Bills head coach Chan Gailey liked what he got out of his starting units on offense and defense in their preseason opener last weekend at Chicago. Beyond that he wasn't impressed with much else.
"We've got a lot of work to try to find which of those guys are going to come up and help this football team be a championship football team," said Gailey.
Those that will take the field after the starters will have a chance to prove themselves Saturday night in Denver when the Bills face the Broncos for an 8:30 pm kickoff.
Last time outThe Bills dropped a 10-3 decision to the Bears last Saturday, but statistically the Bills did have some positives. They posted nine sacks in the game, which was an NFL best last week. The defense also allowed just 94 passing yards to the Bears, the second fewest in Week 1 of the preseason.
Individually Shawne Merriman and Danny Batten had two sacks apiece in the game against Chicago. Top draft choices Marcell Dareus (sack) and Aaron Williams (interception) had solid debut performances.
Playing timeThe starting units got all of two series in the preseason opener last week, but they'll get a bit more Saturday.
"We'll play the starters this week a little bit more than we played them last week," said Gailey. "We'll play the second group a little bit more than we played the second group last week, trying to start to build a little bit with some conditioning and trying to create some continuity and plays in series out there. The offense got two series last week. I hope they'll get three this week. That's what you hope."
"We want to put together a couple of drives and get some points on the board and make sure everybody gets out of the game without being injured," said Ryan Fitzpatrick. "But we've still got a lot of stuff that we need to work on and the best way to get down the timing is to get out there in game situations and do it. Hopefully we'll get more time than we did last week out there just to be able to work out those kinks and work on the timing and also for the guys up front to jell."
The quarterback rotation is expected to proceed like it did last week with Tyler Thigpen coming in after Fitzpatrick and Brad Smith being rotated in for a specific package of plays. Levi Brown will follow, but undrafted rookie Josh Nesbitt moved to the safety position this past week and is likely to line up on defense instead of quarterback.
Injury updateShawne Merriman was ruled out by coach Gailey on Thursday after missing a couple of practices this past week with tightness in his leg.
"He won't play this week," Gailey said. "We made the decision that he will not play. We'll let him get back to close to full speed and hopefully get him back next week."
Also declared out was Roscoe Parrish, who is still recovering from a hamstring injury.
WR Craig Davis, OL Chris Hairston, TE Shawn Nelson, CB Justin Rogers, LB Kelvin Sheppard and LB Chris White are not expected to dress for the game either.
Lineup changesWith Merriman out, Antonio Coleman and Danny Batten are expected to be the biggest beneficiaries in taking his reps with the starting unit at outside linebacker.
David Nelson is again expected to step in for Parrish in the slot.
It has not been confirmed who will start at left guard with the first unit. Late in the week two-year starter Andy Levitre was being rotated every other day with Chad Rinehart at the starting guard spot, with the other getting snaps with the second unit.
The opponentUnder new head coach John Fox, the Broncos dropped a last second 24-23 decision to the Dallas Cowboys last week. Cowboys reserve QB Stephen McGee ran around to buy time with 15 seconds left before throwing a 13-yard touchdown pass and two-point conversion to provide the winning points.
Denver averaged a respectable four yards per carry gaining 119 yards on 30 carries. On the Broncos roster is former Bills first-round pick Willis McGahee, who had 17 yards on a pair of carries. Knowshon Moreno and McGahee have been getting most of the reps with the Broncos first unit.
"This weekend will be a good challenge for us going out there they have a really good running game, which was definitely a problem of ours a year ago," said Bills LB Reggie Torbor. "So it is going to be a good test for us."
Denver's leading passer last week was Brady Quinn, who was 8-14 for 120 yards and a touchdown.
The Broncos have suffered some injuries on their defensive line this past week. Defensive tackles Ty Warren (triceps) and Marcus Thomas (pectoral strain) both went down this week. Both are expected to be out for Saturday's game. They'll be replaced on the starting defensive line by Brodrick Bunkley and Kevin Vickerson.
Denver also added a pair of defensive players this week. To make up for the loss of Warren and Thomas the Broncos claimed DT DeMario Pressley off waivers from Indianapolis. They also claimed LB Alvin Bowen (Bills former 5th-round pick).
To make room for Bowen the Broncos released RB Lendale White.
The last timeThe Bills and Broncos last met in the preseason back in 2004, a game Buffalo won 16-6 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Ironically, Willis McGahee's one-yard touchdown run for the Bills in the second quarter broke a 3-3 tie and put Buffalo ahead to stay as Denver could manage only a pair of field goals in the game.
Rian Lindell provided the Bills with their other 10 points with three field goals and an extra point.