The Buffalo Bills' starters will play about ten plays tomorrow night against the Detroit Lions. While their roster sports are more or less secure, the guys who will play after those initial series have a lot on the line in Detroit.
Head coach Chan Gailey said after practice on Tuesday that 80 to 85 percent of the roster spots have been decided. With many players fighting for those final ten or so spots, these final game snaps can leave an indelible impression on the coaching staff before Friday's cutdown day. (Just ask Vince Young.)
One such player who has used the fourth pre-season game to jump-start his professional career is Ryan Fitzpatrick. As the third quarterback in St. Louis a few years back, it was his chance to get some good tape for NFL coaches to look at.
"The fourth game is one that for me has been big in my career when I was young, just in terms of getting out there, getting the time, being able to perform, show what you have learned and your handle of the offense or defense," Fitzpatrick said Tuesday. "This is for those guys that are kind of on the edge and the young guys to get out there and kind of showcase what they can do. As a guy who has been in that situation, and was in that situation a lot early in my career, I understand how important it is for them."Tyler Thigpen may or may not be on the opening day roster after the trade for Tarvaris Jackson. He'll still play the majority of the game, and wants to impress the Bills' coaches - as well as other coaches around the league who could be looking for a backup.
"It is definitely a big game for me," Thigpen said. "I just wanna go out there and play the football that I'm capable of playing, and let the rest take care of itself.
"The biggest thing for me is whatever opportunity presents in front of me, I've gotta go out there and take one play at a time," Thigpen continued. "If it's a bad play, forget about it, move on to the next. As a quarterback, you've got to take it one play at a time and move the ball down the field and put points on the board. That's your job."
Another offensive player looking for an opportunity is Marcus Easley. After losing his first two NFL seasons to injury, Easley is now fighting to make the team three years removed from being a fourth-round pick. He could go a long way to a roster spot with a big game against the Lions.
"Hungry is an understatement," Easley said. "This is my life. This is my job. When that's taken from you, how do you think somebody would respond? It was frustrating. I had my downs, but all that's behind me now. This is year three and that's all I'm really worried about."
Gailey views Easley as somewhat of an enigma. He's not sure if the receiver's inconsistency is because he's been on the sidelines for two who years or because that's all he will ever be.
"That's where we are with him," said Gailey. "He's done some really good things on the field. We're going to have to make a hard call depending upon what it looks like after Thursday night."
Roster cuts need to be made by 9PM on Friday night. Without a practice on Friday, the tilt against the Lions is the last chance for these players to make an impression on the field.