(WGR 550) -- It's the all important third preseason game for both the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins, meaning the top players of each roster will likely get their most work in before the regular season is upon us.
Meeting for the second preseason in a row, the Bills this time travel to the nation's capital to take on a Redskins team that they have something in common with. When it comes to the face and the future of the franchise, neither club will have their man on the field Saturday.
Here are a few story lines heading into this weekend's exhibition matchup.
1) No EJ, nor RG3
- For two teams that have invested their futures into the arms and legs of a first-round quarterback, that would normally make Saturday's contest a pretty tasty game for not only fans of the two teams but for football fans in general. That won't be the case though, because both Buffalo's EJ Manuel and Washington's Robert Griffin III will miss the contest with a knee injury. In fact, not even the appealing second-year backup Kirk Cousins will be dressing for the 'Skins while he's trying to come back from an injury. With the absences, that leaves a quarterback matchup of Kevin Kolb and Jeff Tuel for the Bills against Washington's Rex Grossman and Pat White. While it isn't the sexiest of matchups, it's a great opportunity for Kolb to show both the decision-makers and fans of the team that he's got some game left. If he's able to have a great performance against the Redskins, that could really put the heat on Head Coach Doug Marrone to make his decision on starting quarterback that much harder when Manuel comes back.
2) Byrd and Bills back together
- For the first time in 2013, franchised safety Jairus Byrd is back with the team in a football capacity. Upon signing his franchise tender for $6.916 million on Tuesday night, the team then announced that Byrd had reported to team facilities and would be traveling to Washington D.C. with his teammates. Still with over two weeks to go before the regular season starts, Byrd has plenty of time to get himself up to speed with the playbook and back into football shape. Will he play against the Redskins on Saturday? Logic would indicate likely not. However, you can't rule anything completely out because he is with the team on the trip. Whatever ends up happening, the Bills are happy to have the best safety on their roster back in house.
3) Must be careful with top offensive options
- For different reasons, the Bills have to be cognizant of how much they use two of their most important players on offense. First, there is C.J. Spiller, who will likely have the biggest role of any player on the team on offense in 2013. So far he's got 63 yards on 11 carries, and that's even felt like a lot. Getting Spiller a ton of carries in the preseason should not be a priority. The only place they need him to get work is in the regular season, so maybe a 5-to-7 carry night should be in the works. The other player they must be careful with is wide receiver Stevie Johnson. Knowing how he approaches the game, the pass-catcher will likely push to get as many reps as possible on Saturday. However, hamstring injuries are a tricky thing and the Bills must be careful in not overusing him and bring about further injury. If he gets two or three series, that will probably be sufficient.
4) Who gets the nod at corner this week?
- Without any other player on the roster stepping up in his absence, it looks like Leodis McKelvin is poised to start the season as the starting cornerback opposite Stephon Gilmore. McKelvin has been working back into practice more and more over the past week and may even have a shot at getting the first-team reps against the Redskins. If he's not fully there yet, Crezdon Butler, T.J. Heath or Justin Rogers may get a shot there throughout the game.
5) Keeping up the heat
- Drawing the ire of Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier for calling blitzes that were alleged to be specific for their offense, the Buffalo Bills are just that different when it comes to defensive philosophy as to how they were a season ago. You won't see many four-man rushes from them because blitzing and pressure is the norm in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's world. It's fair to assume that you'll see the pressure stay consistent against the Redskins, and they'll likely look good against third-string quarterback Rex Grossman. It's a new approach and they need to get those reps in the game before the regular season rolls around.
Bills Injuries OUT: QB EJ Manuel, OLB Kourtnei Brown