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Redskins, Bills start anew in 1st preseason game
LANDOVER, MD. (AP) - First of all, the Buffalo Bills will need to get used to seeing Donovan McNabb in a Washington Redskins uniform.
"It's going to look funny," linebacker Kawika Mitchell said, "having him in that white or burgundy."
Once that is out of the way, the Bills hope to start a new chapter in their franchise by actually getting something meaningful accomplished in a preseason game when they visit the Redskins on Friday night.
Buffalo's starters scored just three points in 15 series during last year's 1-4 preseason, leading to the dismissal of the offensive coordinator 10 days before the regular season opener. It was no surprise, therefore, that the Bills stumbled to another losing season _ 6-10 _ and out of the playoffs for the 10th straight year.
"I felt last year's preseason was horrible," quarterback Trent Edwards said. "I'd throw that out and say that right now, that we didn't do what we needed to do. We weren't in rhythm."
Horrible was also a good word to describe the Redskins' 4-12 season, making Friday's game the first step in a cleansing of sorts for both teams, the debut of new faces and new concepts all across the field.
In other preseason games Friday night, it's Jacksonville at Philadelphia and Kansas City at Atlanta.
Mike Shanahan is the new Redskins coach. Chan Gailey is the new Bills coach. Both teams are installing a 3-4 defense. Both have questions at receiver and offensive line. McNabb is trying to master a new offensive scheme for the first time since he was a rookie, while Edwards is trying to maintain his edge in a three-way quarterback competition.
The Redskins starters will likely play the standard one quarter or so that has become the norm for the first preseason game, but the Bills first-teamers might be out there a while longer.
"I told our team (to) anticipate if you're a starter that you would play maybe a little bit longer than you would have in a normal situation because we're learning new schemes," Gailey said. "We have a new offense, new defense, new special teams. You might have to go a little bit longer so we can get a feel for each other."
The game is also the first under-the-spotlight chance for a bubble player to make a case for a roster spot, or for a player hoping a starting job to show he's worth a place at the top of the depth chart. The Redskins will unveil No. 4 overall draft pick Trent Williams at left tackle, while the Bills are working in No. 9 selection C.J. Spiller, although the versatile running back is playing catch-up after holding out for the first 11 days of training camp.
The Redskins will also trot out Albert Haynesworth, who is working as a second-string nose tackle after missing the first nine days of camp because he couldn't pass the team's conditioning test. It's not the norm for a two-time All-Pro with a $100 million contract to see much action in the first preseason game _ especially as a backup _ but the Redskins aren't about to let Haynesworth forget how he dissed the team during the offseason.
Yet the player highest on the curiosity meter for fans will be McNabb, who is more concerned with getting his new offense to function properly and less about his reception from the crowd.
"The crowd cheers; the crowd boos," McNabb said. "I mean, I probably won't have that many boos here, but I think for our offense we need to focus on what we need to do."
The Eagles will test out their offense under Kevin Kolb, who moves in as starter for the departed McNabb.
Coach Andy Reid said plans call for Kolb to play the first quarter, with Michael Vick taking over in the second quarter. Reid will be watching Kolb closely.
"What you look for a quarterback to do is to execute the offense and to lead the offense and to make sure that he manages the game the proper way," Reid said. "That's how I approach it. If they think that they are going to complete every ball than that's a good thing."
The Jaguars, meanwhile, get a look at what coach Jack Del Rio hopes will be a revamped defense, one that had the league's worst pass rush last season.
Kansas City coach Todd Haley will be testing his rookies when the Chiefs visit the Georgia Dome. Also debuting will be an offense under new coordinator Charlie Weis and a defense under new coordinator Romeo Crennel.
Rookie wide receiver Dexter McCluster can't wait for his first NFL action.
"It will be a dream come true (when I walk out the tunnel)," said the second-round draft pick from Mississippi, where he ran for 1,169 yards last season.
Chiefs first-round pick Eric Berry of Tennessee returns to his home state of Georgia for his first NFL game.
"I played my last college game there, so I'm very excited about it," he said.
Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez spent 12 seasons with the Chiefs before arriving in Atlanta in 2009. He will see some familiar faces.
"It's good to go out and get that game speed again, and get that timing with everyone else," Gonzalez said. "It's an exhibition game. That's what it's all about."
Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, the Falcons' first-round draft pick and No. 19 overall, is set to start at weakside linebacker for the injured Mike Peterson.
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