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Bills exhibition afterthoughts

Here are some exhibition afterthoughts as the Bills begin to prepare for their final preseason game Thursday against Detroit.

Nick Barnett looks like a real good addition at linebacker. He made a nice play to snuff out a reverse in Denver and plugged a couple holes well against the Jaguars. Alex Carrington did pretty well against the Jags as a hybrid linebacker. He set the edge well on the first series and tripped up David Garrard from behind on a four-man rush on the second. Antonio Coleman had a sack and Danny Batten was active on the outside. The jury, however, is way out on how much pass rush they can provide in a four-man rush. We don't have enough information yet. ... Terrence McGee and Leodis McKelvin were the starters at cornerback early in the game against regular formations against the Jaguars.

The right side of the offensive line has had two improved games in a row since the exhibition opener in Chicago. The Jaguars, of course, were missing their best pass rusher Saturday.

Hopes are high for keeping drives alive on third and short with Brad Smith in the game. He's looking very good in those situations. It was a great call by Chan Gailey to have Smith throw on third and 1 late in the first half. It was incomplete for Stevie Johnson, and the Bills had to punt. But putting that play on film will keep safeties thinking a bit more on third-and-short situations.

It was nice to see the value of a big target in the red zone on Marcus Easley's TD catch off a throw that Ryan Fitzpatrick put over the defensive back's head.

Tyler Thigpen is completing only 44 percent of his passes after a 50 percent outing vs. the Jaguars. But it's too early to draw definitive conclusions on that, either. He's playing with a revolving cast. His INT for a TD came on a mix-up with a receiver, not as a result of accuracy. He misfired on a third-down throw for Felton Huggins that looked like a misread on his part (Huggins had stopped his route vs. zone coverage). There were a couple drops, including a screen pass that would have gone for big yards. He did have some unforced off-target throws, no doubt. We won't get a great read on whether he can be a 58 percent passer unless he gets called on in the regular season.

Blaine Gabbert has a big arm. It's easy to see how scouts could fall in love with the way he throws. We still worry about his overall production in college. But don't count on David Garrard starting the full year. It will be easy for the Jags to throw him under the bus sometime around midseason and get on with the Gabbert era.

Presuming receiver Ruvell Martin is among the final cuts, here's hoping the Bills don't hand out No. 83 this season. Martin was signed due to the spate of injuries at the WR position. It's hard to avoid giving out all the numbers in the 80s. Tight ends and wideouts can wear 80s. Tight ends also can wear 40s, but so can linebackers and defensive backs. Wideouts also can wear numbers in the teens. But the Bills have all the numbers in the teens given out, except for No. 12, which is retired. All the numbers in the 80s are taken. All but one in the 40s is taken. Once the cuts are made, lots of numbers open up. The Bills should pay respect to Andre Reed and not hand his number out after the final cuts. ... Then next year they should try to give it to some long, long shot rookie. With Lee Evans out of the picture, it would be nice to go a couple seasons without anyone wearing Reed's 83.

--Mark Gaughan


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