Here are my three thoughts on the Buffalo Bills entering Thursday night's preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field:
1. If, in fact, some Bills players are still in a funk over last Friday's trades that sent Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby out the door, this is another instance when it could very well surface. Sean McDermott took his players to task for their poor effort in Monday's practice, the next-to-last at the Bills' St. John Fisher College training camp. That was the second workout after the trade, so it was fair to speculate that the reality was setting in that the Bills' short-term future could very well suffer for the sake of long-term success.
The coach used a mid-field pep talk to get the players to snap out of it. It's entirely possible their performance could again be lackadaisical, given that it's a preseason game and there will be a very real reminder of the blockbuster deal on the field with Darby playing in his first game in an Eagles uniform.
2. This arguably will be Nathan Peterman's most important early moment of his NFL career. Playing in his first preseason game as the Bills' No. 2 quarterback, the rookie could do a great deal to lock himself in as Tyrod Taylor's understudy. He can also take a backward step that could put that in jeopardy.
Peterman was mostly impressive through training camp and in last week's preseason-opener against the Minnesota Vikings. But entering the Vikings' game as a third-stringer, he was able to take advantage of mostly bottom-of-the-roster defenders. Things will be drastically different against the Eagles, whose second-string defenders (and perhaps even some starters) will provide a greater challenge.
If Peterman is able to have at least as much success as he had against the Vikings, if not more, there will no doubt be an outcry to see more of him … including as a starter.
3. Another rookie worth watching closely is Dion Dawkins, who will be having a homecoming of sorts as a former Temple standout. The Bills are giving him every opportunity to beat out Jordan Mills for the starting spot at right tackle. And Dawkins needs to take some big steps to show the job should be his because Mills has been holding his own.
The good news is that the competition also is doing a good job of helping to prepare Dawkins for the potential of filling in as a starter at left tackle for Cordy Glenn, who continues to be sidelined by soreness in his left foot. Seantrel Henderson, who has been filling in Glenn in practice, will be suspended for the first five games of the season, so the Bills could very well need an alternative once the season starts.
And that alternative could very well be Dawkins.