NFL Pre-Season Week 1: Buffalo Bills (0-1) at Denver Broncos (0-1)
Venue: Sports Authority Field at Mile High – Denver, Colorado
Date/Time: Saturday, August 20 – 8:30 p.m. (Eastern)
TV: WKBW 7 (Buffalo), KUSA 9 (Denver), Online at NFL.com (must buy preseason package), Replay Sunday at 1 p.m. on NFL Network
Radio: WGRF 96.9 FM (Buffalo), KOA 850 AM (Denver)
Last time out: In their preseason opener, the Bills were defeated in Chicago 10-3. The Buffalo offense struggled, but it was a pretty good night for the defense, which racked up nine sacks. Denver dropped its preseason debut 24-23 in Dallas.
Playing Time for Starters: Chan Gailey has indicated the starters will play more than last week, with his target being around three series for the first string. The second string should also get a longer look than in the Chicago game.
Denver’s starters will also be on the field for roughly two or three series.
What to watch for (Bills):
– Outside linebacker. Shawne Merriman – star of the preseason opener – won’t play tonight as a precaution as he fights through a minor injury. Some combination of Antonio Coleman and Danny Batten will likely take his place with the starters. Batten had two sacks in the Chicago game, and will be looking to continue to distinguish himself this preseason. Coleman, who made the team as an undrafted rookie last season, could use a big game to avoid being lost in the shuffle.
– Tyler Thigpen. The #2 QB didn’t look very good last week. Hopefully with another week of practice he’ll look a little better in this one. If he’s awful again, there’s going to be a lot of fans hitting the panic button.
– The offensive guard situation. Andy Levitre and Chad Rinehart are now splitting first-team reps at left guard. Both will get a chance to seize control of that job tonight. Also, RG Kraig Urbik really needs a strong showing after a very tough outing in Chicago. If not, Rinehart might be coming after that job instead.
– Offensive line depth. The Bills second-string O-line was pretty much a disaster last week, especially in the running game. Poor RB Johnny White got smacked in the backfield repeatedly. We’ll see if there’s any improvement on that front tonight.
– One positional switch to report: undrafted rookie Joshua Nesbitt, who played quarterback for a few snaps last week, is now at free safety. Look for him to get a few plays there tonight.
– The wide receiver battle. Donald Jones is currently starting opposite Stevie Johnson and will be looking to keep control of that job. Craig Davis is still hurt and won’t play tonight, so other guys fighting for roster spots (Naaman Roosevelt, Marcus Easley, Felton Huggins) have a bit more of a chance to make a good impression.
– Unlikely to play tonight due to injury: Merriman, Davis, WR Roscoe Parrish, OL Chris Hairston, TE Shawn Nelson, CB Justin Rogers, LB Kelvin Sheppard, and LB Chris White.
What to Watch For (Broncos):
– The Kyle Orton-Tim Tebow quarterback battle still rages on. Expect to see a ton of Tebow tonight as the Broncos try to figure out what they have in this guy.
– The Broncos now feature a pass rush that boasts perennial sack leader Elvis Dumervil and uber-talented rookie Von Miller. It will be interesting to see if the Bills’ pass blockers can keep them at bay.
– With the ridiculous new kickoff rules, most kickoffs are now largely pointless exercises that result in touchbacks. With the thin air in Denver, kickoffs will probably be EXTRA-pointless. Expect to see the ball flying out of the back of the endzone consistently.
– It’s a bit weird that these two teams are matching up in the preseason, as the teams also play in the regular season (Dec. 24 in Buffalo). Not a big deal I guess, just weird.
Check back with BLD tonight for our LIVE BLOG during the game! Also, follow along with us on Twitter! (@BuffLowDown)