The Buffalo Bills kicked off training camp two weeks ago, have gone through eleven practices, and now sit at the precipice of their first competition that aren't bedecked in red, white and blue.
The pads go on, the hitting goes live, and depth players will fight for their lives when the Bills take on the Washington Redskins in the first pre season game Thursday night.
What are some of the key things to look for? Let's take a gander:
1) Backup QB competition takes center-stage
- While Ryan Fitzpatrick and the first-team offense will get the first series or two -- Chan Gailey said around 15-to-18 plays, the rest of the contest will be for Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen to duke it out for the first of their four-part battle. Talking with quarterbacks coach David Lee, leading up to the game, you get the sense Young and Thigpen are in the same spot as many others that have watched practices throughout training camp. The pair have had some good days, and some really not so good days. For them, it's now a matter of who looks the best in a game setting. While the winner of round one likely won't separate themselves from the other just yet, he will get a considerable leg up in the competition.
2) The depth of the D-Line
- It's the first time fans will be able to see Mario Williams in full pads encapsulated by a Buffalo Bills uniform. Williams headlines a defensive line rotation that goes eight-deep with one-time (at least) starters. Mario, Mark Anderson, Shawne Merriman and Chris Kelsay at defensive end, with Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Spencer Johnson and Dwan Edwards at defensive tackle. Keeping players along the defensive line will be essential as the season wears on, and this will be the first time to see how the Bills may want to utilize that rotation. They won't reveal all their tricks, but seeing different packages with all kinds of personnel groupings seems within the realm of possibilities.
3) Left tackle evaluation
- Heading in to training camp, this was the biggest battle for a starting position on the team. Due to injuries along the offensive line, the battle has lost its luster a bit. However, when Cordy Glenn gets on the field, he'll face the likes of Brian Orakpo, providing a true litmus test of where Glenn is as a player right now. Orakpo, one of the league's better pass rushers, has had a frustrating camp against left tackle Trent Williams. Reports out of Washington indicate that Williams has really turned a corner, allowing minimal opportunities to Orakpo. Glenn will have all he can handle in his first taste of the NFL. Chris Hairston will likely get some first-team reps at right tackle, and then shift over to left tackle as the game goes on.
4) Stephon Gilmore's debut
- It's not often that you see a rookie cornerback named a starter from the first day, but Gilmore has done it and has run away with the opportunity. He'll be up against either Santana Moss or Pierre Garcon as the starting right cornerback for the Bills. At times during camp, Gilmore has seemed like the player with the experience, rather than Aaron Williams, the starting left cornerback, who has struggled to stay consistent. Gilmore will be up against a pair of shifty receivers in Moss and Garcon. He'll need to bring the physicality that he's displayed throughout camp.
5) Wide receivers aiming to make an impression
- It seems four players in the wide receiver meetings are safe to make the 53-man roster this year. Stevie Johnson, David Nelson, Donald Jones and T.J. Graham all look like locks for the team. After them, there is Derek Hagan, who looks to be in the good graces of the coaching staff at this point, and then Marcus Easley, Ruvell Martin, Naaman Roosevelt, David Clowney, Kamar Aiken and Derek Session battling it out for, at most, two roster spots. That group of seven players are likely to see a lot of playing time against Washington, with plenty of chances to prove themselves to the coaching staff in a game setting. I think it's an especially big chance for Marcus Easley. He needs to separate himself from the rest of the pack.
- RG3 in the NFL for the VFT (very first time)
- Buffalo-native, St. Francis grad and Redskins' third-teamer Doug Worthington on display
- SLB Battle: Moats vs. Morrison - Round 1
The game is blacked out on television Thursday night, but you can hear play-by-play coverage on WGR Sports Radio 550. John Murphy, Mark Kelso and yours truly will be on the call.
The game will be aired in Buffalo on WKBW (Channel 7) Friday, August 10 at 8 pm.