The third preseason game is considered the most important. It is usually treated as a dress rehearsal, and the Bills’ game plan will be no different on Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens, as head coach Sean McDermott has already vowed to play his starters well into the second half. With plenty of roster spots still up for grabs, here are five players to watch for as the Bills inch one game closer to the regular season:
Andre Holmes: Remember a couple of weeks ago when people thought Holmes was on the bubble to make Buffalo’s 53-man roster? Well, after the trade of Sammy Watkins and Anquan Boldin’s sudden retirement, Holmes has been thrust right back into the mix as a key cog in Buffalo’s receiving corps. He’s been very quiet during the first two preseason games, hauling in only two catches for 11 yards, but the veteran wideout will get a good chance to work with Tyrod Taylor and the first team on Saturday, with Jordan Matthews expected to remain sidelined with his injury.
Holmes was one of Buffalo’s biggest splashes in free agency, and while he is basically a lock to make the final roster — mostly by default — Holmes needs to seize this opportunity on Saturday and prove that he can be a reliable option for Rick Dennison and Buffalo’s offense.
Vlad Ducasse: In a bit of a stunner this week, McDermott announced that Ducasse would start over John Miller against the Ravens. During that declaration, he called the right guard position an “open competition” and seems willing to give Ducasse a fair shot in that battle. While Miller hasn’t been glaringly bad this preseason, his three-year NFL career has been filled with its fair share of ups and downs. Ducasse hasn’t wowed during the preseason either, but he’s had the benefit of playing for Dennison in the past and has had a steady role with the second team. He’ll get his biggest chance of the preseason on Saturday, and it could play a big role in deciding who starts for the Bills in the games that count come September.
Dion Dawkins: The offensive line will certainly be the position group to watch Saturday night, and Dawkins will add another wrinkle to the unit. The Bills will start Dawkins at left tackle, the position he’s most familiar with, as veteran Cordy Glenn will sit out again with his nagging foot injury. Although the Bills have tried Dawkins out at right tackle this summer, he’s never really looked fully comfortable, and the last thing the coaching staff wants to do with Dawkins is to stunt the rookie’s growth. With Glenn’s timetable for return still cloudy, Dawkins should also see extended practice time at that position in addition to the game action on Saturday. This move from right to left in no way signifies that Mills has won the right tackle battle, but with Seantrel Henderson suspended the first five games of the season, the Bills have begun to prepare Dawkins for the strong likelihood that he starts week one.
Dawkins does a heck of a job of getting across the face of the 3t. Another decisive cut on weak side zone. pic.twitter.com/9Xu9iwUHwE
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) August 20, 2017
Kevon Seymour: He missed a good chunk of the summer with an injury and is slightly banged up again this week, but Seymour needs to build upon his rookie season if the secondary has any chance at a strong 2017 campaign. Seymour can play inside or out — something that McDermott indicated he loves about the cornerback — and has the talent to win the outside spot opposite Tre’Davious White. Seymour has been battling newly acquired E.J. Gaines and Shareece Wright for that spot, and unless Seymour has a really poor outing, it seems to be his job to lose. The Ravens have a relatively weak receiving group, so the Bills are hoping that their first-team secondary can have another strong showing on Saturday.
Gerald Hodges: With so much noise surrounding the linebacker group this offseason, Hodges has put his head down and been one of Buffalo’s steadiest players in the middle of the field. He’s led the second-team defense for almost all of the preseason, and through his strong performance has relegated Reggie Ragland to the third unit. Hodges has shown flashes of being a top-tier linebacker, and with rookies Tanner Vallejo and Matt Milano struggling behind the first unit, Hodges is trying to prove that he can be much more than just a special teams contributor. Look for Hodges to rotate in with the first team from time to time on Saturday. If he continues to play well, it may very well slam the door shut on Ragland’s chance at having a prominent role on Buffalo’s defense.
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