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Bills vs. Bears kick off the Preseason tonight

August 13, 2011
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Football is back!  It is just the preseason, a game in which both teams starters will be lucky to make it 8 minutes into the game, but football is football.  This game still has me interested in quite a few different aspects of the team.  It will be nice to see how the teams offense and defense fare against a different unit.  So far in training camp, the Bills defense has been the superior group.  Tonight, we begin to figure out whether this retooled defense is actually good, or if our offense is just offensive.

It's your chance to shine, Don

One of the main things I will be watching early on tonight, is Shawne Merriman.  He will not get many reps tonight, but this will be our first real chance to see how much explosiveness he has regained after his injury issues.  Will he help the Bills become a team with a respectable pass rush?  Or is he just another player who’s play-making days are behind him and will only be a mediocre starter at best (Takeo Spikes).

Another big story tonight will be the state of Buffalo’s wide receiving corps.  With Lee Evans now gone, someone new has a prime opportunity to become a star receiver in the NFL.  Donald Jones has been named the #2 receiver tonight, while David Nelson will line up in the slot.  This is the lineup I feel will last throughout the preseason and into the regular season.  I feel Jones will surprise a lot of people this year and put up some big numbers this year.  In his rookie campaign last year, Jones caught 18 passes for 213 yards and scored a touchdown in 15 games.  Jones was a secondary option last year, and didn’t get much of a chance at all until the injury that shelved Roscoe Parrish midway through 2010.  If Jones gets put in a position where he gets 5+ throws his way every game, he could be a fantasy steal.

Parrish is another solid option for Gailey, once he returns from his injury.  I’d rather see him roam around in the slot myself.  He seems to fit Gailey’s system very well, and was one 0f Ryan Fitzpatricks go-to guys last year.   With more depth around him (even with Evans gone), he should be able to find space more easily and could have a solid year.  Naaman Roosevelt is probably the player who benefits most from the Evans trade.  He played well last year as a late season step-in, but might have had trouble making the team had Evans remained a Bill.  Roosevelt is a player who runs good routes and has great hands, which is always something I love to see on the Bills.

Will the offensive line hold its ground?  The one place on the team that arguably needed upgrading the most, didn’t see any improvement.  While the left side of the line (Bell, Levitre, Wood) should be ok, I am concerned about what Kraig Urbik and Erik Pears may allow by them.   With a weakness spanning more than one position on the line, I would expect teams to bring a lot of pressure from the right side, creating havoc in the pocket.

Finally, assuming he gets some extended playing time from the rest of the starters, I will keep an eye on CJ Spiller.  Spiller had a rough rookie campaign, and is looking to show to Bills fans that he was worth a top 10 pick.  I would like to see Spiller have some patience on outside runs tonight and not just look to outrace people to the corners.  Hopefully the Bills have given him all the Chris Johnson tape he can handle, and the Clemson man shows what he can do tonight.

While it is just the first preseason game, I can’t wait for it to start.   It’s a fresh start for 32 teams, and even in years where things don’t look promising…..anything can happen in the NFL.  It is the league of parody, and there should always be room for hope.  A good game tonight would do wonders for the psyche of the fan base, and it might even get me a little excited for the season forthcoming.

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