One week from tomorrow the Buffalo Bills will open up the exhibition games portion of their 2010 schedule when they travel to Washington to face the Redskins on Friday night, August 13th. Six days later, they travel up to Toronto for the one exhibition game they scheduled in Canada, when they take on the Indianapolis Colts. So two weeks from today, they will be halfway through their preseason schedule.
Out of curiosity, is this the final year we will witness the four exhibition games schedule in the NFL? There has been growing amount of consideration being placed on taking two preseason games away from the schedule and turning them in to regular season games. This issue will be a key negotiation point in the NFLPA labor talks.
With very little time left to change the roster or the talent level of the team, how is this year's version of the Bills starting to look like? One week of training camp is in the books, so we can start drawing some early conclusions from the feedback coming out of training camp at St. Johns Fisher College.
Keep in mind that the Bills have the rest of August before they have to trim the roster from 80 players down to 75. Shortly after that, the grim reaper shows his hand on September 4th when they make the big cut from 75 down to the final 53 man roster.
From a news standpoint, we now know that Aaron Schobel will no longer be part of the team. The Bills have officially released Aaron, along with his big contract, to allow him to work out a deal with the Houston Texans. That big contract was ultimately the reason that no trade was able to be worked out, so the Bills did the right thing in releasing Schobel.
This was a classy move by the Bills organization, and should ensure that whenever Schobel ultimately retires, it would be as a member of the Buffalo Bills, even if it is the result of a one-day-only-contract.
We also know that C.J. Spiller continues to hold out, and hope that a NFL contract might be one of his birthday presents. C.J. turns 23 years old today, so inking a new deal would be a great way to celebrate his birthday. If he expects to get any kind of meaningful work in the exhibition opener, he needs to get in to camp ASAP.
Some things never change, and the first week of camp has resulted in the injury bug, that hovered over the 2009 Bills team like a dark cloud, has reared its ugly head again. In consecutive days, the Bills lost tackle Ed Wang and then linebacker Danny Batten to injuries. There is no word yet how long both will officially be out or if they will be placed on I.R. Wang suffered a broken hand and Batten has a shoulder issue.
Taking a Look at The Bills Offense For First Exhibition Game
There was precious little depth to begin with on the offensive line, so losing Wang places the Bills in an awkward spot. They are trying to ease Demetrius Bell back in to full contact, but they may be forced to use him more than they initially wanted to. As it is, the Bills are rotating Jamon Meredith between the two tackle spots held by Bell and Cornell Green.
After that the cupboard is bare at the tackle slot, regarding a proven commodity. The Bills have been using Kirk Chambers and Kyle Calloway at the guard position, so one of them might need to be kicked out to tackle. Expect to hear the names of new Bills linemen like Sean Allen, Calloway, Christian Gaddis, Nick Hennessey, Jason Watkins, Cordaro Howard and Andre Ramsey getting in some work in the second half.
No matter how you slice it, expect the Bills quarterbacks to be executing pass plays via play action passes, rolling out of the pocket or running for their collective lives in Washington.
While we await further details about how long Wang will be out, it does bring in to question why Buddy Nix did not bring in more veteran tackles to camp outside of Cornell Green. That may turn out to be Buddy's biggest mistake or miscalculation as a rookie GM.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Trent Edwards appears to be ready to be entrenched as the Bills starter for the first preseason game, and I expect that he will continue to hold down that role coming in to the regular season. Edwards appears to have matured and with everything that he has been through, appears eager and ready to lead the team once more.
Unless Edwards gets hurt, (and that is always a possibility), is completely outplayed or has a terrible preseason he will continue to be the Bills starting QB. It appears that Brian Brohm and Ryan Fitzpatrick are relegated to fighting it out for the backup role and clipboard duties.
If the Bills get off to a miserable start, that is one other reason that a QB change could occur, so neither of them should get overly comfortable wearing the baseball hat on the sidelines.
If Levi Brown impresses in his preseason opportunities, he might influence the Bills to waive the loser of the Fitzpatrick versus Brohm battle for backup QB. Brown could always be placed on the practice squad, but there are no assurances that another team could come in and sign him away, just like the Bills did to Green Bay last year with Brian Brohm and Jamon Meredith.
Expect to see Fred Jackson running the ball to start out, with Marshawn Lynch and C.J. Spiller splitting the majority of carries whenever Jackson is pulled, assuming that Spiller has signed his deal.
The third and fourth quarter should feature appearances from Joique Bell and Chad Simpson trying to make an impression. Simpson may make the Bills due to his kick off return skills.
The one position that has basically created the least amount of coverage in training camp is fullback where Rodney Ferguson and Corey McIntyre are trying to carve out a roster spot. Is a full back truly needed, or will the Bills shift one of the tight ends, like Michael Matthews or Derek Schouman in to a H-Back type of role?
The many questions surrounding the wide receivers corps are starting to gain some clarity. Expect to see Lee Evans and Steve Johnson lining up on the outside, with Roscoe Parrish in the slot. When a four receiver set is called for, Chad Jackson has now stepped up to initially lay claim to that role.
Further down the depth chart are the likes of David Nelson, Marcus Easley and Felton Huggins. All of them should see action in the first exhibition game, and it appears that Nelson has been a surprise so far with his play in camp.
Even further down are James Hardy, Naaman Roosevelt and Donald Jones. Hardy needs to make an impression in the exhibition games, or he could be on the outside looking in, trying to find a new home. As badly as Bills fans want to see Naaman Roosevelt make the team, it may be as a practice squad member initially, and then moving up if an injury hits the receiver corps.
We haven't heard much yet who the Bills are employing as gunners on special teams, but I would suspect that some of these roster bubble wide receivers will be in the mix for that function.
The tight ends currently are a quartet that might be reduced to a trio. Shawn Nelson is locked in as starter and seeking to make a bigger impression this season. Derek Schouman is a lock as well in my opinion.
The final tight end battle comes down to Michael Matthews versus Jonathan Stupar. Matthews is the better blocker and Gailey's past experience in working with him may be the ultimate factor in that decision.
We will take a closer look at the defense with the next primer article.