The Detroit Lions preseason is set to conclude with tonight’s game against the Buffalo Bills. It will be good to get on with meaningful games but this fourth preseason game will be meaningful for players that are currently on the roster bubble.
I got together with Brad Andrews, editor at BuffaLowDown, to get a closer look at what is going on with the Buffalo Bills. My thanks to Brad for taking the time to answer my questions.
1. What have you seen from Mario Williams so far? Can he live up to his monster contract?
Brad Andrews: Let’s be realisitic – Mario will have to average 20 sacks a year to live up to his enormous salary. Did the Bills overpay him? Of course they did. But you have to overpay to get guys like that to come to Buffalo. If he helps this D-line generate some consistent pressure – something the Bills have totally failed at the past few seasons – he will be worth it. In limited pre-season work, results have been encouraging so far.
2. What position battles are still going on that we should look for during the game?
BA: Besides QB, which we’ll talk about later, there’s just a few spots still open. The starters seem to be more or less settled. It’s basically just a scramble for roster spots now. Veteran Kirk Morrison is trying to hold off Scott McKillop for a backup linebacker role. At WR, journeyman Derek Hagan seems to have the edge for a spot for Marcus Easley and Naaman Roosevelt, but they’ll all get time Thursday to prove themselves. On the defensive line, Jarron Gilbert is battling Robert Eddins, Kellen Heard, and Alex Carrington for the final spot in that rotation. Another guy to watch is safety Delano Howell, an undrafted rookie from Stanford who has come out of nowhere to challenge for a roster spot.
3. Does the release of Vince Young and trade for Tarvaris Jackson settle the Bills’ quarterback depth or is there still some shuffling to figure out?
BA: Jackson will play against the Lions, and unless he is a complete, unmitigated disaster he will open the season as Ryan Fitzpatrick’s backup. Tyler Thigpen is still on the roster as insurance, but he’s likely gone after this game. Brad Smith will serve as the third QB/wildcat runner/gadget player.
4. What do the Bills need to do to compete for an AFC playoff berth? Anything that would be evident on Thursday night?
BA: Three big things – Ryan Fitzpatrick has to play well, there needs to be a pass rush, and the Bills have to stay somewhat healthy. If those things happen, the Bills will be in good shape to contend. Fitz has not looked good this preseason, which is a bit concerning. The defensive line has been strong though. We all know about the Mario Williams and Mark Anderson signings, but the real heroes on this line could be tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. Kyle Williams might be the league’s most underrated defensive player. He’s a monster. His explosiveness and motor make him a nightmare for interior offensive linemen everywhere. As far as health, the Bills are shockingly very healthy right now, thank goodness. This team is still not very deep, and a few injuries to the right people would be a disaster (as we saw last season).
5. Are the Bills ready for the regular season?
BA: Excellent question. The three preseason games have been ugly, but Buffalo’s starters did look decent last week against an always-strong Steelers team. Fitzpatrick’s struggles are a big worry, though. On the bright side, if there is a team that has looked worse in the preseason than the Bills, it’s Buffalo’s Week 1 opponents: the New York Jets.