Admittedly, this is preseason football. If the final score at the end Saturday’s tilt against the Steelers at Ralph Wilson Stadium has any correlation to regular and postseason success, then the 2008 Detroit Lions (4-0 in the preseason) would have been crowned Super Bowl champions instead of being the answer to the trivia question, “What was the only to team to finish 0-16?” Unfortunately for Buffalo fans, the reverse does not mean your favorite teams ends the season showing off flashy Super Bowl rings, as the 1990 Bills went 0-4 in the preseason only to lose in a game people outside of Western New York remember as “Wide Right,” or maybe more positively as the greatest performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” courtesy of the great Whitney Houston.
However, there are a number of reasons to watch week 3 preseason games, for the following reasons:
- First Impression of 2012’s Team:
The third game of the preseason is when starters play the most snaps, and fans will get their first look at how their new draft picks, free agents, and improved players mesh together. Last preseason, the Bills scored 3, 10, 35, and 6 points as the preseason progressed. Fans, pundits, and reporters all worried that the Bills offense was grieving the loss of Lee Evans, Ryan Fitzpatrick couldn’t handle being a starting QB, and that the offensive line would be among the worst in the league. The Bills opened their first seven games of the season by scoring 41, 38, 34, 20, 31, 24, and 23 points. If you want to put any weight on a single week in preseason, it is this one. Considering the Bills have scored a total of 20 points in two games so far, let’s hope we see similar results to last year.
- The #2 Receiver Battle
Everyone knows what Stevie Johnson is capable of (Averages of 79 catches, 1040 yards, and 8 touchdowns over the past two seasons, and 1 featured rap song ), but nobody has stepped up and grabbed the #2 spot behind him. That is largely due to inexperience, as no other receiver has more than three years of experience. Donald Jones is the odds on favorite, and he did have a 100+ yard receiving yards in the thrilling comeback against the Patriots last year, but he only has 41 catches in two seasons. Pushing Jones are TJ Graham, the rookie with track-star speed coming off a 60 yard catch last week, and Marcus Easley, the 3rd year UCONN grad whose first seasons were derailed by torn ligaments in 2010 and then an unnerving heart ailment in 2011.
- The Third Left Tackle in 12 months
Cordy Glenn is a hard to miss in a crowd, and he’ll likely feel 70,000+ pairs of eyes on him Saturday as the team’s 3rd left tackle in a year. The Steelers should be a good test, as Chan Gailey said, “They have all of their blitz packages…and they are fast and explosive as well. It will be a challenge for our line protection to hold up.”
At 6’6’ 345 pounds, Buddy Nix has compared Glenn to former San Diego two-time Pro Bowler Marcus McNeil. McNeil’s career was cut short by injury, but he shared Glenn’s size and draft position. Second-year tackle Chris Hairston might have gotten a raw deal from Chan Gailey, as Glenn was tapped as the starting left tackle when he was drafted in the second round back in April, but he’ll get reps at right tackle with Erik Pears nursing an injury, and will be counted on during the season as the first tackle off the bench should Glenn stumble.
- A Pittsburgh Backup Could Blow-up
I did not forget about the Steeler fans out there. Since half the stadium will likely be filled with Pittsburgh fans waving their terrible towels, they have a great chance at seeing their next breakout star. The Bills just so happen to have a history of making stars out of previously unheard of Steeler backups. In Week 17 of 2004, at 26 years old, backup James Harrison returned a Drew Bledsoe fumble for his first career touchdown. He promptly went to five Pro Bowls. The same week, playing behind Jerome Bettis, Duce Staley, and Verron Haynes, fourth stringer Willie Parker ran for over 100 yards in three quarters. Antwaan Randle El even caught 8 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown for good measure.
- Super Mario’s Impact
It is virtually impossible to mention the 2012 iteration of the Bills without the $100 million man entering the conversation. Will Mario Williams’ arrival be as important to the city of Buffalo as Reggie White’s was to Green Bay? It is impossible to say, but nobody expected the Bills to land the crown jewel of free agency, and he immediately boosted the Bills from fringe playoff dreamers to legitimate contenders in the AFC. It is easy to laugh off high expectations with the Bills in the midst of a 12-year playoff draught, but a lot of experts laughed when Williams was chosen in front of Reggie Bush in the 2006 NFL Draft. Nobody is laughing about that selection now.