The Buffalo Bills head to the nation’s capital tonight to play their third game of the 2016 NFL preseason. This is an important game for every player on the roster, and here’s what we’re looking for.
The starting offense, nearly 100%
As is tradition, the third game of the preseason is the tune-up for the starters, who will play more than half of the game. For an offense that has been missing some big pieces, it’s a chance for everyone to sync up. Sammy Watkins is back in action, following a play-it-safe recovery period from offseason foot surgery. Seantrel Henderson made a return to the field in the last day of training camp after recovering from Crohn’s-related surgery and has already been working in with the first string at right tackle. Cordy Glenn appears to be recovering ahead of schedule from his high ankle sprain, but should be sidelined tonight. Richie Incognito is hoping to play again following his rib injury suffered during training camp.
Despite the banged-up nature of the offense, Buffalo hasn’t suffered much. Tyrod Taylor is sporting a 10.7 Yards Per Attempt average, accompanied by a 69.2 percent completion rate. The running game suffered against the New York Giants, but LeSean McCoy looks dynamic as ever in space. Could this team actually be a top-five offense in the NFL?
Last stand for Dez Lewis
A month ago, the 6’4” receiver was preparing to enter training camp as the surprise star of OTAs. When the pads came on, however, Lewis began to fade into the background. A shoulder injury suffered right before the first preseason game didn’t help him stand out, either.
The final preseason game should be the one that sees Lewis take the most reps, but if he’s going to earn a spot on the roster, he needs to show off here. Watkins will play some, but will probably be taken out earlier than everyone else due to conditioning. Marquise Goodwin is out, going through the concussion protocol. Greg Salas only just returned from a hamstring injury. Lewis will get playing time, can he make the most of it?
Who manufactures the pass rush?
Last week, Buffalo dominated the trenches on defense, with Lorenzo Alexander, Jerel Worthy, Adolphus Washington, and Corbin Bryant all making plays. Does that portend pass-rushing success for a shorthanded roster, or was it an illusion caused by a lousy New York Giants line?
Washington’s offensive line is made of stronger stuff, and Trent Williams, Brandon Scherff, and Morgan Moses are not easy marks. If anyone other than Jerry Hughes stands out tonight, it will bode well for the regular season.
Buffalo’s secondary versus Washington’s receivers
Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby, the injured Nickell Robey-Coleman, Kevon Seymour, and a host of other defenders have earned praise for their shutdown play all summer. But they have a major challenge facing them with the hugely underrated DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon, Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed. Rex Ryan’s scheme will leave some one-on-one matchups - who wins?
More than anything else, we just want the Bills to exit this game in good condition. The team has had a number of starters go through slow recovery periods in training camp, and the last thing anyone needs is for another big injury two weeks before the season begins.