It's the last opportunity for the players on the back half of the roster to convince the coaching staff that they deserve a spot on the 53-man roster, which will be determined in less than 48 hours from the time Buffalo's Thursday night preseason ends against the Lions. Some players have put together a solid body of work this offseason, others still need to close strong with strong performances.
Playing time for startersHead coach Doug Marrone is big on preparing all of his players to play the whole game even though that's unlikely to be the case for Buffalo's starters.
"The philosophy going into this last game is we're going to get everyone ready to play so they're ready to go and then honestly we're just going to be smart about what we do in that game with who plays and who doesn't," said Marrone.
Top wideout Stevie Johnson said getting out of the game healthy is the top priority, but he remembers the importance of the last preseason game when he was a rookie.
"These games are important," said Johnson. "This is how I got on the team, playing in this fourth preseason game. The plays I do get in, hopefully no mental errors, don't get injured of course, and just support my teammates."
One player who will not even be in attendance is C.J. Spiller, who is tending to family business in his native Florida. He won't rejoin the team until Sunday. Several other starters are not expected to dress.
No ByrdJairus Byrd rejoined the team after signing his franchise tender last week. He has participated in practice this week, but will not dress and play in Thursday's game according to Marrone.
When asked if the Pro Bowl safety would play against the Lions, Marrone said, 'Probably not.'
Extensive action for Leinart, LewisEven though both quarterbacks have been on the roster all of four days, both Matt Leinart and Thad Lewis will be thrown into the fire Thursday night against Detroit.
"I want to make sure with Kevin (Kolb's) situation being not a short term situation, I want to see both of those guys," said Marrone. "That's my goal. I have not made a decision on which one is going to play first."
"My approach is just to go out there and play ball and for me I don't feel like there's anything to lose," said Leinart. "That's exciting for me because I've had a lot of pressure over the years, looking over my shoulder. I'm just excited to be here, and humbled and just thankful for the opportunity."
"You just have to come in and try to help out the best way you can," said Thad Lewis. "Football is crazy and it's unfortunate, but sometimes it's the next guy up. You have to be ready when you're number is called."
Filling Gilmore voidThe Bills have a huge hole to fill at cornerback after the loss of Stephon Gilmore to a fractured wrist that required surgery. The top two candidates are Crezdon Butler and Justin Rogers.
"Both he and Rogers have had some injuries during camp. We know that when we've seen them play in games, both those players have played well recently," said Marrone. "Both of those players right now that we're looking at along with (T.J.) Heath, who is still in the mix, at the corner position to see how they do. Both players played well in the last two weeks, Rogers and Butler."
For Butler his plan is to just play within himself and not try to do too much.
"Just take care of my responsibility," said Butler. "Don't try to go make plays, let the plays come to you and when they come you've got to make them."
Rogers missed each of the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury, but came through the Washington game healthy after seeing 49 snaps. He felt like he didn't miss much despite the layoff.
"I stayed on top of the mental aspect of it, make sure I knew my plays," Rogers said. "When I got back right, I didn't want to miss a beat getting back in there. Now I'm back in there, and I'm ready to compete now."
3rd RB competition continues
Tashard Choice probably has the inside track on the third running back role behind C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, but it appears that Zac Brown and Kendall Gaskins still have a chance to change the minds of the offensive staff Thursday night.
"Looking at it Zac Brown and Kendall Gaskins, we're looking forward to seeing them along with Tashard (Choice)," said Marrone. "In terms of what you're looking for you want some diversity from that position in terms of the style of runner as a change-up. We know the style of C.J. and then we're looking for a complement on special teams. You're looking for 'x' amount of phases for special teams from the offense and the defense. That enters into the decision making process."
Brown and Gaskins figure to see the most work in the Lions game when it comes to carries. As Gaskins sees it that's a good thing.
"I know Coach Wheatley already talked to me and Fred (Jackson) and all the guys on the sidelines, telling me they're going to have a lot of Pedialyte ready for me, because they know I'm going to get a lot of carries and playing time this week," said Gaskins. "I think it's a good opportunity. The coaches will be able to see a lot more rather than just a short period of time. I have to be able to get into the rhythm of the game the whole time. So I'll be able to show more than what I've shown before."
The opponentSome of the Lions' top talents are not expected to play. WR Calvin Johnson, DT Ndamukong Suh and top draft choice DE Ziggy Ansah are all going to sit Thursday's game out.
Much like the Bills there are still a couple of starting roles the Lions are trying to finalize, most notably right guard and right tackle. Third-round pick Larry Warford is battling veteran Dylan Gandy for the right guard job, while rookie LaDrian Waddle is pushing starter Jason Fox at right tackle.
Detroit is 2-1 in the preseason and they're coming off a resounding victory over New England 40-9.
The Lions have met the Bills in the preseason finale each of the last 11 years. Last season Detroit beat Buffalo 38-32 in their preseason meeting at Ford Field.
Thursday night's game is blacked out to the local television audience. Kickoff is set for 7 pm.