Previewing the Bills
Jon Kitna, Roy Williams, Cory Redding and others might not even play, but with several roster spots still up for grabs there's plenty to watch in Thursday's Lions-Bills game. Here are three things on top of my list:
Injuries. Dan Campbell and Drew Stanton are out and Daniel Bullocks hasn't played, but the Lions have been pretty healthy thus far this preseason, at least most of their major contributors. The last thing they want is for that to change now, hence the likely benching of Kitna, Williams and Redding. Buffalo has been a house of horrors for the Lions in the preseason. Three years ago, Jeff Garcia broke his leg in the final preseason game against the Bills. Before that, James Stewart went down with a dislocated shoulder. Even the starters that play won't last long, but staying healthy is far and away the major focus of preseason Game 4.
Artose Pinner. Aveion Cason is out with a sprained ankle and rookie Kevin Smith probably won't play beyond the first quarter. That means there'll be plenty of opportunity for Pinner and fellow backup running backs Tatum Bell and Brian Calhoun to prove they deserve a roster spot. I think Bell's on the team. The Lions would be foolish not to insure Smith with a 1,000-yard back better than anyone they'll find on the open market. Calhoun ran hard last week, but he's behind Pinner in the pecking order. Pinner's already solid on special teams, and if he looks like he can contribute out of the backfield, there's more reason to keep him over a ninth offensive lineman or extra tight end.
Bullocks. The third-year safety hasn't seen live action since the third game of last preseason, when he tore his ACL on what was to be his final defensive snap. Lions coach Rod Marinelli said he expects Bullocks to play Thursday, and how far along he is in his recovery could determine what the Lions do with their final defensive roster spot. Greg Blue is in the mix as a fifth safety, but one school of thought says the Lions would be better served keeping a seventh linebacker.