After two joint practices with the Cleveland Browns that resulted in many injuries, the Buffalo Bills now travel to Cleveland for a Thursday night tilt with the Browns in the second week of NFL Preseason action.
What should Bills fans watch for? Here’s a quick rundown of some of the stories that Buffalo’s next game has to offer:
EJ’s last hurrah?
Quarterback E.J. Manuel has not been getting the even shares that this all out starting quarterback competition has had to offer. Manuel has worked almost exclusively with the third team, and that lack of quality talent around him caused problems last week against Carolina. Is Manuel simply playing out the string, only to get cut at the end? Its unlikely to keep Manuel as a third stringer, as he is too young and physically talented to merely be the scout team quarterback for Buffalo. At this point, E.J. Manuel may be playing to audition for his next job.
Buffalo’s next starting quarterback?
While Manuel has seen less time with the first and second team, new Bills quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Matt Cassel have seen all of the first team reps. Cassel started last week, going 7-8 for 45 yards, his lone incompletion being a dropped pass. Taylor flashed more pizzaz -and led more scoring drives- than Cassel, even though it was against the Panthers’ second team. Now it’s Taylor’s turn with the starters, where Bills head coach Rex Ryan wants to see Taylor use his arm more against the banged-up Browns secondary. If Taylor can dazzle again, he may have the advantage in this competition over Cassel. Will Bills fans finally see a quarterback rise up and claim the job?
Banged Up Bills
With running back LeSean McCoy’s injury on Tuesday night, the Bills enter only their second preseason game without their top five rushers. That’s right, all five running backs that reported to camp are injured. Buffalo may use wide receiver Marcus Thigpen as a tailback, but expect newly signed Cierre Wood to get more looks. If Wood impresses, he may cause headaches for the others that are missing, particularly Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon.
In addition to the running back depth chart, the wide receivers are banged up too. Percy Harvin is out again, and Marquise Goodwin and Chris Hogan had issues with the heat in Monday’s practice. They haven’t been back in action yet. This will allow Deonte Thompson and Andre Davis, players who have been making plays all throughout camp, the opportunity to threaten the roster spots of Goodwin and Hogan.
On defense, the Bills lost backup defensive Jairus Wynn and reserve linebacker Ty Powell, both key backups, to season ending injuries. Enter new defensive end Red Bryant, new linebacker Quinten Groves and undrafted free agent A.J. Tarpley, who must fill the voids left by Wynn and Powell.
Bills Wideouts Making Toast
On Monday, much was made of the performance of Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert, a top 10 pick in 2014. Gilbert allowed 11 catches -3 touchdowns- on 11 targets, leading to a lot of criticism. Expect Taylor and the Bills wideouts to target Gilbert often to get the offense going. Gilbert will need to step up to avoid more criticism.
The Bills have other battles going on in camp…
- RT – Seantrel Henderson vs. Cyrus Kouandjio – Henderson has a firm lead, expect him to close out the competition.
- Backup TE – Chris Gragg vs. Nick O’Leary vs. MarQueis Gray – No one has seperated themselves yet. Matthew Mulligan is also in the mix, but he is Lee Smith 2.0 (that’s not good).
Stay tuned for more Bills coverage here on Better Live Than Dead Sports!