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5 things to watch: Lions vs. Bills

Most fans have a ho-hum attitude toward the fourth preseason game. Many of the starters don't play, and if they do, it's typically a quick cameo.

But this game is an opportunity for the players that will make up the depth of the roster in the regular season to get their best chance at quality reps. It's a way for them to better prepare themselves for the season.

Here are five things to watch out for tonight in the preseason finale vs. Buffalo:


This is the last opportunity for players fighting for the 51st, 52nd and 53rd roster spots to make a good impression.

Head coach Jim Caldwell told the story this week of former Colts receiver Blair White, who caught seven passes for 132 yards in the final preseason game in 2010 that won him a job. He ended up playing in 13 games during the regular season that year and caught 36 passes for 355 yards and five touchdowns.

Can someone emerge as the Lions' Blair White tonight?

"Just like we talked the other day, it's been months and months of an interview process, in some cases this might be the final interview for some, so they want to put on a great showing," head coach Jim Caldwell said.

Also keep an eye on special teams. Which players play on all four teams? Does anyone stand out? Special teams performances tonight could also earn a player a job.


At this point, it looks like Dan Orlovsky will back up Matthew Stafford at quarterback when the regular season starts, but Jake Rudock has one more shot to make a good impression.

Rudock is expected to get a lot of reps vs. Buffalo tonight as he tries to bounce back from a 0-for-6 passing performance last week in Baltimore.

Roster cuts are looming, and the team is required to trim from 75 players to an initial 53 to start the regular season.

The team could keep three quarterbacks on the roster, but nothing is guaranteed.


Marvin Jones, Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin are the top three receivers on the roster. TJ Jones is in pretty good standing as the No. 4. That leaves Andre Roberts, Jace Billingsley and Jay Lee competing for the final spot(s).

Roberts' veteran status and special teams experience seem to give him the edge, but a big game by Billingsley or Lee could make the coaches step back and have another conversation about it – just like Caldwell and Co. did back in 2010 in Indy after White's big game.


Some of the toughest decisions on roster cut-down day could be at the defensive tackle spot. It's an extremely deep position on this football team, and some tough decisions will have to be made.

Haloti Ngata, Tyrunn Walker, A'Shawn Robinson and Khyri Thornton have been the top four for the last couple weeks.

That still leaves veterans Stefan Charles and Caraun Reid, both of whom can make plays in this league. What will the team do with last year's fourth-round pick Gabe Wright? Watch closely tonight how players rotate in and out, and who's able to stand out.


The Lions were much better last week running the football than they were in their previous two games. They'll obviously look to continue that trend this week.

Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington and George Winn are competing for what could end up being two spots behind Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. Zenner and Washington seem to have the edge at this point.

Caldwell said Tuesday that Detroit will likely enter the season with a running back by committee approach, though Abdullah is the clear No. 1.

"I think we've got enough guys that have a cross section of talent, that we have to utilize what they do best," Caldwell said. "I think we've got a little bit of everything there, or will have when it's all said and done."

Players like Zenner and Washington will get a lot of run tonight. What can they bring to the table when the regular season starts?

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