Buffalo vs. Detroit: Bills Week 4 Game Preview

Brandon Croce@@BrandonCroceAnalyst IAugust 26, 2014

Buffalo vs. Detroit: Bills Week 4 Game Preview

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    After a sluggish start against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their last game, the Buffalo Bills have one more preseason game to work out some of the kinks before the regular season. They will be taking on the Detroit Lions on Thursday night in a game that is certainly worth tuning in for. 

    This will be the Bills' fifth game this preseason, one more than 30 other teams in the league. However, it seems like the team has almost regressed as the weeks have gone on. The coaching staff is sure to use this last game not only to evaluate those players on the roster bubble but also try to get the offense jump-started a little bit with a few more reps for the starters.

    The following slides will include all fans need to know leading up to the Bills' game against the Lions at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Bills' Week 3 Recap

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    The Bills' starting offense has been anything but efficient this preseason. It took until the third preseason game against the Bucs' second-string defense for the offense to finally be able to punch one into the end zone.

    The group led by quarterback EJ Manuel was able to follow up a touchdown pass from Manuel to Mike Williams with another score, this time a run by Fred Jackson. However, being down 24 points was too much to overcome. The Bills ended up losing their second preseason game in a row by a score of 27-14.

    Prior to those touchdown drives, it was certainly frustrating for fans to watch, and they let the team know by showering down boos as the teams jogged off the field for halftime. Over the course of eight drives in the first half, the team managed only 59 yards of offense, with three of those drives ending because of turnovers.

    The best part—if there is a positive to take from this—is that it was only a preseason game. This is a time for head coach Doug Marrone to try different things and be able to correct them ahead of the games in the regular season, which are the ones that really matter. The team has one more chance in front of the home crowd to end the preseason on a high note and go into its Week 1 matchup in Chicago with some confidence.

News and Notes

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    Bills starters expected to see time against the Lions

    Matthew Fairburn of Syracuse.com tweeted that Marrone will play Manuel and some starters against the Lions Thursday night. After the performance on Saturday, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, this should be no surprise. It is a little disheartening, though, considering this will actually be the team's fifth game and how one would hope this team wouldn't be looking for reps for its starters this late in the preseason.

    The one area that needs the most work against the Lions is the offensive line, which has been jumbled a number of ways in a very short period of time. The coaching staff seems to have settled on a starting five with Cordy Glenn, Chris Williams, Eric Wood, Erik Pears and Seantrel Henderson.

    The problem is that this group has not taken a single preseason snap together and may not if Williams is forced to miss his second preseason game due to injury.

    Watkins back to full strength

    This really shouldn't be a surprise, and it has become pretty clear that Watkins probably could've played against the Bucs but was held out more for precautionary reasons. Watkins' comments after a practice last week drew the attention of Marrone when he said, via ESPN.com's Mike Rodak:

    "I'm fine, I could go out there and practice if I need to," Watkins said after Tuesday's practice. "But the thing is doing it without pain, but I could play a full game right now. It's just being safe."

    Luckily for the Bills, Watkins was back on the field Monday, according to Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550, with no limitations. I would imagine he might be one of the starters to see a few reps just to get some work with Manuel before the regular season gets underway.

Injury Report

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
    Chris WilliamsOffensive GuardBack
    Lee SmithTight EndToe
    Jonathan Meeks SafetyNeck
    Dominique JonesTight EndUndisclosed
    Bobby Felder CornerbackGroin

    According to Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550, the five players listed above missed practice on Monday, but the biggest concern has to be offensive guard Chris Williams. Last week, Williams was able to practice fully all week but was a late scratch before the Tampa Bay game.

    Coach Marrone talked about his starting guard on Tuesday and when asked about a timetable for his return, said, "I don't know. I really don't. Am I concerned? Yes. I'm not going to sit here and say I'm not concerned," according to ESPN.com's Mike Rodak.

    The good news, though, was the Bills did get back a few players on Monday with the return of wide receiver Sammy Watkins, tight end Tony Moeaki and defensive tackle Kyle Williams. The Bills will need all three back healthy but more so Watkins and Williams. Both of these players are expected to play major roles once the season starts and will have an impact on the team's success.

Position Battles to Watch and X-Factor

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    Kraig Urbik vs. Doug Legursky

    When the coaching staff decided to move Seantrel Henderson to right tackle and bumped Erik Pears inside to right guard, this forced Kraig Urbik down the depth chart. It now seems that last year's starter could be fighting for a roster spot on the 53-man roster as the preseason comes to a close.

    There are two reasons to believe Urbik may be further down the depth chart than he would've hoped: 1) With starter Chris Williams out due to injury, the team turned to rookie Cyril Richardson at left guard and not Urbik, and 2) when Urbik did enter the game last Saturday, he did so at center and not guard, which makes you wonder if the coaching staff is seeing if he can handle the duties as the team's backup center/guard.

    Brian Moorman vs. Jordan Gay

    On Monday, it was almost a certainty that Brian Moorman would be the team's punter this regular season considering they had cut his only challenger, Jake Dombrowski. That all changed on Tuesday when the Bills claimed and were awarded Jordan Gay from the Carolina Panthers, according to Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550.

    This really shouldn't be a surprise considering Moorman hasn't performed well this preseason, showing very little power on his punts. According to NFL.com, Moorman has averaged only 41.3 yards per punt, which currently ranks 33rd in the NFL. Unfortunately, Gay isn't any better with his 35.3 yards per punt average, which ranks 44th in the NFL.

    The former Panthers punter has a huge challenge ahead of him with only one game to unseat the veteran, and I don't necessarily see that happening. The bigger story, though, is that the coaching staff must have some serious concerns when it comes to this position if it feels the need to make a move this late in the preseason.

    Bills' X-Factor of the Week: Bryce Brown

    The Bills may hold back their top two running backs, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, to ensure they are fresh entering the regular season. This means that the Detroit Lions could be in store for a heavy dose of Bryce Brown.

    Over the course of four games, Brown has 26 carries for 140 yards as well as six receptions for 52 yards. If Brown is able to have a strong performance, he might earn himself a few more touches once the regular season rolls around.


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    The Buffalo Bills will enter their Thursday night matchup with the Detroit Lions with two goals in mind: 1) figure out exactly which players they want to keep on their 53-man roster and 2) try to get the offense on the right track.

    The bigger concern for fans isn't which players are 51st, 52nd and 53rd on the roster; rather, it's if the offense can show some life. It would not be a surprise to see the coaching staff open the playbook, especially with some of the starters, to try and build their confidence upon entering the regular season.

    The Lions, on the other hand, enter this game with a 2-1 record after alternating wins and losses over the first three weeks of the preseason. The only loss came on the road, and I expect this trend to continue for the Lions with the Bills wanting to win for the home crowd, especially after the disappointing performance a week ago.

    Prediction: Bills 17, Lions 13