By BBD Writer Eric Samulski
On Saturday the Bills will take the field against the Pittsburgh Steelers for the third pre-season game of the year. As is typical of the penultimate preseason clash, the starters will see their most extensive playing time, meaning that the few starting positions up for grabs should finally work themselves out. Of course, the Bills will also be suiting up against the Steelers as the Mike Wallace fiasco is supposed to reach it’s inevitable conclusion. So, while the rest of the league focuses on the Pittsburgh deep threat, we can try and answer certain questions about the Bills.
Question One: Can Spiller and Jackson share a backfield?
This was the number one question last week, and there’s no reason to change it now. Spiller totaled negative eight yards (-8) last week, which is obviously not a number that gives Bills fans hope that we can utilize both our backs at the same time. Chan talks a big game about being able to get both guys going, but he wasn’t able to do it early last season, and he hasn’t been able to do it so far this preseason. We’ve got to start seeing some progress soon.
Question Two: Who is our starting weakside linebacker?
Arthur Moats got the nod in game one, but Kirk Morrison came back with the start in week two. It’s time for one of these players to make a move and grab the starting spot. Moats has more pass rushing ability, but he’s new to the position. Morrison has been around the NFL awhile and has experience at all linebacker positions. However, he lacks Moats’ athleticism and playmaking ability. The question might come down to dependability or upside?
Question Three: Can Scott McKillop, Naaman Roosevelt and Delano Howell fight their way onto the roster?
All three men were squarely on the outside looking in when training camp began but things have changed lately. Roosevelt continues to be one of the Bills’ steadiest receivers, often finding soft spots in zones and beating man-to-man coverage with crisp routes. McKillop has been working as Sheppard’s primary backup at MLB, even outplaying the second year man from LSU last weekend. Meanwhile, Howell has been the darling of camp, proving that intelligence and sure tackling might just be enough to make it in the NFL. It’s not common for so many long shots to make a final roster, but this is the same Bills organization that frequently starts undrafted players, so they’re not shy about going with unknowns.
Question Four: Cordy Glenn is our left tackle, but is he a good one?
For the second straight game, Glenn had his ups and downs manning the blind side. Now, he is a rookie and was going up against Jared Allen, which is reason enough for anybody to struggle. However, if he’s going to be named the starting left tackle then he needs to prove that he can hold up against the league’s best pass rushers. Nobody is saying that he can’t become a Pro Bowl left tackle, but he hasn’t shown that he can even be an above average one right now and we’re only a couple weeks away from the start of the season. If he doesn’t start showing progress it might be better for him to start on the right side and then move over.
Question Five: Can Chris Hairston unseat Erik Pears?
Since we’re talking about the right side, it’s worth noting that Chris Hairston has looked really good this offseason. He has the type of athleticism that Pears lacks and looks as though he could be a Pro Bowler at right tackle. If the Bills go with Glenn, it’s not a bad idea to line Hairston up as his bookend. Especially if Pears hasn’t proven he’s at full strength following offseason surgery. It’s time to give Hairston extensive snaps there and see how he holds up.
Question Six: How much pressure can the defensive line get?
With three sacks of Ponder in last week’s game, the defensive line proved that they have some juice. They’ll be squaring off against an under-whelming Steelers line that could provide some gaping holes for the Bills interior rushers. This could be a good game to signal to the league just how fearsome an attack they can be. It also wouldn’t be bad to see Kyle Moore get in on the action if he wants to lock down the number four defensive end job.
Question Seven: Can we run the wildcat effectively?
The Bills keep saying they’re going to expand the Wildcat package for Brad Smith. If last week is any indication, it might not be the best idea. Smith has shown that he can pick up two to four yards on third and short conversions, but throwing the ball has been another story. His mechanics look jerky and the ball doesn’t come out cleanly at all. If Chan can’t get the Wildcat offense working then Smith’s value takes a serious hit.