1. Eddie Yarbrough makes his case
For most of training camp and the preseason, Eddie Yarbrough found reps hard to come by. The defensive end has spent most of the summer on the third unit. The emergence of rookie defensive end Darryl Johnson has only made it harder for the third-year pro to climb up the depth chart.
However, in the team's preseason finale against the Vikings, Yarbrough made a strong case for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Yarbrough drew a holding call that pulled a touchdown off the board for Minnesota. He also strung out a run play by the speedy Mike Boone, dropping him for an eight-yard loss. And on the ensuing series dropped Vikings running back De'Angelo Henderson for a five-yard loss.
"It was a blast," said Yarbrough of being able to perform. "I love these guys. I love this town and I want to be a part of this team. I've always been a grinder. Tooth and nail, scratch and claw, anything I can do to make this team and be on this 53-man roster and making this team to stay in Buffalo, I tried to lay it all on the line tonight. I felt I did a pretty good job."
With 10 tackles the defensive end was second only to rookie Jaquan Johnson (11) in tackles for the game.
"It was great to see him make a couple of those plays," said head coach Sean McDermott. "The celebration he had, that's a little unlike Eddie, but I think he was just in the moment and that's fun to watch. We've had Eddie since he was basically in his first year. To watch him grow over the years has been fun and he's a warrior. He gives it his all and puts it on the line every week and every day in practice. That's why he got the results he got tonight."
"Every single time we step out on the field you try to put your best foot forward. That could be a practice, a meeting, a game, a walk through, whatever it is we try to put our best foot forward," said Yarbrough. "Playing in these fourth preseason games you want to make it hard. As long as I did that I'm going to be alright."
With defensive end Mike Love now on injured reserve, the chance is there for Yarbrough to land a roster spot if the Bills choose to keep five defensive ends and four defensive tackles on their defensive line.
2. Hauschka rounding into form
Stephen Hauschka may have been buoyed by the two-year contract extension he signed on Wednesday, but the veteran kicker looked to be in regular season form on Thursday night. With just a minute left in the first quarter, Hauschka was trotted out to attempt a 54-yard field goal.
"I feel good," said Hauschka. "I've been kicking the ball well in practice too. It's just more about getting the reps in the game and getting comfortable out there. I feel great about where I'm at."
Standing on the head of the Bills logo near midfield, Hauschka hit a driven ball that easily clear the cross bar.
"It was good to get him a long kick in the preseason if we had the chance and the opportunity came up," said McDermott. "We wanted to get him out there and get a chance at a long field goal particularly at home. He knows that field well. It was good to see him convert. We've got a lot of confidence in Stephen."
Over the last two seasons Hauschka is the sixth most accurate kicker in the league from 50-yards plus with at least 10 attempts, going 11-16 over that span.
"When I'm at my best I'm just swinging away," he said. "Sometimes especially from farther out that's all you can do from there. Reps from out there are always good."
Hauschka also bombed a pair of kickoffs through the back of the end zone for touchbacks.
"I feel good about where I'm at physically, mentally and technically too," Hauschka said. "I put a lot of hard work in. My goal was never to peak for the first preseason game. Obviously I want to make all my kicks, but when I look at the year I train in a way that helps me get ready and peak right now. I feel good about the rhythm I'm in and I'm excited."
Rookie K Chase McLaughlin also hit a 54-yard field goal midway through the third quarter.
3. Saving the starters
Just about all the players on the team's projected two-deep depth chart did not participate in Buffalo's final preseason game Thursday night, as the coaching staff chose to save them for Week 1.
All seven candidates for the starting offensive line were spectators as were four of the top five receivers. So too were tight ends Lee Smith, Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney.
On defense it was much of the same. No member of the starting 11 saw the field. Even subpackage players like Kevin Johnson, Taron Johnson and Captain Munnerlyn did not play against Minnesota.
Unofficially it appeared as thought 40 players did not participate in the preseason finale.