Preseason Games Don’t Count

Updated: August 13, 2011

You know the times when you don’t get around to eating ‘breakfast’ until 4pm? You’re starving, you’re unable to think about anything other than the fact that you’re starving, and greasy take out sounds like the only answer. However, 3 minutes in to giving in and you not only cease to find the half eaten General Tso’s hamster appealing, but you also can’t tell if the nauseous feeling in your system is from spiking the ol’ blood sugar so quickly, or if something far more sinister is at play; leaving you unsatisfied and hoping your next meal is a spring greens salad with a tall Dasani.

That’s kind of how I feel about the first Bills preseason game. Considering the fact that these games had a legitimate chance of not happening as recently as two weeks ago, I’ve never looked forward to a preseason game quite the way I have this year. From getting the first good look at this year’s draft class, getting familiar with the play style of free agents like Smith and Barnett, to seeing any hints of how our Chan and George Edwards plan on running their respective offensive and defensive formations and alignments, it should be a fun night. But more than anything else, simply seeing the Bills in their new, no longer CFL looking, game-day uniforms on a NFL field is going to be surreal, and appreciated in a deep, you-don’t-know-what-you-got-till-it’s-almost-gone kind of way.

That is, it will be appreciated for a quarter, or perhaps two. The quickest way to kill the buzz of seeing how badly Marcell Dareus can destroy Olin Kreutz and the rest of the interior of Chicago’s line is to replace him with Spencer Johnson. Well, that or a broken leg. But the point is soon enough the on field players’ talent and corresponding chance of making the team will be diminished, leaving us to ponder Kamar Aiken burning some guy who was a CB for Northwest Missouri State this time last year.

With that in mind, I thought I’d provide a quick primer of things to pay attention to in order to maximize your takeaway from tonight’s Windy City tilt.

  • Injuries – Clearly, a major injury will have the biggest impact on the regular season if it happens (the injury), but also keep an eye on minor injuries. Even something as small as a bruised thigh can keep a mid level guy from competing for more time, or even knock him down on the depth chart where he’s fighting for a job. We’ll have all of that covered tonight on Buddy Nixon Live!, of course.
  • Depth Chart Order- When the starters come out, pay close attention to who replaces who. By noting the pecking order, you can begin to gauge where different players stand in relation to starting/making the roster. Additionally, keep a close eye on any starters that receive extended playing time, as that can be a clue that their starter status is tenuous.
  • Rookies- As noted earlier, this will be the first good opportunity to see how rookies like Marcell Dareus and Aaron Williams fit into the team’s plan. This also extends to players like Danny Batten and Marcus Easley, who are getting their first game experience to prove that the high regard the organization and fans have for them is not misplaced.
  • How 3rd Teamers Play- Whether Drayton Florence gets 3 picks, gets burnt for 3 TDs, or something in between, none of these scenarios really have much bearing on anything other than what tone Bills fans’ rabbling takes. On the other hand, for guys like Justin Rogers and Loyce Means, those performances could be the difference between making the 53 man roster, getting invited to the practice squad, or getting cut. This is what gives preseason games such a weird dynamic: Most fans get bored, the starters check out, and even the coaching staff isn’t totally into it. Yet for half the guys in uniform, it’s the biggest night of their lives, and one of the few opportunities they have to materialize their dreams.
  • …And a Few Things to Ignore The score, performance of the starters (for the most part), play selection, game management decisions, and most of the thoughts/reactions/emotions you have following the game. A few years ago, Detroit went 4-0 in August en route to 0-16. Despite having the shortest season in pro sports, the NFL campaign is still a marathon. The one thing you can be sure of is how the Bills look tonight will look nothing like they way they play in Week 8.

So hopefully this provides a framework of things to focus on when the game gets stale tonight. But if you still need help, or just want to partake in some witty banter and musings, join me and Sniper here at Buddy Nixon Live! starting at 8pm. It’ll be fun, in a ‘totally unexpected of the preseason’ type of way.