What to look for as the Bills open preseason vs. Colts on Thursday

Are you ready?

AP Photo Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) celebrates with wide receiver Robert Foster (16) and teammates after a touchdown during a regular season game last season, against the Miami Dolphins, in Orchard Park.

With the first preseason game for the Buffalo Bills set for Thursday night against the Indianapolis Colts in Orchard Park, Bills fans have plenty to watch for throughout the preseason. After an offseason with plenty of action by the Buffalo front office, Bills fans will finally get their first look at this year’s team later this week. Here are a few things to watch for before the regular season begins.

QUARTERBACKS

A year ago, Bills fans were wondering whether AJ McCarron, Nathan Peterman or Josh Allen would begin the season as the team’s starting quarterback. This year, there is no question — this is Allen’s team. Though he may not get much work in most of the preseason games, Allen has plenty of new additions all around him, from pass catchers to lineman. After Allen had nearly no talent surrounding him a year ago, the Bills made an effort to surround him with the pieces to be successful in his second season. The preseason is the first glimpse into whether it will make a difference.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Speaking of the new pieces surrounding Allen this year, two of the most notable of those new faces are wide receivers Cole Beasley and John Brown. A year ago, Robert Foster — an undrafted free agent rookie — was the team’s top receiver. This year, he enters the preseason as fourth on the depth chart. Zay Jones has appeared to have impressed the coaching staff through training camp, while Beasley and Brown set up what used to be the league’s worst receiving unit for a big improvement this year. Brown’s big play ability with his blistering speed coupled with Beasley’s craftiness out of the slot both seem to fit on paper with Allen’s skill set. The preseason will give Allen a chance to develop chemistry with his two new free agent receivers. The same can be said for the tight end position, which is also much improved because of third round rookie Dawson Knox and free agent acquisition Tyler Kroft.

OFFENSIVE LINE

While Beasley and Brown were the flashy free agent acquisitions for the Bills, the most important additions may actually be the signings on the offensive line. Center Mitch Morse is one of the league’s best centers and will be counted on to anchor what has the potential to be a much-improved offensive line this season. Second round rookie Cody Ford is looking to solidify his position as a starter, while Jon Feliciano, Quinton Spain, Ty Nsekhe and Spencer Long were all brought in through free agency to compete for starting spots, as well. Some will be starters, some will be reserves, but the Bills’ offensive line can finally be classified as a group with depth, along with talent and experience.

WELCOME TO THE LEAGUE

It wasn’t only the offense of the Buffalo Bills that underwent changes this offseason. The defense has a few new faces too, with the most notable addition as first round rookie Ed Oliver. The ninth overall pick in this year’s draft, Oliver will replace longtime stater Kyle Williams on the defensive line. Oliver has star potential and has Bills fans excited in a way that interior linemen usually don’t achieve, especially this early in a career. It will be interesting to see how he deals with the pressure of being a top 10 pick at a position that doesn’t dominate the stat sheet.

WHAT ABOUT SHADY

Entering the final year on his contract, LeSean “Shady” McCoy has something to prove to the Bills’ front office and coaching staff. Buffalo added future Hall of Fame running back Frank Gore this offseason, along with the much younger TJ Yeldon to provide competition for McCoy. The team also drafted rookie Devin Singletary with the first of two third round picks. In a potentially crowded backfield with two other players with starting experience, McCoy’s $6.175 million salary — which becomes fully guaranteed if he’s on the roster for the first game — could be too rich for a player who is coming off a down year and is over the age of 30.

This season, the Bills have plenty of intrigue as preseason kicks off this week. Compared to where the team was a year ago at this point — struggling to decide on a starting quarterback — this time around, Bills fans have plenty of reasons to tune in on Thursday night.

Twitter: @bradencarmen

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