, getting to see C.J. Spiller start at running back - and hopefully get a lot of reps - should be fascinating. 10-12 touches would be ideal. It will also be interesting to see how Joique Bell does as the backup, as he has a good chance at working in with the ones on occasion. Alternately, with Cornell Green questionable, there's a good chance that Jamon Meredith will get the start at right tackle opposite Demetrius Bell. Many fans view him as a long-term answer on the right side, so it might be intriguing to see how he handles Robert Mathis, and how well he blocks in what is typically a mauling position.
Quarterback play, of course! All eyes will be on Trent Edwards in his quest to lead Buffalo's first-team offense to its first pre-season touchdown in 20 possessions. He's been terrible in the pre-season over the past two years, as opposed to his solid play in 2007 and 2008. Meanwhile, Brian Brohm will get to work with the second team, making his pre-season debut after not seeing action against Washington. Efficiency, accuracy and decisiveness out of Brohm this evening would be lovely. An offense that's capable of moving the chains would be lovelier, regardless of who is playing quarterback.
What will you be keeping your eyes on?