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Hall of Fame Game 2014: what to watch for in Bills vs. Giants

We're going to start learning things about the 2014 Buffalo Bills tonight. These are the five areas of the team that we're most interested in monitoring.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the Buffalo Bills will make their 2014 season debut in front of a nationally televised audience against the New York Giants in the Hall of Fame Game. Here are the five things that we are most anxious to learn about the new-look Bills in their preseason opener.

O-Line rotations

The only offensive lineman slated to play tonight that Bills fans shouldn't concern themselves with is Eric Wood. Otherwise, the line is something of a free-for-all. At left tackle, Seantrel Henderson and Chris Hairston are likely to see playing time with Cordy Glenn sidelined. Hairston may also factor in at guard, where Chris Williams will draw eyes in his Bills debut at left guard, and Kraig Urbik is trying to fend off both Hairston and rookie Cyril Richardson on the right side.

Then there's right tackle, where Erik Pears will undoubtedly start, but fans will be looking for signs of life from second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio. There's even intrigue with a few reserve interior linemen fighting for roster spots; Doug Legursky, J.J. 'Unga, and Antoine McClain all bear watching.

Stay healthy, Mr. Wood - and get better soon, Mr. Glenn.

Pass-down linebackers

Kiko Alonso is out for the season, and somebody has to replace him on passing downs. Things look a bit more settled in the base defense, where Keith Rivers and Nigel Bradham currently project as starters, but someone has to emerge as the top coverage linebacker on the team, and it's probably not going to be Brandon Spikes. Who plays in the nickel and dime defenses (if we even see them tonight) will be worth monitoring.

There's also Bradham's one-game suspension to consider; that could open the door for players like Preston Brown, Stevenson Sylvester, Randell Johnson, Jimmy Gaines, or Ty Powell to see first-team work, given that one of them will need to start for at least one contest if Bradham wins the starting job. It's not even out of the question that one of those guys emerges as the top coverage linebacker on the team, with the rookie Brown the most obvious candidate there.

Receiver battle

Buffalo's starting offense is not likely to play much more than one quarter tonight, if they even get that far, and when you add in a hamstring injury for Marquise Goodwin suffered on Friday, it should open the door for the team's second wave of receivers to try to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Chris Hogan could very well see work with the ones, and has by far the most buzz heading into the exhibition opener, but T.J. Graham, Kevin Elliott and Marcus Easley are all in the mix for those fifth and sixth receiver jobs, as well. Those are the guys that will be looking for big preseason contests this year; Easley was the big beneficiary in the preseason opener a year ago, catching seven passes for 94 yards in a 44-20 drubbing of Indianapolis.

Backup quarterback

Speaking of that preseason opener a year ago in Indy, remember the stat line from Jeff Tuel? How his 19-of-23, 212-yard, two-touchdown performance made him the talk of the town for about a week, and undoubtedly played a huge role in his making the 53-man roster? This time around, Tuel is battling for the backup job with Thad Lewis, and if history repeats itself, watch out.

Each player has different strengths. Lewis won a couple of division games last season as the backup and throws the best deep ball on the team, while Tuel has the best handle on the up-tempo elements of the offensive system. If everyone at the position stays healthy, the Bills will have the luxury of time and a lot of snaps to see this competition through, but an early leg up for one of these players would be nice.

Defensive end reserves

During training camp practices, defensive ends can go full-tilt with linemen, but have to pull back if they win their one-on-ones. Due to that, it's always more interesting to watch them in full-contact games, and it's doubly interesting this season because the Bills have a bunch of no-names fighting for a roster spot at the position.

Jarius Wynn was signed to a one-year free agent contract, but Ike Igbinosun and Jacquies Smith have done some nice things at end in the practice setting, as well. The winner of this competition may not even have a role on defense, other than as a fill-in while a starter takes a blow, but roster spots are precious, and it's highly unlikely the Bills go into the season with just three ends. This is a competition worth monitoring.

Other than these things, what are you most looking forward to seeing tonight, Bills fans?