Buffalo Bills vs. Minnesota Vikings: Three Keys to the Game

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 24: Tyrod Taylor /

The Buffalo Bills’  Week 1 preseason matchup against the Minnesota Vikings kicks off on Thursday at 7 p.m. at New Era Field in Orchard Park.

Football is finally back, Buffalo Bills fans!

It’s been an offseason full of turmoil at One Bills Drive. From head coaching and general manager changes to a pair of former Bills deciding to take their talents to a division rival to a couple of painful roster cuts, it’s been a long 31 weeks.

The wait is finally over.

Sure, it’s just a preseason game, but football is finally back at New Era Field, and LeSean McCoy and Co. are strapping them up again.

You know the drill, each week during the regular season – and preseason – this column will provide the three ways the Bills can secure a victory. So, without further ado, here’s the Three Keys to the Game for the matchup against the Minnesota Vikings which kicks off Thursday at 7 p.m. at New Era Field.

Stay Healthy

Now, if you’ll remember from last preseason, these threes keys are slightly different to the regular season. Wins don’t exactly matter right now, so these keys are more like objectives the Bills need to accomplish by game’s end in order for it to be a “victory.”

First and foremost, the Bills need to come out of their preseason opener completely healthy.

Buffalo’s already down a couple key cogs and depth is rather thin, so any major injuries could be devastating. The starters are only playing a quarter on Thursday, so for the first 15 minutes the Bills Mafia will collectively be holding its breath.

Strong Play From Tyrod Taylor

This team only goes as far as Tyrod Taylor carries it this year.

While he’s been a top-10 quarterback as far as passer rating is concerned each of the past two

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seasons, Taylor’s still lacking as a passer. He can do a better job reading the field and using the middle of the field.

However, with Rick Dennison as the offensive coordinator this year, Taylor is set up for what could be his best season yet. Taylor played for Dennison when he was with Baltimore, and the new offensive coordinator should be able to use Taylor’s mobility to his advantage.

The addition of Anquan Boldin earlier in the week is a huge boost to the offense. The Bills now have four legitimate pass catchers, including tight end Charles Clay.

But, aside from Sammy Watkins, who spent a lot of time on the sidelines due to injury last season, there are a lot of new faces in this wide receiving corps. Practices are great, but real game action is where things get accomplished.

The first quarter will be huge for the offense, and Taylor needs to lead the charge.

Clarity at the Safety Position

The safety position is probably the weakest unit on the team. Even Micah Hyde, who’s the starting strong safety according to the latest depth chart, isn’t exactly a true safety. But that’s beside the point.

Jordan Poyer has had a solid camp at the free safety position, and together with Hyde the two should be formidable, but behind them is worrisome.

Positive notes have been coming out of camp regarding the play of backup strong safety Shamiel Gary, who got some first-team reps when Hyde was out due to injury.

"“I’m just taking it one day at a time,” Gary told Buffalobills.com. “Not looking too deep into things. It’s still early and we haven’t played a preseason game yet. I’m just focused on my eyes and on the details that will get me better.”"

But it’s just camp, and Gary hasn’t seen much actual game time up to this point in his career. With Hyde returning to the lineup earlier in the week, Gary is slotted back with the second-team defense. This will allow him to see some more action on Thursday. He needs to make the most of his time out there.

A name to watch in the free safety competition is Bacarri Rambo. Currently the No. 3 free safety, Rambo is a familiar name and could be a fast riser up the depth chart.

Next: Buffalo Bills: 3 players to watch in the first preseason game

Preseason games will determine a lot when rounding out the depth chart and 53-man roster. A strong performance to start the preseason can go a long way.