Thursday evening, we get our first look at the 2012 Buffalo Bills in their preseason opener against the Washington Redskins at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills, who finished with a 6-10 record last season, have added a plethora of new talent on both offense and defense; acquired via free agency and the draft, with most of them projected as starters. Even though we can only expect to see about 15-20 snaps from the first team offense, according to head coach Chan Gailey, there are still some prominent individual player matchups and competitions that could determine roster roles.
Washington Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III is making his professional debut since being selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft after a trade with the St. Louis Rams to ensure the rights to the Baylor signal caller. Throughout his four years at Baylor, RGIII has passed for 10,366 yards, 78 touchdowns to just 17 interceptions, while adding another 2,257 yards and 33 scores with his legs. The Bills have struggled against the run for the past couple of seasons, so it will be interesting to see the contain packages the defense employs to keep Griffin III in the pocket.
CB’s Aaron Williams, Stephon Gilmore Vs. WR’s Santana Moss, Pierre Garcon
The Bills are making a bold statement starting second year corner Aaron Williams and rookie Stephon Gilmore with the first team defense. With injuries nagging Terrence McGee, coupled with former first-round draft choice Leodis McKelvin’s inconsistency, Chan Gailey has confidence in his young cornerback tandem. This will be a true test for both corners, as they will go against a proven veteran in Santana Moss, a 33-year old wideout who caught 46 passes for 584 yards and four touchdowns last year in a dismal Redskins offense. Pierre Garcon was added to the Redskins via free agency, and the 25-year old managed to put up a solid season with an anemic quarterback in Curtis Painter under center for the Colts, grabbing 70 balls for 947 yards, while finding the endzone six times.
Gilmore has earned respect from his teammates, and in his first professional action, it will be fun to watch him go full speed against proven wideouts.
OT’s Cordy Glenn, Chris Hairston Vs. OLB’s Ryan Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo
Rookie left tackle Cordy Glenn will be facing an unfamilar Washington Redskins 3-4 defensive front that features two premier pass rushers in Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. With right tackle Erik Pears sidelined with injuries, second year tackle Chris Hairston, who made starts at the blindside position last year, is taking first team reps on the right side. Both are still raw and works in progress, and will have to prove themselves, as Hairston was given the short straw in the training camp competition. Last season, Kerrigan and Orakpo combined for 122 tackles, 16.5 sacks, and seven forced fumbles. This is Glenn’s first real chance to protect quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and these linebackers are the ones that will help him adjust quickly.
Buffalo’s Revamped Defensive Line Vs. Redskins Offensive Line
The Bills invested a lot of resources into their porous defensive line this offseason with the acquisitions of former No. 1 overall pick, defensive end Mario Williams, and former New England Patriot defensive end Mark Anderson. With Anderson listed as the starting defensive end opposite Williams, it is definitive that the team will employ a heavy rotation under defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt. With Williams lining up at left defensive end, he will face off against right tackle Jammal Brown, a 31-year old veteran that has been battling hip issues over recent seasons. Anderson will be lining up against former No. 4 overall pick Trent Williams, who is suspended for the first four games of the season. In the middle, it will be interesting to watch not only Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams, but the second and third team defensive tackles including Spencer Johnson, Dwan Edwards, and especially Alex Carrington, a former third round pick who has been making waves throughout OTA’s and training camp.
Bills’ No. 2 Receivers Vs. Redskins CB’s DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson
With Stevie Johnson entrenched as the No. 1 wideout, and Chan Gailey stating that Donald Jones is currently the starting No. 2 wideout, there are still players looking to take Jones’ role. Highlighting the list of competitors is Derek Hagan, a midseason acquisition in 2012, who managed 13 receptions for 138 yards and a score during his tenure with the Bills last year. Rookie T.J. Graham is a speedster who can stretch the field, but still has to work on his route running ability and consistency. Marcus Easley, a former fourth round draft choice that has yet to see a professional National Football League game, is once again projected as a sleeper, and it will be interesting to see how he performs with either Vince Young or Tyler Thigpen under center.