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What to look for tonight in Vikings at Bills preseason game

By Tim Graham

Here are a handful of things I'll be looking for tonight, when the Buffalo Bills play the Minnesota Vikings in Ralph Wilson Stadium:

Will Kevin Kolb insist the quarterback competition remains open? Tonight's start for Kevin Kolb surely seems ceremonial. EJ Manuel left Kolb behind when the veteran twisted a knee and then left the team for a funeral. Manuel then played well in Sunday's preseason opener, while Kolb didn't take a snap. Kolb needs a strong performance to remind fans why the Bills signed him.

How will the Bills' first-team run defense look against Adrian Peterson? The Bills' run defense was the NFL's second-worst last year. Although it's only preseason, Peterson provides a measuring stick. Rookie middle linebacker Kiko Alonso won't play for precautionary reasons, but it would have been nice to see how well he could chase a star running back.

What kind of opportunities will the receivers have? They're fighting for reps, and with Stevie Johnson, Brad Smith and T.J. Graham out with injuries, the chances should be there. Fifteen different Bills were targeted for passes Sunday in Indianapolis. Seven of them were wide receivers. While so much of the attention was given to other wideouts, Marcus Easley caught all seven passes thrown his way for a game-high 94 yards. DeMarco Sampson was next with four catches for 49 yards. Anybody could step up tonight.

Can Rian Lindell assert himself in kicking competition? Telling attempts weren't available in the preseason opener. Sixth-round pick Dustin Hopkins made his field goals from only 24 and 23 yards. Lindell made his from 30 yards and was more reliable on kickoffs, albeit with less power. The Bills already have released punter Brian Stahovich, essentially awarding that job to Shawn Powell. They probably wouldn't mind naming their kicker, too.

What will Bills' secondary look like? The Vikings don't present much of a threat in the passing game with dink-and-dunk Christian Ponder, but the Bills' defensive backs have shown troubling tendencies to get beat, especially deep.


Brad Smith | DeMarco Sampson | Dustin Hopkins | EJ Manuel | Kevin Kolb | Kiko Alonso | Marcus Easley | Rian Lindell | Shawn Powell | Stevie Johnson | T.J. Graham
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |