By BBD Bills Writer: Eric Samulski
On Friday the Bills will take the field against the Minnesota Vikings for the second pre-season game of the year. The starters will begin to extend their time on the field and the depth chart will shake out a little more clearly. With Adrian Peterson not likely to suit up for Minnesota, there isn’t a lot of firepower on the other side of the field, but there are still a lot of questions to be answered by the Bills alone.
Question One: Can Spiller and Jackson share a backfield?
The Bills threw the ball on the first fifteen plays from scrimmage last game. Head Coach Chan Gailey said it was just a matter of the defensive scheme used against them, but you’d certainly like to see that number change. When Fred Jackson was healthy, Spiller carried the ball less than four times a game on average, so Bills fans have yet to see much concrete evidence that the team can utilize a successful two-back system. With both runners likely to play into the second quarter, it’ll be interesting to see how the carries are divided, or how Spiller is used in other ways.
Question Two: Is Cordy Glenn a left tackle?
Now, everybody knows Glenn has been getting reps exclusively at left tackle in practice, but his performance in the first preseason game was not strong. Besides the penalty, he also got beat around the edge on a few occasions and, perhaps more concerning, was pushed back into the pocket more than once. He’s a rookie and trying to get a feel for the position and the system, but if he struggles again it might be fair to wonder how ready he’ll be come week one. If he lines up at all against Jared Allen, it could be a real test for him.
Question Three: Is Erik Pears healthy and, if so, is right tackle his to lose?
Chris Hairston has been filling in admirably for Pears as he recovered from hernia surgery, but now that Pears is back, it’s time to keep an eye on their playing split. Sure, Pears is likely to be shaking off some rust, but is Gailey going to use Hairston more at right tackle or left tackle? Does Pears look like he’s still in decent shape and ready to build off last season? With Glenn a question mark at one tackle spot, this side of the line really needs to be locked in.
Question Four: Can Marcus Easley put it together?
The talk coming into camp was that Easley, who was a popular sleeper pick after being drafted in 2010, was on the verge of a breakout. He has incredible size and speed and was likely to push for the starting job opposite Stevie Johnson. Now the question being asked is whether he’ll even make the final cut. With time winding down, Easley needs to start showing some playmaking ability soon. He’s got to get onto the field against Minnesota and do something positive to stand out.
Question Five: Can Moats distance himself from Morrison?
Just a couple weeks into camp and Arthur Moats stole the starting WLB spot from Morrison. As a converted collegiate DE, Moats is still learning how to play 4-3 OLB. He’s obviously shown enough in practice to earn respect from Wanny, but it’ll be interesting to see if he can take a stranglehold on the job, or if Morrison, or even Nigel Bradham, can make up some ground.
Question Six: Who is the #2 quarterback?
So far in training camp neither Vince Young nor Tyler Thigpen has really been impressive. Young has the upside and mobility that Gailey loves, but he’s had trouble learning the playbook and getting comfortable in the offense. In their first game action, Young was 5-12 for 50 yards, while Thigpen was 3-8 for 38 and threw a pick. One of them is going to need to step it up. Minnesota’s beat-up and thin secondary would be a good place to start.
Question Seven: Who’s in front for the nickel cornerback job?
Ron Brooks made his presence felt in the last game, picking off a pass, constantly being around the ball, and showing why the Bills loved him coming out of LSU. Gailey has had positive things to say about the way Leodis McKelvin has taken to covering the slot and last years surprise, Justin Rodgers, was a standout early on in camp. Watching how these three perform could give an inside scoop on what the nickel package will look like. They’ll have a good test against Percy Harvin who, while inconsistent and frequently injured, is one of the more dangerous underneath receivers in the game.