4 Buffalo Bills to watch against the Browns

The Buffalo Bills will take on the Cleveland Browns in a nationally televised game on ESPN. Here are four players to keep an eye on for the Bills.

Tyrod Taylor

This is the opportunity that Taylor has been waiting for since he joined the NFL. Tyrod Taylor could be one strong preseason start away from earning the quarterback job with the Buffalo Bills. Despite Rex Ryan claiming that Manuel is still in the race, it appears that it’s a two man race between Taylor and Matt Cassel for the job and tonight is Taylor’s opportunity with the first team offense.

Unfortunately for Taylor, the first team offense isn’t going to be the same offense we see in September. At running back, the team will be missing LeSean McCoy, Fred Jackson, Karlos Williams, Boobie Dixon and most likely Bryce Brown. The top five running backs will all be out of action. Instead, Buffalo’s starting running back may be UDFA Bronson Hill. Other options include UDFA Ricky Seale, recent addition Cierre Wood and possibly Marcus Thigpen.

Injuries could also keep some top receivers out of action tonight as well. Percy Harvin is certainly out after the team revealed that his hip condition is worse than they first expected. Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods’ statuses for tonight are also unclear at this time. The first team wide receivers could consist of Chris Hogan, Marquise Goodwin and Deonte Thompson in three wide receiver sets.

If Taylor can move the ball and put up points with multiple backups in the game, the competition may end tonight.

Chris Hogan

Chris Hogan can’t be on the roster bubble, right? Wrong. As safe as I believed Hogan was entering training camp, the receiver has had multiple drops throughout training camp and we saw one last week against the Panthers. Hogan was a strong target for the Bills in 2014 but the NFL is a ‘what have you done for me lately’ league.

As mentioned above, Hogan should be starting for the Bills tonight. If Watkins and Woods are out, Taylor may use Hogan as his number one receiver. If Hogan steps up tonight, he won’t just be helping Taylor in his quest for the starting quarterback job, he’ll be helping himself land a roster spot.

Cedric Reed

Injuries are starting to take their toll on Buffalo’s defensive ends. Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes are both healthy but they probably won’t see that much playing time. Recently, the team lost Jarius Wynn to an ACL injury and Alex Carrington is currently out with a shoulder injury. The biggest benefactor of these injuries will be I.K. Enemkpali but Cedric Reed will also benefit from getting extended playing time.

Last week, Reed only saw six snaps at defensive left end behind Williams, Wynn and Michael Buchanan. Tonight, the UDFA should see more time and this will be his opportunity to show the Bills that he deserves more opportunities with the team.

In 2013, Reed racked up 10 sacks and 16 tackles for loss at Texas. His numbers dropped to 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss in 2014, but there was a reason that Reed’s stats fell last year. The defensive end played with a torn meniscus throughout the season. He was far from 100 percent but he gutted it out for the Texas Longhorns.

Reed can catch the coaches attention later tonight if he gets after Cleveland’s quarterbacks.

A.J. Tarpley

An undrafted free agent doesn’t get an opportunity like this every day. AJ Tarpley has a chance to show the Bills that he can handle being the team’s top reserve at the Mike linebacker position. The team’s top option for that role, Ty Powell, recently went down with an ACL injury for the year so Tarpley now has a chance to win that job.

Last week, Tarpley showed good instincts against the Panthers. Pro Football Focus rated the former Stanford Cardinals linebacker as the team’s top rated defender with a +2.9. He played 24 total snaps and did very well in terms of run defense. He was credited by PFF with three tackles, one assist, one quarterback hurry and two stops.

Tarpley should see even more playing time tonight in light of Powell’s injury. If he performs well, the Bills may not look elsewhere for a reserve ILB closer to the start of the season.

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