Here are my three thoughts three days before the Bills face the Patriots:
1. LeSean McCoy health watch. Rex Ryan dropped at least a mini bombshell Thursday when he revealed that the running back left practice early with tightness and soreness in his hamstring. McCoy was sidelined for most of the preseason with a hamstring injury, and his status was a question mark leading up to last Sunday's season-opener against Indianapolis. He played, but hardly resembled the dynamic talent the Bills expected to get when they traded for him and then redid his contract to pay him $16 million this season. He gained only 41 yards on 17 carries, missing some holes and failing to get others with the help of his offensive line. Ryan said he was hopeful McCoy would play Sunday, and we're expecting to get an update later today. But despite the game's magnitude, might it make more sense for him to rest and heal so that the injury doesn't linger?
2. Sammy Watkins gearing up for redemption. The Bills' No. 1 receiver didn't catch a pass against the Colts, who shaded a safety in his direction throughout the game. He wasn't even targeted until late in the game. There were still a couple of opportunities for Watkins to get the ball, but for the most part, quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw to the opposite side of the field, once connecting with Percy Harvin for a 51-yard touchdown. As admirable as it was for Taylor, making his first NFL start, to smartly take what the defense was giving him, there are going to be games when he must simply take what the offense wants. And utilizing its most talented pass-catcher to the fullest has to be a priority. Something tells me Watkins is going to avoid back-to-back shutouts.
3. Working on the Gronk Plan. On Wednesday, Bills defensive players said they were still in the process of studying and practicing the plan to deal with the Patriots' most dangerous pass-catcher, tight end Rob Gronkowski. They were expected to do more work on that front on Thursday. It's understandable that the Bills are devoting greater time and energy to dealing with Gronk than perhaps any other player they will face this season. Few other players in the league are as capable as he is of individually impacting the outcome. In all likelihood, defending him will be a true team effort that will probably involve defenders at all levels. Linemen, linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks will, at various times, be included in the process. Put it this way: the Bills can be counted on to least try to defend Gronkowski, something the Pats' previous opponent, the Steelers, apparently felt wasn't necessary. He responded with three touchdown catches.