What to watch for: Bills-Eagles

Posted Aug 16, 2017

Head coach Sean McDermott is looking for across the board improvement Thursday night, and Anquan Boldin will make his debut with the Bills.

Better across the board
There are obviously some parts of every player’s individual game they’d like to improve heading into Thursday’s game against Philadelphia. For head coach Sean McDermott however, the collective play of the Bills has to be tightened up in a number of areas, including the execution on the sidelines by his staff.

“Improvement. That’s what I’m looking for,” said McDermott of his expectations in the team’s second preseason outing. “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. I’m looking for us to improve.”

Middle linebacker Preston Brown believes the defense has to set a tone early, and neutralize some plays where they were victimized in the opener against Minnesota.

“I think it always starts out with being physical,” Brown told “Handle the backs in the flats. We let them leak out too much in the last game. Make sure we keep getting better with our tackling. Tackling can always get better because you don’t get that many live opportunities. And win. That’s what we need to do. Make sure we get more plays in our system and run to the ball.”

The starters are expected to play a quarter and a half Thursday night.

Peterman to lead second team
Rookie QB Nate Peterman was promoted to the second team offense a few days ago. Head coach Sean McDermott confirmed that Peterman will be running the second unit on offense Thursday night.

“He’s done a good job, he really has,” McDermott said. “This is a rookie quarterback that is in the development phase of his career, and he’s done a nice job. He did a nice job in the (first) game. I thought he’s handled the additional reps well, and we need to continue to develop Nathan, so we know what we have.”

Peterman is focused on just being more consistent from play to play and series to series against the Eagles.

“There’s certain reads I think I missed in the game and certain situations that could have been better,” he said in reference to the preseason opener. “It’s tough to get into all of them being so nuanced. But just to keep making strides going forward.”

Boldin debut
Bills receiver Anquan Boldin will be making his debut in a Buffalo uniform Thursday night. Boldin is expected to play a good amount in the first half. He wants to continue to nail down the timing in the passing game with Tyrod Taylor. He feels the two have made progress over the past week.

As the veteran of the receiving corps Boldin has been pleased with how the group has handled all the upheaval with Sammy Watkins being traded away and Jordan Matthews coming in the door along with himself.

“I think the guys have responded well,” he said. “You’d have to be crazy to be in that room and not see it as an opportunity. Those guys come out and bust their butts every day and look forward to the opportunity.”

Boldin along with Andre Holmes, Zay Jones and Rod Streater have seen the most time with the starting unit in practice this week.

Position battles
The most notable position battle entering this game will be at the starting cornerback position opposite Tre'Davious White. Kevon Seymour and Shareece Wright are expected to both get time with the starting unit Thursday night as they look to lock down the role.

For Seymour, who just returned this week from a foot injury, his approach is the same.

“Be the best me and be better for my teammates,” said Seymour. “So the guys up front and the rest of the players on the field can count on me to do my job.”

Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier called the position an open competition that stretches beyond Seymour and Wright, but those two look to be the prime candidates to fill the void left behind by Ronald Darby.

"We’re going to put the best guy out there and these next three preseason games, along with the practices that we have, will give us an indication of who that guy is," said Frazier. "We’ll see what happens, we’ll see how it shakes out."

Another competition that's expected to see rotation is the starting right guard spot where veteran Vladimir Ducasse is still pushing incumbent John Miller.

The opponent
The Eagles, much like the Bills, dropped their first preseason contest losing to the Green Bay Packers 24-9. Carson Wentz led the Eagles offense on a first quarter touchdown drive, but their two-point conversion failed. Their only other points came on a Caleb Sturgis field goal near the end of the third quarter.

Philadelphia will be looking to tighten up their third down defense while their offense looks to be more successful in the red zone after going 0-for-2 in their opener. They also want more production from their ground game.

The Eagles made news Tuesday when they released RB Ryan Mathews. Philadelphia had a crowded backfield after signing LeGarrette Blount in free agency and drafting Donnell Pumphrey in the fourth round. They also signed RB Corey Clement as a rookie free agent and still have Byron Marshall, Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood on the roster at the position.

WR Alshon Jeffery missed the preseason opener for the Eagles and is questionable to play Thursday as he’s managing a shoulder injury. RB Wendell Smallwood (hamstring) is also a question mark.  

The recently traded Ronald Darby is expected to start at cornerback for the Eagles against his former team on Thursday night.

Out for Thursday’s game are WR Jeremy Butler (concussion), OT Cordy Glenn (foot), WR Jordan Matthews (fractured sternum), Bacarri Rambo (hamstring).

Questionable for the game are OL Michael Ola (toe), CB Kevon Seymour (foot), DT Adolphus Washington (back) and CB Shareece Wright (thumb).