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Bills - Jaguars game preview

Posted Aug 26, 2011

Saturday night’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars will represent the longest opportunity Buffalo’s starters will have on the field this preseason. Head coach Chan Gailey said that his starters will play through the first series of the third quarter. Heading into the third preseason game, Buffalo’s starting offense is still looking for its first touchdown.

“We definitely would like to get in the end zone,” said Ryan Fitzpatrick. “You know we haven’t with the limited time in the preseason so far.  With the way that we’re working this week and the way that we’re preparing, it’d be nice for the offense to go out there and really show a spark.”

“We’re moving the ball,” said Gailey. “We just need to get in the end zone. That’s the thing we haven’t done. We move the ball down and then sputter out in the red zone, and that’s what you can’t do. You can’t accept three points when you need to get seven points in this league.”

Fitzpatrick feels the offense is not carrying their execution on the practice field into the preseason games and aims to change that.

“We need to apply what we’ve been doing in practice,” he said. “This week, we spent more time looking at (Jacksonville) and we will spend more time looking at them, going over our plan versus specific looks. We should see a better product on the field because of the way we’ve prepared this week.”

Starting roles at stake
Heading into Saturday’s game there are a couple of major starting roles at stake. Demetrius Bell and Andy Levitre are expected to split time at left tackle with the first unit, with their performances going a long way in determining who the opening day starter will be at the most important offensive line spot.

As far as Gailey is concerned their play in that game is going to be the end all, be all decision maker.

“It’s about the only measuring stick we have,” said Gailey. “Practice is good and important, but game (time) is where it’s at. This will be big for us for determining where our final group goes. They’re splitting reps and let’s see who plays the best come Saturday night.”

“It is what it is,” said Bell. “After Saturday whatever is going to happen is going to happen. I’ve just got to go out there and play my game and let everything take care of itself.”

Fred Jackson has been told he’s the starting running back, but C.J. Spiller got the lion’s share of the playing time with the first unit last week against Denver. Spiller said he’s more worried about his play than his role on the team.

“I don’t really get involved with number one and number two,” he said. “I just come here ready to work and when my name is called I need to get my job done and that’s what I’m trying to do. And I’m pretty sure (Fred’s) trying to do the same thing.”

Jackson doesn’t sound convinced that he’s the team’s feature back, and wants to see what his workload is like against the Jaguars before he believes what he’s been told.

“(Coach Modkins) told me that I was the starter and we can go from there,” he said. “It’s easy to say something, but we’ll see what happens on Saturday. What my role is or what we do in the game. I think this will be the one true game for starters and what your role is will definitely be determined this weekend I believe.”

Injury update
Buffalo has several players sidelined with just over two weeks before the season opener and they intend to err on the side of caution with most of them.

Not expected to play in Saturday’s game are Donald Jones, Chris Kelsay, Arthur Moats, Shawn Nelson, Roscoe Parrish, Naaman Roosevelt, Chris White and Johnny White.

Questionable to play Saturday night are Marcell Dareus, Craig Davis, Chris Hairston, Kellen Heard, Shawne Merriman, Justin Rogers and Kelvin Sheppard.

Rookie debuts
Three of Buffalo’s draft choices have missed each of the first two preseason games for the Bills, but could get the chance to make their NFL and Bills debuts Saturday night.

Third-round pick Kelvin Sheppard returned to practice this week after missing most of training camp and might see his first preseason action Saturday.

“It’s a possibility yes,” said Gailey. “We’re going to look at it.”

Fourth-round pick Chris Hairston and seventh-round pick Justin Rogers could also see their first NFL action after missing each of the first two preseason games.

Roster decisions
After evaluating the game tape from Saturday’s game, Buffalo’s coaching staff will need to turn their attention to the matter of trimming eight players from their roster to get down to the required 80-player maximum by 4 pm on Tuesday, Aug. 30th.

The opponent
The Jaguars are coming off of a 15-13 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in their last preseason outing on Aug. 19. Jacksonville’s first team offense could not crack the end zone with the Jaguars managing just three field goal drives in the game. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when third-string quarterback Luke McCown hit rookie Armon Binns for a 12-yard touchdown, lifting Jacksonville to a two-point win.

Neither veteran quarterback David Garrard nor top pick Blaine Gabbert were all that impressive in the game, but head coach Jack Del Rio named Garrard his starting quarterback for the season opener. Del Rio also said he wants to see improvement.

Veteran RB Maurice Jones-Drew will not play Saturday as he is being brought along slowly in his return from offseason knee surgery. He along with veteran DE Aaron Kampman are not going to play until the Jaguars’ preseason finale next week.

Jacksonville’s run game struggled last week averaging just 2.1 yards per carry.

Return of Poz
Saturday’s game will also mark the return of LB Paul Posluszny, who signed a free agent contract with Jacksonville this offseason instead of re-signing with the Bills. Posluszny is the starting middle linebacker for the Jaguars.

“Paul is a great guy,” said Fitzpatrick. “He was really respected in this locker room. I think everybody’s excited just to see him and say hi. I hope he doesn’t hit me at all.”

“I can’t give him too many props. He’s hurting for number 95,” said Kyle Williams jokingly referencing himself. “No, he looks fine.  I’ve only seen a few snaps of him playing because I don’t really study their defense, but I’ve seen him a couple times (on tape).”

The last time
The Bills have never faced the Jaguars in the preseason. They played Jacksonville last season in Week 5, dropping a 36-26 decision.