*Three starters to make debut *A pair of starters will see preseason action for the first time on Friday at Washington. OLB Manny Lawson and WR Sammy Watkins will both see playing time at FedEx Field. Lawson has been practicing the past two weeks in his return from a partially torn pectoral muscle. Watkins has had his reps in practice closely monitored throughout training camp and the athletic training and medical staff believes now is the appropriate time for Watkins to see game action.
“He probably won’t be in there a whole lot but he is scheduled to play,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “We wouldn’t put him out there if he wasn’t (good to go).”
Not certain if he will start Friday is LG Richie Incognito. He’s missed each of the first two preseason games due to a rib injury, but he returned to practice earlier this week.
Other question marks for the game include Seantrel Henderson, Jordan Mills, Nickell Robey-Coleman and Cardale Jones.
“We’ll see how he is,” said Ryan of Jones. “His shoulder’s sore, but I don’t have the extent of the injury but he took a hit in the game but he continued, he played the rest of the game with it. Generally that’s an indication that it’s not a huge injury but I hope that’s the case, that it’s not serious.”
*Keep making strides *The offense has certainly had its moments thus far in the preseason and the defense has really locked things down on their side of the ball. QB Tyrod Taylor said continued progress is what they’re after Friday night.
“We’re definitely trying to continue building on a lot of the things that we’ve done well last year,” he said. “Of course, correct some of the things we didn’t do so well. But just continue to keep focusing and get better at the thing that we’re doing.”
LB Preston Brown echoed Taylor’s sentiments regarding the defensive side of the ball.
“We want to keep being dominant as a first, second and third team defense. Go out there and show that they’re not going to score easily and they’re going to have to work for it and try to sustain drives,” Brown said. “We keep getting so many three and outs that it’s going to be hard for people to do. We’ll keep grinding, keep working.”
*Position battles brewing *The positions where battles are still going on for defined roles include running back, wide receiver, tight end and safety. Rookie RB Jonathan Williams has made a good impression through the first two preseason games.
“He’s been looking very good,” said Taylor of Williams. “Very patient runner. He’s smart in terms of blitz pickup as well too. He’s excited for the opportunity. We knew it was a competition in the running back room and he’s definitely held up his part as far as going out there and making plays. Like I said, he’s been looking very good throughout practices and preseason games so far.”
Players at receiver looking to make a mark include Dez Lewis, who Rex Ryan feels has to make some plays Friday. Jarrett Boykin and Walt Powell are other wideouts who need to flash again.
At tight end Chris Gragg got off to a fast start. Blake Annen, Nick O’Leary and Jimmay Mundine all have to make an impact in some way.
Duke Williams is expected to continue to fill in for Aaron Williams at safety alongside Corey Graham Jonathan Meeks and Robert Blanton have to have strong performances to move up the depth chart.
*The opponent *Washington’s starting RB Matt Jones suffered a sprained AC joint in his shoulder in last week’s preseason game against the Jets. He’s not expected to play against Buffalo and neither is backup RB Chris Thompson leaving primary rushing duties to Keith Marshall and Mack Brown.
Set to return to action however, is starting LT Trent Williams, who is recovering from a knee injury.
Washington added mainly to their defense in free agency with CB Josh Norman the most notable signing after Carolina rescinded their franchise tag on the Pro Bowl cornerback. Norman signed a record five-year $75M deal with Washington soon after.
S David Bruton and DL Kendall Reyes were the other notable free agent pickups who both could land starting roles on Washington’s defense.
Washington also swung a trade with the New England Patriots Wednesday to acquire starting C Bryan Stork for a conditional pick. Stork was reportedly going to be released by New England. It's unlikely he'll play Friday night being so new to the club.
Top draft pick WR Josh Doctson missed all of training camp with an Achilles injury. He’s expected to be ready for Week 1 of the regular season.
Second-round pick LB S’ua Cravens has been running as a third team inside linebacker, while third-round pick CB Kendall Fuller is competing to be the team’s nickel corner. Washington is 1-1 in the preseason dropping a 23-17 decision to Atlanta before they beat the Jets last week 22-18.