After two preseason showings that could most generously be described as disappointing, the Buffalo Bills mosey down to Maryland to take on the Baltimore Ravens in the third game of the preseason. With this game serving as the traditional “dress rehearsal” game of the preseason, we should expect to see the starting units for both teams for an extended period of time, likely into the third quarter. This game will provide ample things to watch, so here are a few that we’ll be focusing on during Saturday’s contest.
Really, is there any one player who needs a strong outing more than Buffalo’s QB1? After a dreadful showing in Philadelphia where he completed less than 50% of his passes and had two throws intercepted, a strong performance from Taylor could go a long way towards alleviating much of the dour that has overtaken Bills fans everywhere. We could talk all day about the usefulness (or uselessness) of preseason games and statistics, but Taylor needs a good day to give the team something positive moving into its preparation for the opener on September 10 against the New York Jets.
A receiver to be named later
With Sammy Watkins traded, Jordan Matthews and Rod Streater injured, and Anquan Boldin retired, the Bills’ receiving corps is looking thin yet again. So, who steps up? Last week, rookie Zay Jones made some plays (3 catches, 40 yards), but it will be worth watching to see who among the rest steps up with additional reps. Andre Holmes (2 catches, 11 yards), Corey Brown (1 catch, 17 yards), and Daikel Shorts (2 catches, 22 yards) are all possibilities, but one real dark-horse name to watch is Brandon Reilly. The undrafted rookie out of Nebraska finished last week with 4 catches, 39 yards, and the Bills’ lone touchdown of the evening. There are roles up for grabs here, and someone could solidify his roster spot with a strong showing on the 26th.
With Cordy Glenn resting in hopes of being ready for week one of the regular season, the Bills’ situation at left tackle has been pretty rough to watch. Veteran Seantrel Henderson had been the usual replacement for Glenn, but Dawkins slid over to the left side this week for the first time since OTAs. The rookie out of Temple started 41 of his 44 career games, with 40 of those starts coming as a left tackle for the Owls. While he still may win the job as the starting right tackle by beating out veteran Jordan Mills, it will be interesting to see if he can play better on the left side in Glenn’s place than the other reserve offensive linemen have.
Speaking of rookies, I’ll be interested to see if the Bills’ first-round draft choice can continue his solid preseason play. White has looked like a natural fit in the cover-3 scheme employed by Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier. He had 4 tackles last week against the Eagles, including one for a loss. It would be nice to see him make a few plays on balls in the air, especially since Baltimore will be without Joe Flacco, who is still recovering from a back injury he suffered while weightlifting. Ryan Mallett will start the game for Baltimore, and he has been less than impressive (22/40, 171 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT) this preseason.
With trade speculation centered on Ragland and Philip Dorsett, a wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts, this could be the last time we see the 2016 second-round pick in a Bills’ uniform. Will he see more reps? If he does, might those reps really be for auditioning purposes, a la Sammy Watkins against the Minnesota Vikings? Will he work in against the first or second teams, or stick mostly with the third? There are plenty of questions to be answered, as it may be the last time (I don’t know) that Ragland suits up for the Bills.