The Buffalo Bills are about to journey into the two biggest games of their preseason schedule, mainly because this will be the time where their starting players have the most time on the field. The Bills will be up against the New York Giants for their second preseason game of 2016, and it will be the first time playing in their home stadium with the name New Era Field on the front door.
It will also be a big night for some of the second and third-string players to try and make the roster, or at the very least, to position themselves for a bigger opportunity in practice over the final two weeks.
Five things to watch when the Bills take on the Giants on Saturday night, which you can watch exclusively on 7ABC in Buffalo:
1) More time for Tyrod, starters
- Tyrod Taylor didn’t get much of a chance to play in the team’s first preseason game against Indianapolis — and for good reason. However, now the Bills are starting to get closer to the point where they need to be totally on the same page for the start of the regular season, and the upcoming game is a big tune-up for them in that respect. Taylor, according to head coach Rex Ryan, will not only get more time on the field, but he might play into the second quarter of this game. The same goes for the rest of the offensive and defensive starters that will be available to them in the game, which will not include the left side of the offensive line. Left tackle Cordy Glenn (ankle) and left guard Richie Incognito (ribs) will not play in the game, and the same goes for safety Aaron Williams (concussion). However, for getting into different game situations and getting several series to operate, the starters will get themselves ready for next week’s dress rehearsal with more reps on Saturday.
2) A little bit of Sammy?
- While Rex Ryan didn’t commit to it fully, it seems like there’s at least a strong chance that the Bills are thinking about giving Sammy Watkins his 2016 debut. Watkins, who came back from offseason foot surgery about halfway through training camp, has been steadily doing more at practices — while getting some rest days mixed in, too. The Bills head coach said that he’s considering playing Watkins against the Giants, but said it might only be for one series — just enough to get his feet wet. However, the Bills should not play with fire. They need him in the regular season, so perhaps just throwing him a short-to-intermediate route outside the numbers will be just enough to get him back in tune with a game-like situation. Under no circumstances should they put him at risk for a big hit over the middle of the field in a preseason game — much like what happened to him in his rookie season.
3) Kouandjio making strides in practice, but how about a game?
- Since Cordy Glenn injured his ankle at the team’s scrimmage, third-year player Cyrus Kouandjio has been taking all the first-team reps at left tackle, and he’s actually shown some nice things with the extended time at that spot on the line. On Saturday, he’ll have an extended opportunity to go up against the Giants’ first-team defensive line, which will show just how far he has come. In practice, he’s been going up against the likes of Manny Lawson, Lorenzo Alexander, and others, but it’s always been a bit more of a controlled environment. With the re-worked Giants defensive line, Kouandjio will have a great opportunity to show off the progress that Bills GM Doug Whaley talked about earlier in the week.
4) Big night for Dez Lewis
- In the final practice of the week ahead of the game against the Indianapolis Colts, second-year wide receiver Dez Lewis collided with Aaron Williams that resulted in both players missing the game with an injury. Lewis has worked himself back into practice the last two days after suffering the shoulder injury, which would indicate he’s getting close to being able to play in a game — and he needs to. Lewis has fallen back down to roster bubble consideration following a strong set of workouts in the spring, and is fighting with players like Greg Little, Jarrett Boykin, Walt Powell, and Greg Salas for a roster spot. He’s got the size, he’s got the speed, but the physical part of the game has not been kind to his work this summer. Dropped passes have become an issue as it did last summer, and now he has to prove he can stand out in a game setting. His roster safety is not as guaranteed as it once was, so he needs a strong night on Saturday.
5) One roster spot up for grabs
- With the news about the four-game suspension to Marcell Dareus, it’s a crushing blow for a team that is not only trying to improve their defense from 2015, but also as one that’s trying to end a 16-year playoff drought. Dareus having to sit out for the first four weeks, however, also brings the Bills a brand new opportunity to keep someone they would have otherwise released. Suspended players do not count against the 53-man roster until they are eligible to return, which means the roster bubble players have another shot at sticking. Just because the suspension is to Dareus, I don’t necessarily think it’s a guarantee that another defensive lineman will be kept — but they’re in the conversation. The players that not only stand to benefit the most with the opportunity, but are candidates for the spot in my opinion, include running back Jonathan Williams, wide receiver Walt Powell, defensive lineman Justin Zimmer, outside linebacker Bryson Albright, outside linebacker Eric Striker, inside linebacker Randell Johnson, or perhaps the Bills might even have the flexibility to keep all six of their safeties (Duke Williams, Colt Anderson, Robert Blanton, Jonathan Meeks all on the bubble). The opportunity is clear, so be sure to watch that group of players on Saturday against the Giants.