Stillers vs. Bills Pre-game:
It will be tough to find much of interest in this encounter; this is the last pre-season game for both teams and it is highly likely that no set of starters will play much.� Beyond that, these teams will meet in Week 4 of the regular season; given the wildly inflated importance your average coach attaches to his genius scheme, I think we can be sure that neither team will show much.
I�ll be watching anyway and, probably, you will too.� The Bills will come in 2-1 in pre-season having lost 24-10 to St. Louis, beaten the Eagles 6-3 and, last weekend, whipped the pitiful Bengals 20-10.� The Bills have been on top at the half in each game.� They gave 17 to the Rams to lose in the 4th quarter.� They led the Eagles thru-out and, judging by the fact that they out-gained Philly 366/187, probably dominated.� They certainly did that against the Bengals; although the halftime score was just 12-10, the Cin-Cats sole TD was on a 76 yard run by some scrub.� The Bengals couldn�t put anything together behind the Great White Mitchell; in fact, the Bills had a safety and (2) INT during Mitch�s brief tenure as a starter.�
All in all, the Bills have looked decent in pre-season but, of course, that means little.� Match-ups are all and here are some that may be interesting:
When Buffalo has the ball:� Under O-Head Mike Sheppard, Buffalo is installing a West Coast type scheme.� IMO, this is a peculiar choice for a cold weather team but the fact is that the Bills had few options.� Last season, Buffalo could neither establish the run nor protect their QB.� This suggests that their OL wasn�t much.� That may be so but the Bills did little in the off-season to improve that group.� LOT John Fina is okay and LOG Reuben Brown can be a force (for good or ill) but the rest of the Bill O-line is highly suspect.� That so, their QB will have to get rid of the ball and, for that reason, the antique Larry Centers, check-down receiver extraordinaire, is the #1 FB.�� The Bills have some talent competing at RB with rookie Travis Henry battling holdovers Shawn Bryson and Sammy Morris but even the great Juice, in his prime and with a cutting blade clutched in his off-hand, would have trouble gaining ground behind this line.� Turning to Stiller-centric items
Interior OL vs. Clancy/Hampton and Bell:� Against Philly, starting OC Billy Conaty went down with a shoulder injury.� Michael Early is the backup and, while big, was un-drafted and is untested.� Starting ROG Jerry Ostroski broke his leg and is out for the year; his replacement is 340# Corey Hulsey who has Early-like credentials.� These young Bills will bring 660# of beef to the LOS; despite that, I�m looking for the Stiller NT to excel in this game.� I doubt these young O-linemen will be able to react in time to check Kendrell Bell.
ROT Jonas Jennings vs. Aaron Smith: Smith keeps getting better; Jennings is a willing but raw rookie.� Smith will take advantage early; after he sits, we�ll see Chris Combs square off against Bills back-up ROT Kris Farris.
RCB DeShea Townsend vs. Peerless Price: �Price hasn�t done much but, unlike Toy, he has started for two seasons.� Townsend played well against Johnny Mortan and, probably, can handle Price too.� The Bills have a couple interesting rookie WR including 6�-2� high jumper Kwame Cavil and OSU non-grad Reggie Germany.� Townsend, Simmons and Poteat will be out-sized but should hold up okay.
D-side bubble battles:
Battles vs. Bell for #4 safety.
Hoke vs. Combs vs. the ghost of Chris Sullivan for #4 and #5 DE.
Kurpeikis vs. Knight for #8 LB.
When the Stillers have the ball:� After years in the 3-4, the Bills are going with a 46 variant of the 4-3.� Whatever; what we see Thursday will be, say, a tenth of the package.� Given that the starters will sit early:
Give Tee the first half:� Martin�s pre-season numbers, 9/20 with a pick is not good.� However, in the Twin Cities, Martin was victimized by his WR.� I think he can play in the league but that remains to be shown.� The 1st half Thursday is the last, best test available.
Sit Hines Ward:� Ward bruised a knee in practice Monday; let him rest.� Hines is the most professional WR in the current corps; he is a player you can win with but the jury is out on every other WR.� Sit Ward down; test the rest.
Keep the Bus in the barn:� With or without the Bus, the Stillers will have to run the ball effectively to win.� Fu is the closest thing to a surrogate Bus; I�d like to see him get some carries out of the power-I and against the Bills top D-unit.� Amoz will have a different package; like Fu, he needs some work with the top O-line against the Bills best, or near best.
Marvel vs. Phil Hansen:� Hansen is a good approximation of Rob Burnett; he is a crafty, powerful but not overwhelmingly talented veteran.� Currently, Marvel is the weakest link; the fate of the Stillers OL, increasingly, rests with this young tackle.
Spike and Toy vs. CB Ken Irvin and Antoine Winfield:� Irvin has talent but makes errors; Winfield could be the best CB in the league if only he weren�t 5�-8� or so.� Winfield is the LCB; match Spike on this man.� Irvin is the RCB; we�ll see if Toy can make him miss.� Nate Clements backs up Winfield; if Clements plays to his rep, he�ll shortly make an all-former-OSU CB tandem with Winfield.
The immortal Lance Brown:� Another former Stiller brought to the snowy north by former Stiller Tom Donahoe.� Brown is listed as the 3rd team RCB.
O-side bubble battles:
Brown vs. Baker for Malcolm Johnson�s role as �the other tall WR.�� This may be described as the Danny Farmer memorial.
Taylor vs. Blackwell vie for the Michael Adams trophy as KR specialist WR.
Janes vs. Tuman for H-back/FB.
Ross vs. Vincent for the role made famous by� Justin Strlyczek.