It’s starting to get real for the Buffalo Bills.
The second and third preseason games are the ones in which starters see more time and positions start to be solidified. That means there is a lot at stake Thursday night when the Bills visit the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Improve. That’s what I’m looking for,” coach Sean McDermott said earlier this week. “I’m looking for us to improve in every area of our game – sideline communication, fundamentals, throwing and catching the football, discipline with the penalties that showed up last week.”
Here is everything you need to know for Thursday’s game, as well as five things we’ll be looking for:
• TV: Ch. 7. Announcers: Andrew Catalon (play by play), Steve Tasker (color analyst).
• Radio: Bills Radio Network. Buffalo-WGR 550 AM; Toronto-Fan 590 AM; Rochester-WCMF 96.5 FM and WROC 950 AM; Syracuse-WTKW 99.5 FM and WTKV 105.5 FM. Announcers: John Murphy (play by play), Mark Kelso (color analyst).
• Series history: Bills lead, 3-1. The Bills haven’t played in the preseason since 2001. The final score of that game was a very preseason-like 6-3 win for Buffalo.
• Uni watch: The Bills are matching blue jerseys with white pants against the Eagles.
• Did you know? Bills wide receiver Corey Brown attended Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, Pa., and got his nickname “Philly” because of his love of his hometown.
• Next up: With training camp finished, the Bills will continue preparing for the regular season back at home in Orchard Park, starting with a light practice Friday afternoon.
Here are five things to watch for against the Eagles:
1. Can Nathan Peterman put a stranglehold on the backup quarterback job? The rookie followed up a promising – but far from perfect – preseason debut with a good week of practice. He’s earned the promotion to the No. 2 job so far, but part of that is based on how much veteran T.J. Yates has struggled. Peterman has the momentum going in his direction, but there is a big responsibility that comes with being the backup quarterback, and he needs to show more over the final three preseason games that he can continue to elevate his game.
2. Who steps up at right cornerback? Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier declared it an “open competition” for Ronald Darby’s vacated spot in the secondary. With veteran Leonard Johnson looking locked in as the slot cornerback and rookie first-round draft pick Tre’Davious White on the left side, that leaves Kevon Seymour, veteran Shareece Wright and newcomer E.J. Gaines as the most likely candidates to replace Darby. Seymour is questionable for the game with a foot injury, but will surely be campaigning to play. He doesn’t want to risk falling behind if the other two turn in good performances.
3. What happens with Andre Holmes? The veteran wide receiver has become the forgotten man at his position after the team traded Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams and got Jordan Matthews back in a separate deal. The top three receivers, in some form, appear to be Matthews, rookie Zay Jones and veteran Anquan Boldin. Matthews is currently injured and won’t play Thursday, so Holmes might get a chance to start. He desperately needs a good showing after a poor training camp.
4. How do the Bills handle Cordy Glenn’s absence? Coach Sean McDermott said the team is not prepared to move rookie Dion Dawkins from right tackle back to the left side, where he practiced in the spring. That means Seantrel Henderson will likely start and see a good deal of playing time. Henderson, however, still has to serve five games of a 10-game suspension, so he’s not an option when the regular season starts. If McDermott reverses course and gives Dawkins some time on the left, it could be a sign of growing concern about Glenn’s condition.
5. Is Jordan Johnson’s time almost up? The UB product will have to mount a serious push if he’s going to challenge for a spot on the 53-man roster or practice squad. The Sweet Home graduate looks to be behind Jonathan Williams, Joe Banyard, Cedric O’Neal and even recently signed Taiwan Jones on the depth chart at running back. Whatever action Johnson sees Thursday, he needs to make the most of it.