You all know by this point how I feel about the opener to our 2010 exhibition season after last week’s article (Actually, more of you than ever before – we set a FTRP record for both site traffic and unique readers for that last post, and for that I thank you all). There’s no point mincing words or explaining this any further – here’s the five main things I’ll be keeping an eye out for Thursday night:
5 – Special Teams.
I am curious to see if Special Teams Coordinator Bruce DeHaven was able to do his part in molding his young staff into a slightly more aware group of kids over the past week. Mistakes were made, bad angles were taken, wrong blockers were engaged. The result? A sloppy looking corps of gunners and blockers on both sides of the special teams spectrum. Admittedly, it is difficult for a player who has covered little to no kick and punt duty in their football career to just step in and gel with everyone else. It takes time, and the fact that we don’t have the outstanding Bobby April or his personal crew of one-dimensional players out there anymore will definitely take some getting used to for us all. I don’t need to see amazing things out of these guys, just a halfway decent performance that looks to be an improvement over last week’s follies. We have two of the most reliable specialists in the game and a stable of solid returners, it’s on the rest of DeHaven’s boys to help them out and make this a top squad in the league again.
4 – Linebacker play.
With Posluszny and Kelsay seeing some action this week, the true depth at the linebacking positions will be seen early on. The first unit is as of now comprised of the two aforementioned, as well as Andra Davis on the inside and, per the depth chart on the team’s website, Reggie Torbor on the outside. That looks to have gotten a change, as starting during the Monday night practice, Torbor was working with the second team as an inside linebacker alongside Kawika Mitchell. That leads me to believe that Aaron Maybin has earned, for now, the starting OLB job back. UDFA Antonio Coleman has been moved up to second team OLB to work with Mitchell, Torbor, and Chris Ellis, and 6th round choice Arthur Moats (who played terribly on Friday) has been moved down to third string ILB. I’m very curious to see how this all settles in the end – Torbor is a much better fit on the inside and I’d really like to see Maybin succeed, if for nothing else than return-on-investment. I think we have good talent and potential at all four linebacker spots, it’s just about finding where everyone settles and plays best in Defensive Coordinator George Edwards’ scheme.
3 – How well the actual starting offensive line plays.
A lot of people harped on the blocking last week, especially with the first team. Most of those folks failed to realize that the only starters that even played were Andy Levitre, Geoff Hangartner, and Cornell Green. Bell and Wood didn’t even travel to the game. Gailey has said that they both should get in the game Thursday for a decent amount of time. The Colts have a good pass rush in both their first and second squads, and how our legitimate first and second string offensive line handles them will say a good bit about what we can expect this year. I can tell you from seeing him at St. John Fisher this summer, Eric Wood looks like a stud. He’s clearly recovered from his horrific leg injury that cut his rookie campaign short and is incredibly quick and powerful with his hands in his first step. How he handles a true game situation should be interesting. It is noteworthy that he’ll be lining up against Daniel Muir, not exactly the cream of the crop at defensive tackle. However, he’s still a starter in this league and should provide something of a benchmark for our expectations early on with Eric and the rest of the offensive line.
2 – The run game.
The big thing that a lot of Bills fans have been focusing on heading into this season is the line of thought that, if we don’t have solid quarterback play, at least we have a stellar rushing attack. In week one of the preseason, that held true, as we had a daunting 8.1 YPC average as a team, with Chad Simpson carrying for 67 yards, Joique Bell for 52, CJ Spiller with 16, and Fred Jackson gaining 11 yards on the ground. With Jackson now out for the foreseeable future and Lynch likely to not suit up for a few more weeks, it’ll be a good indication that we may be okay if these kids still produce on the ground for us in week two. Recently signed tailback Andre Anderson, a UDFA from Tulane who was overlooked multiple times by all 32 teams this year, will likely see some spot duty late, but expect the majority of this game to be Joique Bell’s personal audition for the team. Spiller will get the start and, because of that, will likely be out of the game after the second offensive series. If he and, to a greater extent, Simpson can put up solid numbers again, then it may be indicative of a system in which most any runningback can be successful – not a bad situation to have. Keep an eye out for Simpson, however – don’t let last week’s showing fool you, he’s very fumble prone and when faced by a solid tackler he may be more of a liability than playmaker, as he seemed to be in DC.
1 – Brian Brohm.
I’ve been saying all along that (besides rookie Levi Brown), number four has looked to be the most legitimate NFL caliber quarterback that we have on our roster in terms of build, mechanics, and poise. Edwards will open the game, likely play two full series, then give way to Brian as he did with Fitzpatrick on Friday. Brohm should play straight through to the early fourth quarter, when Brown will get his snaps once again against the Colts’ camp fodder. This is a pivotal game for Brohm, as this race for starting quarterback is, in effect, only a couple of weeks from coming to a decision. If he wants to make headway and pass not only Fitzpatrick, but Edwards as well, he needs to make the most of this opportunity. Considering how poorly Fitzpatrick played last week, it’s not going to be hard to supplant him, but Brian really needs to take charge – show that this is his team to have a chance to start against Cincinnati or Detroit, as well as further down the road and into the regular season. I am one-hundred percent pulling for this kid to win the starting job, so you better believe I will be all over his every snap come Thursday night.
I’ll obviously be paying attention to and reporting back with more than this, but these are my primary targets and concerns. The game kicks off from the Rogers Centre at 7:30 PM Eastern time, so try to enjoy the game and head back here afterward to see what I saw throughout. Until then – thanks for reading, subscribing, and spreading the word. Enjoy your week and stay tuned.