10 Things to Watch in the Buffalo Bills Preseason Finale
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Before touching on the entertainment value (zero) of watching the NFL preseason game No. 4, it might be useful to contemplate the week that was for the Bills at the quarterback position, which every good viewer of NFL and ESPN talk shows will readily tell you, IS THE MOST IMPORTANT POSITION IN SPORTS, EVER, IN THE HISTORY OF SPORTS.
Here's the timeline:
The Buffalo Bills announce that Vince Young will play significant minutes ahead of last year's No. 2 QB Tyler Thigpen, all but assuring the universe that Vince Young had won the backup job. The Bills' expert beat reporter for the Buffalo News,Tim Graham, wrote that Young had a "rear naked choke on the backup gig."
Coach Chan Gailey goes on record saying he's committed to having gadget QB/WR Brad Smith as the team's third-string quarterback, all but assuring, in combination with development No. 1, that Tyler Thigpen would be sent packing to the pigpen.
Ryan Fitzpatrick comes out against the Steelers and proves the he's Ryan Fitzpatrick: brilliant, erratic, dangerous, inaccurate. Fitzpatrick had two passes that were batted down by the Pittsburgh defensive line and faced a steady diet of five-man blitzes that threw him off-rhythm and gave the Bills' 2012 opponents a snapshot of a gameplan.
Vince Young, who was mediocre in his first go in preseason game No. 1 and slightly better in game No. 2, came out and threw an awful interception (that could have easily been returned for a pick six), and never looked back. VY's second pick, a bizarre carbon copy of his first, was returned down the sideline to the Bills' 8-yard-line.
With about two weeks until the Bills open their season in New York against those blustery Jets, Bills GM Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey both separately tell reporters they have no idea whether they might have to carry four quarterbacks on the roster into the season, as the Bills may need Thigpen until Jackson is settled in.
So going into the last preseason game, it should be no wonder that the quarterback position will be one of intense scrutiny.
Not that that alone will make the game any more watchable. The No. 1 units will play about five minutes until giving way to the 20 or so players at the bottom of their rosters while the announcers on TV blather on about the intricacies of hobby rockets.
The only possible entertainment one might derive from this game is forming a drinking game around the events for 1) when a replacement official makes a dumb call, 2) when an announcer gets a guy's name wrong, 3) whenever you can't remember what down they're on, and 4) whenever they show a really good football player (like Mario Williams or Calvin Johnson) after the first quarter who is standing on the sidelines smiling, without any potential of actually playing because, you know, it's preseason.
Feel free to add more ideas in the comments.
Tarvaris Jackson: He Got Game?
Tarvaris Jackson when he wore that hideous uniform.
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The first thing to watch for is the team's newest member (am I the only one who wonders if players get confused about whatever jersey they suddenly find themselves in when they're traded around like this, and what their allegiances actually are?), Tarvaris Jackson. He'll be bravely attempting to redefine the mojo of Losman's jersey number, the glorious SEVEN.
But how much of the field will Tar-Jax (am I allowed to call him that yet?) actually see is the big question, and that's why it's the No. 1 thing to watch, duh!
Tar-Jax will have all of two practices under his belt as a Bill, so it's hard to imagine he'll be ready to run Gailey's spread offense efficiently. Let's hope reserve tailback Zach Brown is still on the team by then; he's gonna see some action.
Many Bills' fans probably haven't see much of Tarvaris Jackson in action, and will probably be most eager to get a glimpse of his potential as a Bill, because everyone kinda knows this is Fitzpatrick's make-or-break year, and that year might not last all 16 games.
In sports, stranger things always happen.
Will Thigpen Just Decide to Quit?
Tyler Thigpen has become the awkward teammate.
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We never expect these kinds of things in sports, but I for one, would love to see Thigpen just quit and cut himself so the team doesn't have the pleasure to do so after they use him up for this last mop-up preseason game in Detroit. I'm sure Thigpen's got better things to do, right?
I mean, is there any chance at all this guy makes the team? It's unfair, but the only reason Thigpen's still on the team is because the Bills need a body to take snaps against the Lions.
The eternal optimist guy sees this as an opportunity for a guy on the cusp of falling out of the league entirely to salvage something on film to prove other teams of his worth.
The Bills apocalypse guy sees it as a chance for an epic suck.
Can Fitzpatrick Muster Some Positive Momentum?
Ryan Fitzpatrick giving himself two thumbs up
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We all know Ryan Fitzpatrick will probably see somewhere around 10 snaps, but it would do Bills' fans a world of comfort to see Fitzpatrick absolutely kill those 10 snaps. And that means he needs to be accurate and in rhythm with his receivers.
This is all wishful thinking, because the Bills probably won't game-plan much, and that won't bode well for Fitzpatrick's accuracy, if the Pittsburgh game is any indicator.
Bills' fans really want to like Fitzpatrick, and they respect him for the confidence and poise that had been missing from their quarterback position since Drew Bledsoe departed, but he has a lot to prove in this upcoming season, and his preseason performance is the dark cloud starting to form over One Bills Drive.
Brad Smith, the Wildcard Wildcat
Brad "Dont' Call me a Receiver" Smith
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The Bills made a point of having Smith workout with the quarterbacks through training camp, in effort to beef up his passing ability.
But let's face it, the guy is not anything above an emergency quarterback and the Bills would be in serious trouble if he was their only option during a game because of injury.
Will he figure prominently in Thursday night's game? On the surface, with Thigpen already a living ghost of the Bills' past and Jackson so new to the team, maybe Smith sees more than a single series.
Who knows, but for my money, it's always at least mildly entertaining to watch a guy who's not a quarterback get a snap and try to act like one. Let's call it the Tebow effect (I did that to see if Tebow can boost my Google ratings).
The No. 5 Receiver Spot
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Don't bet on the Bills keeping more than five receivers, so this is probably the only interesting position battle remaining at the moment for the real football junkies (unless you're anxiously watching the Eddins-Gilbert-Heard battle). So if you're out there, you probably know everything there is to know about these guys.
None of 'em are great, but Derek Hagan appears to be most complete player of the lot. Naaman Roosevelt has probably the most heart, but I admit I'm partial to his Buffalo roots.
For the junkies, have at it. For everyone else, the WR battle is something to keep in the back of your mind if you're even paying attention to route-running and yards-after-catch potential deep into this game, which I'm guessing you won't be.
Can the Reserve Defense Stop Anybody?
That's Scott McKillop, poster boy for this post.
Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE
Remember those guys that the Steelers' and Vikings' backups torched in the second half of their games against the Bills? Those guys were the Bills reserve defenders. Guys like Robert Eddins, Jarron Gilbert, Kellen Heard, Justin Rogers, Ron Brooks, Delano Howell, Tank Carder and Nigel Bradham.
While a good portion of the defensive units in question will be cut in the coming days, at least half of these guys will be on the opening roster. We're looking at a bottom half of the defense that completely bottoms out.
They're young and inexperienced down there, but so is every team. Let's see if they can hold off whatever depth Detroit will muster with their reserve offense, if there's nothing else on TV, of course.
Alex Carrington: The Man, the Myth, the Mystery
Things appear dim for Carrington's NFL future
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At 6'5'' and 300 pounds, Alex Carrington is gargantuan-sized living reminder of Nix's beleaguered inaugural draft class.
If Alex Carrington is cut, and at this point it seems this is a foregone conclusion, the team will have only two players on the opening day roster from the 2010 draft class: C.J. Spiller and Arthur Moats.
Carrington appears headed down the hallowed halls of Bills' draft busts, to take his place alongside other second-tier busts like James Hardy, Shawn Nelson and Chris Ellis.
So look for No. 92 in this game; it should be your last glimpse of him in a Buffalo uniform.
Kicker John Potter's Moon Shots
He's got leg, and he knows how to use it
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
We can all agree that kicking the ball out of the end zone is boring, but can we also agree it's cool to watch John Potter absolutely crush the ball EVERY single time!
The guy's perfect (unofficial) this preseason in kicking out of the end zone for a touchback. It's hard to imagine the Bills scoring much, it being the game that it is, but enjoy the thing for itself; this kid's got a leg.
Can Punter Brian Moorman Continue His Torrid Preseason?
Even now he might be the best player on the team by position
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Can anyone honestly claim there is a Bill on the roster having a better preseason than Brian Moorman? As much as it sucks that your best player is the punter, it doesn't mean the punter doesn't deserve props.
Moorman is killing it, especially inside the 10-yard line this preseason with precisely placed kicks that seem like they're being guided by aliens with computers to land, bounce, and roll perfectly.
And here's the bonus: this game should have plenty of punts.
Can Anyone Really Watch This Game?
Everyone loves preseason football
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Please comment if you manage to sit through the entire game. Describe in detail what you ate, if the drinking game helped, or hurt, and contemplate what kind of material Mitt Romney's suits are made of vs. Barack Obama's.
The Bills and Lions do this every year, and thankfully for Bills' season-ticket holders, this one's on their dime. It's the Battle of Lake Erie, y'all, time to scratch that itch!