Game preview - Bills-Lions


The final preseason game for the Bills will take place in the Motor City as Detroit plays host to Buffalo for a 7 pm kickoff Thursday night at Ford Field (WKBW-TV – Channel 7). The game will feature more players fighting for roster spots than the starters on offense and defense, but head coach Chan Gailey does want his starters to get a bit of hitting in.

"We're thinking in that 10 play area," said Gailey for his starters. "It might be a little bit more, it might be a little bit less but that's what we're thinking. If you're going to put them out there for four plays, why are you going to put them out there? So you want them to be able to go out there and play enough to get a feel of the game and hit a little bit because it'll be a while before they do it again."

Ryan Fitzpatrick and the offense wouldn't mind tightening things down for the time they do get on the field.

"I think the goal in the last preseason game the first thing is always to come out healthy," said Fitzpatrick. "You've got the season coming up and we need everybody up, running and going. We are looking forward to being efficient and consistent."

The players battling for a job recognize the magnitude of the opportunity that sits in front of them Thursday night. Sixth-round pick Mark Asper is just looking to play his best game to date.

"I just want to get better," he said. "To do better than the last game. To be more productive as an offensive line. We have things that we take pride in, keeping the quarterback on his feet and moving the ball and communication across the line so going into this game that's what I'm trying to do, communicate, keep the quarterback up and move the ball down the field."

"There are quite a few guys that are sitting on that so called bubble that we're trying to make a decision on this week," said Gailey. "It'll be vital for them to be able to go out and play well and show they can take it from the practice field to the game field."

Positions of notePositions that have depth issues to be resolved include defensive end, linebacker, offensive line and safety.

At defensive end, Robert Eddins, Jarron Gilbert and Kyle Moore are battling for the fourth defensive end spot on the roster.

At linebacker there's a handful of candidates for the sixth and seventh spots including Tank Carder, Scott McKillop, Kirk Morrison and Chris White.

The coaching staff will have the open decision on whether to carry a fourth offensive tackle with Sam Young and Zebrie Sanders the primary candidates battling for that role.

And at safety rookies Delano Howell and Nick Saenz will try to convince the defensive staff to carry a fourth safety on the roster.

QB situationWhile Ryan Fitzpatrick will make a token appearance Thursday night in Detroit, the situation will be much different for Tyler Thigpen.

"Tyler needs to play and show what he's got," said Gailey. "This is his shot and then we'll play Tarvaris toward the end. We'll get him in the game unless something funky happens with the clock and they keep it the last 10 minutes of the game or something like that. But our plan is to get him in the game and let him play."

Jackson has had all of three days exposure to Buffalo's offensive system after arriving at One Bills Drive on Monday.

"I'm just going to try to cram as much as possible right now," said Jackson. "I feel like I'm a pretty quick learner. There's different terminology, but mostly the same concepts. So I just have to really erase all that stuff I've had in my head the last six years and try to learn this new system."

One quarterback that can relate to Jackson's situation is Fitzpatrick, who changed teams just before a regular season six years ago.

"I told him that I was in the exact same situation he is in 2007," said Fitzpatrick. "I got traded to the (Cincinnati) Bengals essentially after the last preseason game and was the number two when I got there. They only had two quarterbacks—Carson (Palmer) and me. I was in his exact situation, having to kind of scramble and figure out how to at least spit out the offense in the huddle and the snap count.

"There are so many different things that go into this and there are so many teams that do it differently than we do. My advice to him, and I told him, is just ask me anything you need to ask me. He has played in this league. A lot of it is just being confident. Picking a few plays that he is comfortable with and then going from there."

Injury updateThe Bills will be without the services of Mark Anderson and Erik Pears Thursday night. Both are working their way back from groin injuries. Terrence McGee suffered a setback with his surgically repaired knee in practice Monday and will also be held out of the preseason finale.

Not practicing on Tuesday were offensive tackles James Carmon and Zebrie Sanders. Both players are questionable for Thursday night.

The opponentThe Lions have a 1-2 record in the preseason with their only win coming at Baltimore in Preseason Week 2 (27-12). Detroit's defense has been stout for the most part in the preseason with their starters allowing three field goal drives and a touchdown against three takeaways.

In their most recent preseason outing against Oakland (L – 31-20) starting QB Matthew Stafford suffered a bruised non-throwing hand when it struck an opposing defensive lineman's helmet. Starting RB Kevin Smith suffered a sprained left ankle and cornerbacks Chris Houston (ankle) and Dwight Bentley (shoulder) were nicked up as well.

Bently, Houston and Smith did not practice on Monday or Tuesday. Neither did WR Titus Young, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, DE Lawrence Jackson and LBs Stephen Tulloch and Travis Lewis.

Vanden Bosch has yet to play in the preseason for Detroit due to a knee injury.

Head coach Jim Schwartz said earlier in the week that players that aren't 100 percent will not play Thursday night.

RB Mikel LeShoure saw his first preseason action against the Raiders last week and managed just a yard rushing on five carries and one reception for six yards.

Much like the Bills, the Lions also swung a trade this week acquiring fourth-year CB Kevin Barnes from Washington in exchange for a conditional pick.

Detroit also signed free agent special teams ace Kassim Osgood just last week. Thursday night will be his first preseason action with his new club.

The last timeThe Bills and Lions have met every preseason since 2002. In last year's preseason finale Detroit jumped out to a 16-0 lead thanks mainly to three Jason Hanson field goals along with a touchdown by Maurice Stovall in the first quarter. Buffalo could only manage a touchdown late gaining just 217 total net yards in a 16-6 Lions victory.

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