It’s been a most unusual offseason, but with all of the headlines about negotiations and mediation now in the rearview mirror, the Bills can begin their first and final stages of preparation for the 2011 season as they travel to Chicago to take on the Bears for an 8 pm kickoff at Soldier Field Saturday night.
Naturally the players are anxious knowing they haven’t had much opportunity to stay in sync throughout the offseason. The preseason opener will be the first real measuring stick to see just how much ground they’ve made up in two weeks of training camp.
“I think we’ve had a lot of good work since we’ve been (at camp),” said Fitzpatrick. ‘The good thing about these preseason games is to figure out where you’re at. That’s some of the excitement for this first game as well. We’ve got a pretty good group right now and we’ll get a chance to go out there and kind of see where we are.
“We want to go out there and limit the penalties, especially the pre-snap stuff, the stuff that makes the game sloppy. It’d be nice to just be consistent and put a drive or two together and get in the end zone.”
The Bills and Bears have met 14 times previously in the preseason. Overall Buffalo holds a 2-11-1 preseason record against Chicago.
Bills head coach Chan Gailey laid out his plans for playing time with respect to his starters on both sides of the ball, but explained that it won’t be cut and dry.
“We’ve talked preliminarily about them going to somewhere around the first quarter, maybe a little bit less, maybe a little bit more,” he said. “It depends on how many plays we get.”
Gailey has a fine line to walk in this preseason. Knowing the players haven’t much time on the field and just two weeks of camp, the risk for injury at game speed is potentially higher. At the same time Buffalo’s staff wants their players on the field long enough to get quality work in to be properly prepared for the regular season.
“The one thing I know is if they go out and you get guys hurt because you left them out there too long and they’re not ready to play September 11th that’s not a good thing,” said Gailey. “So you’ve got to find ways to keep pushing them to be ready for September 11th and get them ready for September 11th without going over that line.”
Gailey indicated that some players on the starting units might see a little more time, some might see a little less.
“We’ll take this game more individually than maybe we’ve ever taken a game,” he said. “We may say the first group plays so long, but there may be two guys that don’t or maybe one guy that plays more just because he needs it.”
Players that figure to fall into that category are
Meanwhile players like starting right guard
The quarterback rotation is expected to follow suit with the way the signal callers have been rotated through in training camp practices.
“Offensively we just want to go out there and execute and do all the little things right so we can build on that and go into the next week,” said Thigpen.
Whether undrafted rookie
Debut of Dareus
Naturally there is a lot of anticipation about the debut of Bills top pick
“The whole point of working out and practicing and getting ready for the game was to be ready,” said Dareus. “Why be nervous for something we already worked our butts off for? We worked out the kinks and we should be ready to go.”
Dareus is fully aware of the team’s struggles last season in stopping the run. He aims to be a big part of fixing that, and is hopeful they can begin showing Saturday that they’re a far more capable unit in that aspect of their game.
“We have a lot to prove, but we’ve improved a lot,” he said. “I think we’re ready to go out there and show what we’ve been working on. We had a lot of miscommunication last year which I heard from the veterans. So I think right now we’re communicating a lot better and I think we should be able to go out there and (be successful) beginning this weekend.”
“We will evaluate that, but I’m more convinced that we will play him than not play him at this point,” Gailey said.
Troup has had a solid training camp, but the club on his right hand will prove to be an adjustment.
The fourth receiver could be either the recently signed
“I think Marcus will get his share and everybody has a different share in this ball game, but he’s going to get a decent number of reps,” said Gailey. “The thing we don’t want to do is overextend him.”
The case is much the same for ILB
“Probably very sporadically,” said Gailey of Sheppard’s playing time Saturday. “He hasn’t had the (practice) time he needs to play.”
Much like the Bills the Bears added some new pieces to their roster, most notably Dallas cast off WR Roy Williams and RB Marion Barber.
With the addition of Williams to the receiving corps, Johnny Knox is now running fourth on the receiver depth chart for the Bears behind starters Williams and Devin Hester, with Earl Bennett the slot receiver.
Chicago also traded TE Greg Olsen to Carolina for a third-round draft choice. The new starting tight end is fourth-year man Kellen Davis. They also parted ways with long time center Olin Kreutz, who has been replaced by former guard Roberto Garza.
With Garza moving inside Lance Louis and Chris Williams are now the starting guards with J’Marcus Webb at left tackle and first-round pick Gabe Carimi at the starting right tackle spot.
Head coach Lovie Smith, much like Chan Gailey, was weighing the pluses and minuses of playing his starters a bit more than normal knowing they missed close to three hours of practice time this week due to a power outage at a night practice, unsafe field conditions and lightning.
The last time
The Bills last played the Bears in Week 1 of the 2009 preseason at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Tied at 13 after three quarters of play Buffalo scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns on a three-yard reception by Shawn Nelson and a four-yard run by