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Backup QB a question for Bills in preseason finale

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)

It'll come down to Tyler Thigpen's experience in Buffalo versus newcomer Tarvaris Jackson's potential in determining which of the two quarterbacks win the backup job in the Bills' preseason finale.

Coach Chan Gailey announced Tuesday that Thigpen will get a majority of playing time Thursday, when the Bills travel to play the Detroit Lions. Jackson, acquired in a trade from Seattle this week, will take over in the fourth quarter and his chances of winning the job judged on how quickly he can grasp the offense.

''What you have to look at when you're making a decision like this is potential,'' Gailey said, referring to Jackson. ''Do we think he can play in this system eventually, that's the decision we'll have to make. Because there's not enough reps, there's not going to be enough looks to make a clean decision.''

Thigpen is the returning backup and is more familiar with Gailey's offense. He has had his struggles this preseason, but outlasted Vince Young, who was cut on Monday.

Jackson, 17-17 as a starter over a six-year career, had his first chance to practice in team drills Tuesday. His performance was spotty, at best. Though he zipped one good pass over the middle to Ruvell Martin, Jackson had difficulty finding his rhythm.

The Bills would prefer keeping only one backup behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, with the No. 3 job going to receiver/wildcat specialist Brad Smith. Gailey hasn't entirely ruled out keeping both Thigpen and Jackson, though.

The Bills (No. 19 in the AP Pro32) are 0-3 this preseason, and lost, 38-7, to Pittsburgh on Saturday.

The No. 2 quarterback job is among several unsettled positions before the Bills make 22 cuts to set their 53-player roster by Friday. Gailey said between 80 and 85 percent of his roster is already set, which leaves about six or seven spots up for grabs.

And the backup safety positions might already be set based on how well second-year player Da'Norris Searcy and undrafted rookie Delano Howell have performed. General manager Buddy Nix said adding a veteran safety in free agency is now less of a concern than it was a month ago.

''We may have found him on our team,'' Nix said. ''You have to let it play out, but we may have one as good as what we can go out there and get.''

Howell had a particularly strong performance getting significant playing time with the second-string defense in a 36-14 loss at Minnesota two weeks ago.

Among others on the bubble are defensive ends Kyle Moore and Robert Eddins. The two are competing for a job left open after Shawne Merriman was cut last week. There's also a competition at linebacker between rookie draft picks Tank Carder and Nigel Bradham, and free-agent addition Scott McKillop.

Receiver Marcus Easley's status is in question after an inconsistent preseason. Selected in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, Easley missed his rookie season due to a knee injury, and then missed last year with a heart problem.

Another question is whether the Bills will have enough roster spots to keep rookie place-kicker John Potter, a seventh-round pick. Though veteran Rian Lindell's job is secure, the Bills drafted Potter because of his ability to kick the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs. All eight of Potter's kickoffs have been touchbacks this preseason, forcing opponents to start at their own 20.

Gailey said the starters will get about 10 plays against Detroit. Buffalo opens the regular season at the New York Jets Sept. 9.

Veteran cornerback Terrence McGee missed practice Tuesday after feeling soreness in his surgically repaired left knee. It's another setback to an injury that's limited his playing time throughout camp and preseason. Gailey ruled McGee out for Thursday, but added it shouldn't affect the player's chances of making the team for a 10th season.

Defensive end Mark Anderson (groin) and right tackle Erik Pears (groin) have also been ruled out from playing. Both are expected to be ready next week, Gailey said.

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Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Tagged: Bills, Tarvaris Jackson, Tyler Thigpen, John Potter

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