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Five players to watch


Chris GraggThe third-year tight end has made a compelling case for himself to stick on the 53-man roster. Gragg is second on the team in receptions in the preseason and leads the team in receiving yardage. His blocking in pass protection has improved and he's been consistent with his route running.

Nick O'LearyThe rookie sixth-round pick has not had many opportunities through the first three preseason games, but that is expected to change drastically Thursday night. O'Leary, whose strength is catching the ball, has yet to record a reception. He'll have to show improvement in his blocking and the capability to execute assignments from a variety of different pre-snap positions.

Matt SimmsSimms hasn't seen much in the way of action in the preseason, but he's going to start Thursday night and is expected to play the entire game. Rex Ryan is familiar with what Simms can do, but in extended action he could make a case to hang around on the Bills practice squad.

AJ TarpleyWith Preston Brown not dressing for the game and Tony Steward injured, AJ Tarpley is likely to play the whole game at inside linebacker. Tarpley is instinctive and makes plays because of his anticipation. A good performance could land him on the practice squad or even the roster if Steward isn't healthy in time for the regular season.

Marcus ThigpenThe return man has to show he's capable of making plays at wide receiver. If Thigpen can prove just as elusive in the passing game as he is on returns he could make the decisions at receiver for the offensive staff all the more difficult.

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