Simms front and center
He wasn't part of the three-man quarterback competition, but Matt Simms is a player Rex Ryan respects. That's why Simms will start Thursday night at quarterback and likely play the whole game.
"Obviously I've had two years with Matt so I know what he can do, but coming in here and learning a new offense and things I knew it wouldn't be a problem for him," said Ryan. "He's a sharp guy. This young man can play and I think when he gets out there he's going to prove it."
"It's going to be great and by the end of it I might have more reps than all three of the other quarterbacks," Simms said. "I've been waiting patiently. I've done well in some of the reps that I've gotten already in the preseason. I've just got to show people that I can play week in and week out with extended work. Just go out have some fun, score some touchdowns and be a leader."
In limited action this preseason Simms is 5-8 passing for 66 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Starters will sitThe Bills have experienced an inordinate number of injuries at wide receiver and running back this summer. Whether it's the main reason or a contributing factor, head coach Rex Ryan has made the decision to sit his starters on both sides of the ball.
"There will be plenty of guys that are playing that will be on our roster fighting for roster spots, so it's a very important game," said Ryan. "With that being said the starters will probably sit this one out."
Percy Harvin has yet to appear in a preseason game and some running backs high on the depth chart have not seen much work either due to injury. Boobie Dixon is another player eager to get back up to game speed after missing several weeks with a calf injury. Ryan said Dixon might get a little work Thursday, but Harvin will not.
"Boobie may play some, but I know Percy has really been pushing to play… I'm not so sure about that. As much as I'd love to see us get some work I also want to make sure we're 100 percent against Indy."
"Whatever he's got in store for me that's what it is," said Dixon of his head coach. "I'm not putting no count limit on it, but I just want to get out there and get tackled and get back in football shape and run down on kickoff and do what I do and that's be all over the field."
Challenging players with volumeRyan has said more than once this preseason that he will purposely challenge his players with difficult assignments, play calls and adjustments on the fly to see how much they can process mentally and execute in short order. Some players have done better than others. On Thursday day those challenges will fall largely to the younger players who will see the most time on the field.
* *"It's going to be tough for them because Rex is going to throw a lot at them just to test them," said Nigel Bradham. "That's just how he is. He wants to see how much of the defense you can grab as a player, so he's going to test the young guys and make sure they know their playbook and understand and communicate and everything like that. He expects them to play just like the ones and all the starters, so pretty much it's going to be a great game for them to be able to go out there and show their ability."
Tight receiver raceWith several of the top receivers on Buffalo's roster missing time due to injury a heated competition has developed for a couple of the final spots on the squad at the receiver position. Players like Andre Davis, Deonte Thompson and Dezmin Lewis have been among those jockeying for a leg up in the wideout race. Thursday night is the final opportunity to make an impression on the coaching staff.
"My mindset going in is to just stay consistent, do everything I'm asked, special teams, get my assignments right and stay consistent and keep doing what I've been doing," said Andre Davis, who has six catches for 44 yards and a touchdown in the preseason.
"I just want to make plays whether it's a comeback route or a hitch whatever the case may be," said receiver and return man Marcus Thigpen. "I just want to go out there and show them that I can catch and play receiver at this level. The return game I just want to do the best I can as well and just make a good impression so the coaches have a tough decision to make."
Several of the receivers who sit lower on the depth chart have put in extra time this week, knowing their time on the field Thursday night will be extensive.
"I'm ready for it," said Davis. "I've done more conditioning this week than in the past couple of weeks because I know I'm going to be playing more and maybe playing the whole game on special teams and offense. So I'm just going to take it like any other week and maybe get some more conditioning in and stay in my studies and make it happen."
"There are three or four guys who come into this game who have a chance to win a job or lose a job," said Ryan. "So you never say, 'Hey this is the roster that's made.' There are always some guys who will step up and earn a roster spot in this last game."
The opponentThe Detroit Lions come into this preseason finale with a 2-1 record with their most recent outing a 22-17 victory over Jacksonville. Lions head coach Jim Caldwell does not intend to play many of his starters in Thursday's game either including WR Calvin Johnson. Johnson has not played at all this preseason for Detroit.
DT Haloti Ngata and top RB Joique Bell are returning from injuries and not expected to participate either.
Detroit's top two draft choices, G Laken Tomlinson and RB Ameer Abdullah have had their ups and downs this preseason. Both are expected to play. Abdullah has 12 carries for 82 yards this preseason.
The Lions also made a trade with Tampa Bay this week to acquire TE Timothy Wright in exchange for backup K Kyle Brindza.