Buffalo Bills fans had a rare reason to celebrate this weekend, as they saw former standout receiver Andre Reed inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Now the balance of Hall of Fame weekend can be spent thinking ahead, as this year's team opens its preseason Sunday night in Canton against the New York Giants (8 p.m., NBC).
Since it's a fifth preseason game for the Bills, most regulars won't figure to see much action. But the game will give fans their first look at first-round draft pick Sammy Watkins, who's dazzled training camp attendees with some of his catches thus far.
"We'll just see where the team is at and how we play," Watkins said after practice Friday. "At the end of the day, there's going to be good and bad. It's the first game. Everybody is going to have minor errors, so for me I'm just going to go out, have fun and be consistent."
While Watkins may not get much of a chance to be consistent, many of the players competing for a final roster will.
"For a team that is like ours, a team that hasn't won, a team that has to work hard, we need the work," coach Doug Marrone said. "I think if you are a veteran team and you've won a lot and everything is set, maybe you might look at it in a different light."
The Bills will look for a different light in 2014 coming off a third straight 6-10 season. To that end, new players like Watkins, running back Anthony Dixon and cornerback Corey Graham will be relied upon for depth and leadership. This extra game will afford them one more chance to get to know the playbook and personnel.
"For the new guys, it's tougher for them, obviously, trying to learn everything, but once they do that they'll be fine," said running back C.J. Spiller, who like Watkins figures to spend most of the game on the bench. "We probably won't play a ton, but while we're out there we want to make sure we're looking crisp. We don't want to turn the ball over. We want to take care of it, and we want to put points on the board."
That will be one of the things for fans to watch for. The EJ Manuel-to-Watkins combo looks like the quarterback/receiver tandem management wants to get the team back in the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. Others include seeing how Marcell Dareus responds after an offseason of legal issues and how the secondary will fare without Jairus Byrd.
Marrone said the team will do some game planning for the Giants, but the focus will be more on seeing how the potential reserves fare in game situations.
Jim Kelly will be on hand for the ceremonial coin flip before the game. The Bills took in Saturday's induction ceremony and toured the Hall of Fame over the weekend.
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