Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550) -- With the sound of the final whistle at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Thursday night, the preseason was mercifully brought to a close for the Buffalo Bills and the Detroit Lions. That's not a reflection of the teams themselves, but more of the concept of the preseason finale on the whole.
Jobs were on the line and perhaps jobs were claimed when it all came to a conclusion just past 10 pm in Orchard Park. Unlike the other reaction pieces throughout the regular season that are reserved for more of an overall look at the game that was, this time around we'll take a look at who helped themselves and the players that hurt their chances.
QB Thad Lewis
- In the battle between the 72-hour quarterbacks, Thad Lewis came out clearly ahead. While he didn't show an incredibly accurate arm, he was still able to move the ball down the field and likely sealed his fate with a likely roster spot by connecting with Marcus Easley on a 79-yard touchdown pass. It's also the threat to run the read-option that will likely separate the former Lions player even farther away from Matt Leinart. Lewis was the afterthought at the beginning of the week between himself and his well-known competition, but in the end he's likely to be the last one standing.
CB Crezdon Butler
- He wasn't perfect throughout the game, but he was in a competition for the sixth and likely final roster spot at cornerback with T.J. Heath. Both players started on the outside through the entire game and Butler came away as the man who made the least amount of mistakes. At this point, the Bills just need another body in at the cornerback position with Gilmore's injury. While he didn't do nearly enough to win the starting job for Week One, he likely did enough to secure a roster spot.
WR Marcus Easley
- For the second straight year wide receiver Marcus Easley made a huge play in the final preseason game that made some wonder whether he would in fact sneak on to the 53-man roster. In 2012, Easley returned a kickoff for a touchdown and some had the thought that the Bills wouldn't be able to sneak him on the practice squad after flashing in that way. They cut him and got him on the practice squad anyway. In 2013, Easley made a special teams tackle on a punt and also was the recipient of Thad Lewis' 79-yard touchdown pass. At this point, Easley still might be the odd-man out in the wide receiver group. However, Brad Smith's injury certainly puts a bit of an interesting spin on things and could breathe new life into Easley's chances.
LB Marcus Dowtin
- One of the more roster-secure players in action on Thursday, Dowtin ripped away any lingering thoughts of him being released by having an outstanding defensive performance. In his limited time on the field Dowtin showed the explosiveness that makes him a favorite of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, resulting in three tackles. He also brought in a tipped pass for an interception to force a turnover early in the game before everything went awry for the Bills. He should be firmly on the roster.
OG/C Antoine Caldwell
- It's not anything Caldwell did on the field, it's an injury that occurred that greatly improved his chances of making the team outright. In the second half guard/center Doug Legursky went down with a knee injury and had to be carted off the field. He was seen in the locker room after the game with an air cast on his left leg, likely hurting his chances for the regular season. That means the former Alabama product will have a shot at making the roster outright. Those looking for a swing interior player might just have one in Caldwell, due to him playing center in college. He's shown better than both David Snow and Zack Chibane throughout camp and preseason.
Hurt their chances
QB Matt Leinart
- It's likely to be an abrupt ending for Matt Leinart's career with the Buffalo Bills. Signed on Monday, an abysmal performance on Thursday will likely lead to his release from the roster before the weekend is through. Leinart looked like he hasn't been with a team for quite some time, and it's had to blame him for that. In a production industry however, a 3-for-10, 11 yard and two interception audition will earn you a one-way ticket out the door pretty quickly. It would have been a nice story, but he was pulled before his allotted time was even up and now his story likely comes to a close.
CB T.J. Heath
- Picked on early and often by the Detroit Lions quarterbacks and wide receivers, T.J. Heath was burned down the sideline repeatedly and even took a face mask penalty in the game. He was auditioning not only for a roster spot, but for the job to start in place of Stephon Gilmore while the second-year player is out. That seems like it's completely out of the question now that he was beat so soundly by Detroit's second and third-team wideouts. The bigger concern is if he makes the roster entirely. He's probably on the outside looking in.
OT Zebrie Sanders
- With a chance to grab the reigns on the third offensive tackle spot on the table during training camp, Zebrie Sanders performed at a low level which earned him third-team reps throughout the majority of summer. The former fifth-round pick likely had one last chance to prove himself against the Lions, but he was beaten by his assignment throughout the game including a sack given up to Willie Young. Sanders may be a practice squad type, but it's doubtful that he'll be among the top 53.
DL Torell Troup
- Speaking of another disappointing draft pick, Torell Troup needed a huge performance against the Lions to try and get back in the conversation. He's been a distant fourth in the race for the final two defensive line spots. Even Izaan Cross outperformed Troup on Thursday which means it's likely one of Buddy Nix's first selections will be all for naught. You feel bad for him because how hard he's worked to come from an injury that could have taken his career, but at the end of the day Troup just couldn't cut it at this training camp.
WR Brandon Kaufman
- On the outside looking in heading into the night, a pair of injuries to the wide receiver group gave Brandon Kaufman a ton of time on the field and he just was a non-factor. He's got a lean frame and you'd have to wonder if maybe the Bills would try to get him on the practice squad with the effort to put some weight on him and increase his strength. He's just not effective enough on special teams or on offense to warrant one of the final receiver spots on the roster and didn't show anything special on Thursday.
We'll all find out what exactly the Bills are thinking by Saturday at 6 pm, but with an off day on the deadline, the team could have their roster set way before that. The one thing for sure is that the Bills that are firmly on the bubble will be sweating it out when they go in to work on Friday.