Bills-Panthers game preview

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Cassel gets first crackIn Buffalo's three-man quarterback competition the Bills will turn to veteran Matt Cassel to start the team's first preseason game. Head coach Rex Ryan confirmed Cassel would start early in the week.

"It will be a great opportunity for me," said Cassel. "I always look forward to preseason because there is no substitution for game speed when you get out there under the lights, real fans there and you're
hitting and there is contact. The more time that you can play the more comfortable you become as the season gets going."

How long Cassel plays is anyone's guess at this point. The starting units on both sides of the ball are only expected to go a few series, but will the quarterback competition give Cassel the chance to play longer?

"Probably get a couple series and just go out and have some fun and get after it, and I think that's what we'll do," said Ryan in reference to playing time for the starters. "I'd just like to win. That would be nice. We are going to play the game pretty vanilla, but you still want to be productive. You still want to be able to protect the quarterback. You want to be able to run the football. Those are the two most important things. When those two things happen we'll be able to throw the ball."

Ryan hinted that Tyrod Taylor might be the second quarterback into the game. Offensive and defensive focus
Knowing their playing time is likely to be brief in this preseason opener, the first team offense is hoping to get a couple of sustained drives put together early.

"We're only going to get a limited amount of plays so we've got to come out there and start fast, get this offense going," said Robert Woods. "In prior years we were hesitant in games where we would build up and by the time we'd get going we were all out of the game. So we want to start fast right away."

On defense the focus has been perfection in training camp. The majority of players have played together for two and three seasons. So the goal going into Friday is to shut down Carolina in every way, shape and form.

"We are always trying to go and get three-and-outs," said Preston Brown. "That's the biggest thing, try to get three-and-outs, as many as we can. So try to stop their first team offense and make sure they can't move the ball and sustain a drive."

Rookies look readyBuffalo's top three draft choices have all been impressive through the first two weeks of camp. Top pick Ronald Darby has been a starting cornerback since the team reported to St. John Fisher with Leodis McKelvin on the Non-Football Injury list indefinitely and has performed admirably.

Third-round pick John Miller has been in the starting lineup at right guard since the spring and has shown no signs of being incapable of handling the job.

"(Darby) and John Miller both, you wouldn't know that they're rookies," said Ryan. "They step right in and play with confidence, passion, and that's what I expect them to play with. Confidence, I think more than anything that confidence is what I'm looking for."

Ryan has also been taken by the hard, downhill running style of fourth-round pick Karlos Williams, who has seen a lot of action since Boobie Dixon and Fred Jackson went down with long term injuries.

Player availabilityBoobie Dixon (calf) and Fred Jackson (hamstring) will leave the running back depth chart a bit thinner as both are out for Friday.

G Richie Incognito (ankle) and DT Kyle Williams (quad) could also be question marks after sustaining some minor injuries in practice this week.

LB Jimmy Gaines and TE Chris Manhertz are also question marks for Friday night.

The opponent
The Panthers insist they're back to business after QB Cam Newton and CB Josh Norman got into a scrap during practice Monday. Newton and Norman both addressed the media Tuesday to ensure the dust up is behind them.

"I'm bringing the best out of Josh. Josh is bringing the best out of me," said Newton. "At the end of the day, I'm not going to dwell on this. We are better from it. There are no hard feelings between anyone in the locker room."

Head coach Ron Rivera said Newton will play only through the first quarter before exiting Friday's game.

"It's the first preseason game so we'll take the first quarter and go from there," said Rivera. "Cam will play the first quarter and play predominantly when the ones are in. When he goes out most of those guys will go out as well."

Panthers top draft choice LB Shaq Thompson, is expected to play after returning from a hamstring injury this week. Thompson is among a group of young players Panthers head coach Ron Rivera is eager to evaluate in their first game performance.

"I'm looking forward to seeing what we have in terms of our young guys," said Rivera. "I am excited about some of the young guys and free agents we brought in. I'd love to see those guys compete and see what they bring to the table, and if they're capable."

Rivera also wants to see someone seize their starting right defensive end position, which is currently going through a platoon situation primarily between Frank Alexander and Kony Ealy. Starting DE Charles Johnson will not play Friday.

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