Niagara Gazette

Bills

September 1, 2011

Bills take long look at Hairston at left tackle

NOTEBOOK

ORCHARD PARK — The Buffalo Bills’ lack of depth on the offensive line was evident early on in Thursday’s 16-6 preseason loss at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Lions defense spent plenty of time in the Bills’ backfield, especially wreaking havoc on backup Tyler Thigpen. Despite a rather lackluster performance as a group, fourth-round pick Chris Hairston made a decent debut at left tackle.

Hairston, who spent majority of camp on the right side, moved to the left this week to give the Bills a look at 6-6, 332 pounder at his natural position before the team trims the roster down to the final 53-man group Saturday.

“There was a sense of, not normalcy, but I felt comfortable back over there with getting a good week’s work in,” said Hairston, who played left tackle at Clemson. “Being able to have a background at left tackle helped that transition be a little smoother. I wish I could have had a little more time, but that’s not how it works. You have to be able to play both sides, especially if you’re not a starting guy. I have to keep working hard.”

Demetrius Bell has had an up-and-down preseason, but the same can be said for plenty of others on the O-line. Hairston played all but the two drives reserved for the first-team unit.

“I hold myself to a pretty high standard. I felt like I did good things at times and I felt like at times I didn’t stick to what I learned, didn’t stick to techniques,” he said. “It’s a process. I’ve tried to learn as much as possible and do as much as possible to put myself in a position to be successful.”

•••

Thursday night was the last chance for those fighting for a roster spot to prove their worth before Saturday. The Bills have one of the more tougher decisions to make with their linebacking core, and second-year pro Antonio Coleman was one of the youngsters to get plenty of playing time in the final audition.

“Some of us guys are guys are out there fighting for our jobs because we don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Coleman, who signed with the Bills as an undrafted rookie last year. “So, I am going out there trying to make plays and impress the coaches as much as I can.”

Coleman led the Bills with six tackles, along with rookie Kelvin Sheppard, who played his first game of the preseason. Outside linebacker Danny Batten capped off a strong preseason with five stops.

“It’s a hard decision,” head coach Chan Gailey said of the difficult task ahead Saturday. “They’re making it very difficult by all playing fairly well. Not because they’re not showing up. They’re all playing pretty well. It’s going to be a very, very difficult decision.”

•••

Shawne Merriman was back on the field in game action for the Bills for the first time since the opening week of preseason. Merriman made three stops including one on the second play from scrimmage.

The very next play Merriman showcased his speed by bursting around the left side of the offense line to quickly cut down Detroit running back Jahvid Best for a 1-yard loss. He also brought down Aaron Brown from behind 3-yards shy of the first down marker.

“I knew we were not going to be out there long, but we wanted to make a quick impact in the few plays we did have,” Merriman said.

Merriman’s been recovering from a nagging groin issue the past couple weeks, forcing him to sit out the last two preseason games.

“I felt good,” he said. “I’m glad I got the chance to get out there and play a little bit just to get in the routine of getting ready again. Now, next time I line up it’ll be the real thing.”

•••

Gailey was not happy following the first half in which the Bills fell behind 10-0. Leodis McKelvin was burned on the first play on a 39-yard pass hookup between Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.

Later in the first quarter, with the first teamers already on the bench, Lions running back Jerome Harrison ran 47 yards down the right sideline, setting up the lone touchdown of the half, a 16-yard strike from Shaun Hill to Maurice Stovall.

“Unless you go out there with your first group and stop them and the next group doesn’t let them get a first down and doesn’t let them move the ball, you accomplish what you wanted to accomplish,” Gailey said.

Gailey also referred to his offense as a mess. It would have likely been much better had Ryan Fitzpatrick not overthrown a wide-open Stevie Johnson on the opening drive.

Later in the half, Johnson dropped a pass, one of many drops on the night for the receivers.

“I thought Fitzpatrick made some good decisions,” Gailey said. “C.J. (Spiller) ran the ball good the time he got the crease in there. Stevie dropped a pass. That’s not going to happen a ton.”

Thigpen also struggled, especially in the first half where he faced constant pressure.

“We need Tyler to play better, we do,” Gailey said. “He was not accurate with some of his throws early in that ball game when he went in. He was leading the ball too far inside, and talked to him in the second half about getting the ball outside and he did a lot better throwing the ball in the second half. He just needs time to throw with these guys and understand exactly where they’re going to break their routes and things like that.”

Contact Tonawanda News sports editor Brandon Koch at brandon.koch@tonawanda-news.com.

 

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