Bills head coach Dick Jauron said earlier this week that he wished his team had more time to get prepared for the regular season. There is one final opportunity Thursday night in Detroit, but risking the health of his starters by playing them extensively in the preseason finale against the Lions was probably not a road he wanted to travel.
"We'd like to see them in maybe a couple of series, but probably not more," said Jauron.
Buffalo's offensive staff is hoping to see more from their top unit in the time that they're on the field Thursday night.
"As long as we come out with the intent on improving every practice, I think everything will take care of itself," said offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild. "I'd like to see us a little sharper this week. No penalties, no turnovers. Play physical and maybe make a big play here or there and we'll see where we're at."
Quarterback J.P. Losman echoed his coordinator's sentiments despite he won't see much playing time.
"We still want to come out sharp," said Losman. "For instance the delay of game last week, it's just unacceptable and that was my fault. Those little things have to disappear quickly."
The men up front believe they can get their problems corrected, particularly in the run game, in time for the opener.
"I don't think they are hard things to repair," said Jason Whittle. "I think there were some execution problems. There were some things we didn't do as well as we wanted (last week) so it was kind of frustrating."
Melvin Fowler is expected to start after missing last week's game with a sprained ankle. Jauron acknowledges he will make a difference up front.
"It's good to have Melvin back," said Jauron. "I think Melvin is a real good player and a solid leader for us in his attitude, but also just in his demeanor. He does a real nice job for us in practice. In the games he's very smart and makes calls. Nothing against Duke Preston or Christian Gaddis, but Melvin is our guy. He's our center."
Defensively the Bills staff is hoping for more consistent fundamentals from their defenders particularly when it comes to getting ballcarriers on the ground.
"We missed too many tackles," said Donte Whitner. "We made a lot of silly mistakes that we shouldn't have made. So we have to go in and clean those things up and get ready because the season is coming fast."
Friday night's defensive effort was inconsistent as Buffalo surrendered 4.6 yards a carry to LenDale White and Vince Young finished the first half with a passer rating of 112.2.
"We're still looking to improve our run defense," said defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. "I thought we were a little bit better in the run defense. I thought we were a little bit better in the pass game, but we still have some work to do there. Certain individuals stepped up last week and made plays."
One area that will be of particular focus in the final preseason game for Fewell is the play of his safeties.
"We're looking for better safety play this week," said Fewell. "We didn't think our safeties were real good last week. So we're looking to get better in our base and nickel defense in that area."
"We have to go out there and tackle well as a unit and everybody has to run to the football," said Whitner. "We have to go out there and play basic fundamentals which we got away from a little bit in the last game so we have to go back to those things."
Paul Posluszny will start at middle linebacker with the first unit. He and John DiGiorgio have been alternating starts through the preseason with DiGiorgio starting the first and third games and Posluszny starting the second and final preseason contests. For more on a competition that's going down to the wire click on the multimedia section of Buffalobills.com.
Jason Whittle looks to have the edge at the starting right guard position. Although both he and Duke Preston got first team reps in practice this week it was Whittle that was in first with Preston rotating in second.
Fred Jackson is the team's leading rusher and receiver in the preseason as he tries to make a case to be among the final 53 after spending last season on the practice squad. He's battling Shaud Williams and Josh Scobey for the fourth running back role.
Speaking of Scobey he's recovered from the calf injury that forced him to miss almost all of training camp and preseason.
"It's really set him back and there's no way to get around it," said Jauron of Scobey's injury. "The good news about Josh is he does have a track record. But this is the first time we'll get a chance to look at him."
With another strong performance Thursday night Trent Edwards will likely unseat Craig Nall as the team's number two quarterback behind J.P. Losman. Nall was running scout team offense in practice Tuesday.
Terrence McGee is not expected to play after suffering a concussion in last Friday's game against Tennessee. Lee Evans was called a "longshot" to play by Dick Jauron. Angelo Crowell may also be rested as he still doesn't appear fully recovered from his swollen knee.
Sam Aiken will be a game time decision.
Detroit is 2-1 in the preseason, but is coming off a humbling 37-10 defeat at the hands of defending Super Bowl champ Indianapolis.
The Lions offense is ranked second in the NFL averaging more than 371 total yards per game with 307 of those yards coming through the air. They're also tied for fourth with five passing touchdowns.
Detroit's offensive line has protected well despite all that passing surrendering just three sacks good for second best in the league this preseason. As a result they've hit on several big plays through their first three preseason contests.
Detroit has 17 plays of 20 yards or more, the most for any NFL team that has played three preseason game this summer. Pittsburgh has 18 plays of 20 yards or more, but has already played four preseason contests.
Starting quarterback Jon Kitna has compiled a passer rating of 115 in the preseason.
Defensively the Lions have been stout allowing just over 65 rushing yards per game good for second best this preseason. They've also racked up 10 sacks in three games good for third in the league.
On Saturday, Sept. 1, Buffalo's coaching staff must reduce the roster to 53 players by 6 pm.
On Sunday, Sept. 2, the team can establish a practice squad of eight players after 12 noon EDT by signing free agents who do not have an accrued season of free-agency credit or who were active for nine regular season games on a team's 53-man roster.
Buffalo will actually carry nine practice squad players this year counting NFL International allocation Daniel Watts this season.