Sean McDermott said this week “when the lights come on, it’s a little bit different.”
That will happen Thursday night at New Era Field, as the Buffalo Bills open the 2017 preseason against the Minnesota Vikings.
“We’ve got quite a number of young players on this roster who have never played in a game before, so this will be their first time,” McDermott said.”We do get a lot off of the evaluation in games. You come to find out things that you never knew before. Just like when you go from the spring, where it’s just helmets, to full pads. There’s a difference, some things come out. That’ll be part of the evaluation and what we’re anxious to see come Thursday night.”
Here is everything you need to know for Thursday’s game, as well as five things we’ll be watching for:
• TV: Ch. 7. Announcers: Rob Stone (play by play), Steve Tasker (color analyst).
• Radio: Bills Radio Network. Buffalo-WGR 550 AM; Toronto-Fan 590 AM; Rochester-WCMF 96.5 FM and WROC 950 AM; Syracuse-WTKW 99.5 FM and WTKV 105.5 FM. Announcers: John Murphy (play by play), Mark Kelso (color analyst).
• Series history: Vikings lead, 7-4. The Bills last hosted the Vikings in the preseason in 2013.
• Uni watch: The Bills are going with white-on-white jerseys under the lights.
• Did you know? Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier served as the Vikings’ head coach from 2011-13.
• Next up: The Bills will resume training camp at St. John Fisher College on Sunday with an afternoon practice that starts at 2:15. Tickets are required.
Here are five things to watch for against the Vikings:
1. How does McDermott look running the show? The Bills’ first-time head coach has earned praise for his attention to detail. That will be put to the test for the first time Thursday night — albeit in an exhibition setting. Still, it will be interesting to monitor how McDermott organizes things on the Bills’ sideline. Will there be a two-minute situation in which he has to show good clock management? Will he have to throw his challenge flag? All those things are new for the coach.
2. Will the team play it safe with Cordy Glenn and Shaq Lawson? The team’s starting left tackle and defensive end have been listed as day to day with foot soreness and a groin injury, respectively. Given their importance to the 2017 season, it would make sense for the Bills to play it safe with both players. If Glenn is out, the likely scenario is that rookie Dion Dawkins works with the starters at left tackle. Dawkins has spent most of camp as the second-team right tackle behind Jordan Mills. If Lawson is out, Eddie Yarbrough may get an opportunity to run with the first team. Yarbrough has been one of the breakout players of training camp so far.
3. Where will Reggie Ragland line up? The second-year middle linebacker’s fall to the third team became a big story this week. For a player who was supposed to challenge Preston Brown for a starting job, going the wrong way down the depth chart is a big disappointment for both Ragland and the Bills. If Ragland is still with the third team during the game, it will show just how deep into McDermott’s doghouse he really is.
4. Can Rod Streater keep it up? If Yarbrough has been the surprise on defense, it’s been Streater on offense. The veteran receiver has been noticed at pretty much every practice, with McDermott calling his performance a “highlight” of camp thus far. With the signing of Anquan Bolding this week, Streater’s path to a roster spot got more challenging. He’ll need to continue to make plays in the game setting to strengthen his case.
5. Which backup running back will shine? Don’t expect to see too much from LeSean McCoy on Thursday night — McDermott already knows what he can do. There will be plenty of carries to split between Jonathan Williams, Cedric O’Neal, Jordan Johnson and Joe Banyard. It seems like every preseason, there is a running back who impresses. With Williams looking secure in the No. 2 job behind McCoy, the pressure will be on O’Neal, Johnson and Banyard to be that guy.