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3 things to watch for in Bills at Lions | Preseason Week 1

Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson (24) Buffalo Bills vs Detroit Lions at Ford Field, August 23, 2019.  Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes
Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson (24) Buffalo Bills vs Detroit Lions at Ford Field, August 23, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes

The Buffalo Bills are through 12 training camp practices, which means they are more than ready to go against someone other than their teammates. Buffalo heads to Detroit on Thursday for their first preseason game against the Lions on Friday at 7:00 p.m.. It'll be their first preseason game since the 2019 season due to COVID-19.

Here are three things to know about Friday night's game.

1. Sean McDermott's plan for the first preseason game

One of the biggest questions heading into preseason games is the status of the starters. Will they play or will they rest?

Bills head coach Sean McDermott announced quarterback Josh Allen will not play against the Lions.

The plan will vary for the rest of the team.

"It's going to be kind of on an individual basis, so a number of the starters won't play," McDermott said. "There will be some starters that do play, and then it'll go from there really."

This preseason is a little more unique because there are three games for the first time instead of four. McDermott said due to one less game and roster cuts ahead, it's more valuable for younger players to get live reps.

"For this one we felt like it was important to take a good look at these young players in particular to give them their due," McDermott said. "And this is the first time with cuts each week basically after game. We want to make sure we've got a good handle on who we have and what we need to do go forward."

2. A chance for the younger players to shine

Several rookies and new players will share the spotlight on Friday due to Sean McDermott's game plan for the first preseason game. One of those rookies who will play in his first preseason game is Spencer Brown. Brown, who has seen a lot of action in camp, is feeling calm about Friday.

"I don't get too riled up for games, but right before kickoff is kind of where I get going," Brown said. "I have to remember my game day routine. It's been a while so I'll try to figure it, but excitement level is pretty high right now."

Jake Fromm, who spent last season away from the team in case a Covid-19 situation popped up with the quarterbacks, will see the field for the first time since he was drafted in 2020.

"It's huge," McDermott said of the opportunity for the young quarterback. "You try and simulate it out here the best you can, but there's still something to be said for playing a game in front of a crowd and in real game situations. It has been a while for Jake and probably a few others as well, so it'll be a good opportunity for them."

For many of these players, it's also an opportunity to showcase their strengths for other teams if they don't make the Bills roster.

"These players, they work hard, they bust their tail in the offseason to give themselves the best chance to make a team," McDermott shared. "And in some cases, they're trying to audition for other teams as well. That's just stating the obvious, right. Good for them, they'll get a chance come Friday night to show us what they've got and put some good tape out there."

3. How familiarity of roster helps give different players looks

There are many perks to having a roster full of familiar faces. Thankfully the Bills have that with so many players returning from last season. One of those perks happens to be not feeling like those players need to take up a lot of the preseason reps.

"I feel like they're in a pretty good place, they're not ready yet and we're not ready yet," McDermott said of the starters from last season. "But in order for us to put this thing together the right way, we've got to make sure that we know the back half of our roster. Those opportunities are starting to narrow. We've got to make sure that Friday night is a chance where we can do that."

Even though they have a good handle on the team, the juggling act to make sure the right players get the right amount of reps before cuts is definitely easier said than done. With three preseason games plus practices, McDermott wants to make sure every player gets a chance.

"I think that's always a challenge as a coach is making sure that you've got the right number of players, or the right players inside that number come cutdown time," McDermott explained. "And yet also getting your guys who are going to play, ready to go for the opener. It's a balance, I can tell you that. We go back and forth and especially because the dynamics have changed this year with the three preseason games."

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