Here is your fair warning: This is a column about almost nothing.
That’s how I feel about preseason football, which is basically the greatest sham in all of sports. Should I care? Should anyone around here, other than those who paint their faces red, white and blue, really care?
In no other sport do you watch dozens of guys who have a better chance of delivering pizza come Sept. 8 get to parade around in your favorite club’s unis – and you have to pay full price for the privilege of seeing it.
The Bills are back at it again tonight in Ralph Wilson Stadium, playing an actual game there for the first time since Dec. 30. (Yes, I know kids get in on the cheap. Golf claps to the Bills for their charity).
But for once, amazingly enough, a summer football night might actually be interesting.
The score tonight against the Minnesota Vikings won’t mean a thing and I submit that the score Sunday in Indianapolis, even a 44-20 win, is meaningless, too. That said, let’s see more of it.
The biggest thing I took out of Sunday’s game was that the Bills actually looked like they had a clue. They scored every which way, including the 107-yard, to-the-house kickoff jaunt by Marquise Goodwin. EJ Manuel put together a terrific two-minute drill. There were plays made on both sides of the ball.
New head coach Doug Marrone was caught on camera getting in some of his guys’ faces and afterward said he was surprised his team didn’t throw more deep balls. In game one of the preseason. Like it. Chan Who? No Mularkey here.
Wasn’t it about time the Bills seemed to have some purpose? Wasn’t it about time the other team looked like it didn’t care?
Colts owner Jim Irsay even took to Twitter to apologize for his club’s lackluster showing and said in part, “My commanders got an earful from me!”
A couple of wacky preseason did-you-knows: The perfect Miami Dolphins of 1972 lost three preseason games and the winless Detroit Lions of 2008 won four. So Sunday means nothing to the bottom line. The Colts are going to be better than the Bills this year. Absolutely.
And I realize the first knee-jerk you always hear in these parts is how brutal the Bills were in the preseason during the Super Bowl years. It was simply stay-healthy-and-get-ready-for-real football. Everyone knew it. There were Hall of Famers on that club who could flip a switch. No such luxury any more.
The Bills have been in such disarray for so long that I want to see a sense of organization every time they step on the field this month. Results aren’t always going to be there but there’s no reason that kind of minimum standard can’t be. So I have a lot of objectives watching tonight.
I’m curious about Kevin Kolb. This is his one chance. This whole notion of “competition” is ridiculous. This is EJ’s team and we all know it.
Still, the old football establishment says Kolb has to get his chance. Fair enough. Let’s see if he engenders any faith if he’s needed as a backup.
Stretch the field. Let’s assume Marrone made it clear to Nathaniel Hackett he wants to see the ball in the air for long distance a lot. Which QB will be better at it?
Let’s see how the lines hold up, especially the defensive front. The Vikings are likely to play their offensive starters more than they did last week and their line is well-respected.
Let’s see more from the linebackers. Kiko Alonso has played like a keeper in camp and it’s too bad he’ll be out. This group actually looked respectable Sunday. Hard to believe after last year’s disaster.
Let’s see if anyone can play in the secondary opposite Stephon Gilmore. That’s a big problem.
Let’s see what happens when Dustin Hopkins takes the field to kick. Give the kid some wind so we see how he might do in November.
So maybe there are, in fact, a few things to take seriously. But only a few.