Former Colt Losing Ground in Buffalo

Kelly Holcomb didn't need it spelled out for him. His poor performance in Saturday's preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers put him behind J.P. Losman in the race for the team's starting quarterback job...

...It likely even swung the door open for Craig Nall to get back in the race. Nall is expected to return to practice this week after sitting out two weeks with a severe hamstring pull.

"Yeah, I mean, J.P. played well," said Holcomb after going 2-of-4 for 16 yards and an interception that was returned for a touchdown against the Panthers. "He came in and managed the game and he did some good things. So yeah, you're behind the 8-ball but you can't sit around and whine about it, you can't worry about it, you just have to go play."

Holcomb, a 10-year veteran, started the game against the Panthers but Losman will get the nod Friday when the Bills play host to the Cincinnati Bengals at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Losman played more than 2 1/2 quarters against Carolina and rallied Buffalo from a 14-0 deficit to within 14-13, the game's final score. After a slow start, he wound up 15-of-24 passing for 144 yards with no turnovers. He was sacked five times.

Even before Saturday's dismal outing, Holcomb was struggling in practice learning coordinator Steve Fairchild's offense. He threw three interceptions during one night practice alone when the ball kept sailing out of his hand.

Saturday, Panthers cornerback Ken Lucas easily read an out pass to tight end Robert Royal and strolled untouched into the end zone to give his team a 14-0 lead.

"Obviously, it's not the way you want to start out," Holcomb said. "To give those guys seven points, even if it's preseason, you don't want to let your teammates down. I read the coverage wrong. I thought I had something I didn't have and the guy stepped in front of it. ... They disguise coverage well and they got me. There's nothing else I can say. I'm disappointed but I can't hang my head, you just have to keep digging and try and get better."

Holcomb never got into a rhythm against Carolina's first-unit defense, led by All-Pro end Julius Peppers, and played just 11 plays. Losman on the other hand benefited from facing the Panthers' backups. He was able to last 47 plays in eight series of work.

"I've always said the more I play, the more I'm in there, the more comfortable I'm going to get and the more comfortable I get, the better for our team," Losman said. "That's how I felt as the game went on, just getting more comfortable and making the throws." Losman started off 2-of-7 passing, including three consecutive incompletions on his first series and two throws that fell short of their target. He regained his touch in the two-minute drill before halftime, leading a drive to a 50-yard Rian Lindell field goal. He later directed a 12-play drive that led to a 45-yard Lindell field goal and then turned a Panthers fumble into Lionel Gates' 3-yard TD run.

Compared to a year ago when Losman was handed the starting job, the third-year pro said he's feeling much more comfortable.

"Even in the locker room before the game," he said. "You're not getting caught up in the moment, the music, paying attention to the fireworks or seeing guys over on the other side of the ball you watched when you were little. All of those things. Now I'm out here to play, I'm focused more on my job. That's all the focus should be on. I'm definitely getting better with that."

Jauron was clearly disappointed by Holcomb's interception, a bad mistake for a veteran. But he also wasn't handing Losman the starting job after one game.

"We'd like to see him consistently accurate and there were a few balls that were short early," he said. "He threw some really nice balls, some strong balls in there, too, and clearly he has mobility. We all knew he had that. He did some good things and he did some bad things, too."

If Nall can make up ground and play well against the Bengals, he could start Buffalo's third preseason game on Aug. 26 against Cleveland. That would give each candidate a start and make this a fair and true competition.

Nall has been jogging, running figure eights and doing pocket drops in practice. Fatigue in his injured left leg was a concern.

"It's been tough," the free agent from Green Bay said. "It's not just missing reps, those guys are getting extra reps. I just have to come in and pick up where I left off. I've been in the all the meetings, I've taken all the mental reps out here, it's just a matter of going out there and doing it again."


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