Anderson's role will be even more critical due to Germane Crowell's placement on the injured reserve. The move will keep Crowell out until Week Six, and force Anderson into the starting rotation, behind newcomers Bill Schroeder and Az-Zahir Hakim. The former Grambling standout has played admirably this pre-season and during training camp, becoming a favorite target of rookie quarterback Joey Harrington. However, Anderson, who is averaging 20.7 yards per catch (8 catches for 162 yards), has competition. Undrafted rookie Eddie Drummond is leading the team in receptions (10 catches for 164 yards) and is also making a push for the third spot, although Anderson experience in the system -- and newfound consistency -- may give him the edge. Second-year receiver Larry Foster and veteran wide receiver Desmond Howard are also individually making strides to replace Crowell. It will be up to Anderson to fend them off. This makes the final pre-season contest against Buffalo, at least for Anderson, important.
Lions' head coach Marty Mornhinweg has received many criticisms for keeping second-year quarterback Mike McMahon as his starting quarterback above fan favorite, and rookie sensation Joey Harrington. But don't think for one second if Harrington again outshines McMahon that Mornhinweg won't pull the trigger. Harrington has thrown for an NFL leading 579 yards in his three pre-season contests, including three touchdowns. Harrington's completion percentage (54.5) is above McMahon's (47.1), and by contrast, McMahon has only tossed for 261 yards and two touchdowns. Many McMahon supporters have been quick to point out that each player has faced different level of talents, with McMahon starting against first-team defenses and Harrington cleaning up against third-string-quality defenders. However, it is painfully obvious that Harrington is the more polished quarterback. This doesn't mean Harrington should be given starting duties, but it does mean McMahon needs to step up his game and show consistency with the first team offense -- something he has yet to do.
Cason was formerly a favorite of St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz mainly due to his speed. Unfortunately, Cason also had the knack of coughing up the ball, which led to his brief career with the former champs. With the Lions, Cason has held onto the ball, and the second-year Lion is making a run at either a back-up -- or third string -- position. While it is a possibility the team could keep four running backs, it isn't a certainty, giving Cason all the more reason to step up against Buffalo. The former Illinois State star is competing with undrafted rookie James Mungro and veteran running back Lamont Warren -- who has seemingly wrapped up the back-up position. If it were a battle between who was a better runner between tackles, Mungro would win the position. Mungro is averaging 4.9 yards per carry (16 carries, 79 yards) compared to Cason's mere 2.5 (13 carries, 33 yards). However, what makes Cason an asset is his receiving ability and game-breaking speed. Cason has 9 receptions for 100 yards, ranking third behind Eddie Drummond and Scotty Anderson. His ability to receive out of the backfield makes him a hot prospect, but he has to be consistent at both running and receiving. Cason is said to have a sub 4.3 speed in the 40 yard dash, making him the second-fastest player on the team behind Az-Zahir Hakim.
The Lions' starting cornerbacks have already been named (Eric Davis and Todd Lyght), but that doesn't mean Andre' Goodman can't make a lasting impression on defensive coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer. Goodman, who has been slowed with an ankle injury the last two weeks, will likely see over three quarters of action against Buffalo on Thursday. He needs it. Anytime a rookie misses two weeks of training camp, it slows their progress and sets them back almost twice that amount of time. Goodman has to start playing catch up with fellow rookie Chris Cash, who has made the most of his opportunity on the field during the pre-season. Goodman will have his opportunity, facing veteran and perennial Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Bledsoe on Thursday -- the Bills' new starting quarterback. Bledsoe has completed 25 of 39 passes for 315 yards, including three touchdowns. The former Patriot is on top of his game.
The new Lions' starting offensive tackle has to play solid and consistent if he hopes to keep his job from 6'7, 305 backup Matt Joyce. While Joyce was injured during training camp, Blaise slid into the position from his normal spot at guard, and has done a strong job. While the position will likely be handed back to third-year offensive lineman Stockar McDougle when he returns from injury, Blaise has the chore of keeping two young quarterbacks healthy. His play on Thursday will be under a microscope, as the Lions' coaching staff looks to tweak the roster prior to cuts (Sept. 1). Blaise won't get cut, but the team won't hesitate to remove Blaise from the position if they aren't comfortable with who's protecting McMahon and Harrington.