After 20 training camp practices, the Bills will have their final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at home on Saturday afternoon.
Here are three things to know about Saturday's matchup.
1. The game plan for Saturday
Many starters from last season have not seen any action in preseason games just yet. With one final preseason game before the Bills begin to prepare for the Steelers to open the 2021 NFL regular season, head coach Sean McDermott said quarterback Josh Allen will start against the Packers..
It will be Allen's first preseason game this season after Mitchell Trubisky started in the previous two.
In addition to Allen, McDermott also said a good amount of the starters will also see some action.
"Some of the starters won't play, some will play," McDermott. "The majority will play. It will be anywhere from one play, this is not a cop out, I'm just trying to give you my mindset right now, some will come out of the locker room after half and give it a series in the third quarter. Where that falls for each and every individual, it would get choppy."
A couple injuries could play into who we see on the field on Saturday. One of the injured players is wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie who has seen several snaps in the previous two preseason games. McKenzie missed the last two practice with a shoulder injury and McDermott said he is in-between day-to-day and week-to-week in terms of when he will return.
McDermott also said cornerback Taron Johnson, who is out with a hand injury, is in-between day-to-day and week-to-week as well.
Some good news on the injury front, wide receivers Stefon Diggs (knee) and Marquez Stevenson returned (foot) to the practice field this week.
2. Update on players who were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list
The Buffalo Bills placed four players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday after coming into close contact with a vaccinated staff member who tested positive for COVID-19. Defensive tackle Vernon Butler, defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, wide receiver Cole Beasley and wide receiver Gabe Davis will miss up to five days.
Even though the four have tested negative, McDermott said the situation has been a wakeup call for some players who are still unvaccinated. The head coach explained, in his opinion, there's plenty evidence of why one should get vaccinated but understands it's important to respect other opinions too.
"I'm passionate about doing what's right, whether it's COVID or anything else," McDermott shared. "I respect people's positions in a lot of areas. Obviously, this is a hot topic. There's a lot of hot topics right now in our country. Respect is important. It doesn't mean that I'm not passionate about my position and passionate about what I feel is the right thing to do for the greater good of this country. That in my opinion means getting vaccinated."
McDermott said the four players who are on the Reserve/COVID-19 list have a chance of being back in time for Saturday's game.
3. The importance of the last preseason game + other notes
There are several benefits to a season with preseason games versus a season without. Before the first preseason game, McDermott noted how the coaching staff had to create several game-like situations in practice for proper roster evaluation last year.
This year, they have three preseason games to assess the roster before the final 53 must be in place on August 31.
Linebacker Andre Smith, who has had a strong preseason and training camp, understands his performance in this game could impact his role on the team. He wants to prove why the coaching staff should have trust in him.
"Honestly just going out and competing to the best and continuing to prove that I belong on the 53," Smith shared. "Just going out on this third preseason game finishing, playing well, making sure I do my assignments, going hard on special teams and just getting to the ball trying to create plays. Just giving the coaches some comfort and trust in me."
The third preseason game is an important last chance for players to put tape together, but it's also an opportunity for a dress rehearsal before Week 1.
"Opening up with the Steelers, that's a big game," running back Zack Moss said. "So obviously we want to make sure that everything is moving in strides, that we're cutting all the false start penalties and things that we can control, keep that to a minimum so that the first week we come into that first game we'll be able to execute at a high level because obviously being the first live game of the season, you're going to have a lot of mistakes all around the league. So we're just trying to make sure we control our side of things like that and help ourselves with that."
Additional Bills vs. Packers notes ...
The following former Bills will be returning Buffalo with the Green Bay Packers coaching staff ...
- Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett spent two seasons (2013-14) as the Bills' offensive coordinator and in a previous stint served as their offensive quality control coach (2008-09)…
- Packers defensive backs/passing game coordinator Jerry Gray served as the Bills' defensive coordinator from 2001-05, ranking No. 2 in the league in overall defense in back-to-back seasons (2003-04)…
- Green Bay wide receivers coach Jason Vrable spent 2013-16 with Buffalo, where he held the positions of offensive quality control coach (2013-15) and then as assistant quarterbacks coach (2016)…
- Packers minority fellowship coaching assistant Ruvell Martin spent two seasons of his seven-year NFL career with the Buffalo Bills.