Clements ready to be tested by Moss
Bills cornerback looks at tonight's preseason game as litmus test
By John Wawrow
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- It wasn't long into training camp when Buffalo Bills cornerback Nate Clements proclaimed there was a date circled on his calendar.
"I'm still waiting for the Vikings game to go against Randy Moss to see what all the hooting and hollering is all about," Clements said.
Weeks later, Clements wasn't backing down as the Bills prepare to host Minnesota in a preseason game on Friday
"I know that Randy Moss is a top receiver," Clements said, referring to the Vikings' marquee deep threat. "But this right here is an opportunity I'm given to shine and showcase my ability. And the only way to be recognized is when you go up against the best."
Call the statements cocky or confident. What's most surprising is that they were made by Clements, who hardly made a peep while enjoying a promising rookie season.
Last season, a shy -- to the point of being introverted -- Clements led the Bills with three interceptions, recorded 80 tackles, forced three fumbles and ran a punt back for a touchdown.
By publicly calling out Moss, Clements appears intent on making an even bigger statement this year.
That's what the Bills are counting on from Clements who, along with fellow cornerback Antoine Winfield, is being asked to play one the most demanding positions in the defensive scheme.
Buffalo's intention to stuff the run with numbers leaves Clements and Winfield with the daunting task of going one-on-one against opponents' top receivers.
Showing a little swagger comes with the territory -- and impresses coach Gregg Williams.
"I think they play with confidence," Williams said of his corners. "And we would like the entire defense to play with their confidence."
With Drew Bledsoe in command of the offense, the concerns rest with a Bills defensive unit that was raw and banged-up for most of last season.
Friday's game against Minnesota is considered a measuring stick.
The Vikings might have lost receiver Cris Carter this offseason, but they still have Moss and a capable quarterback in Daunte Culpepper.
Moss didn't make himself available to reply to Clements' comments.
Then again, the Vikings have more pressing concerns.
Rookie tackle Bryant McKinnie, the seventh player selected in last April's draft, has yet to sign. This week, the NFL Players' Association accused the Vikings of colluding with the Kansas City Chiefs, who haven't signed defensive lineman, Ryan Sims, the player they took just ahead of McKinnie.
On the field, the Vikings are struggling with running the ball, not helped by nagging injuries to starter Michael Bennett (sore knee), who might be held out of Friday's game. Also doubtful is Doug Chapman, Bennett's backup, who aggravated a toe injury.
Minnesota's revamped defense continues to be a work in progress. In last week's 27-15 loss to Cleveland, the Vikings allowed 181 yards passing in the first half alone.
Rookie coach Mike Tice saw improvement in Minnesota's defense in practice this past week.
"The defense has made great strides. I'm excited to see Friday night in Buffalo how they perform," Tice said. "If they perform up to how they've practiced the last three practices, I think we'll make some strides, and that's what we're looking for."
Minnesota's defense will get tested with Bledsoe expected to play most if not all the first half in an effort to further build chemistry with his new teammates.
Acquired in a deal with New England last April, Bledsoe is coming off a splendid preseason debut in which he went 9-for-11 for 136 yards, threw two touchdowns and an interception against Cincinnati last week.
And Bledsoe isn't concerned about showing too much against a team the Bills will face during the regular season.
"Right now, I think the most important thing for us as an offense and as a team is to continue to build confidence," Bledsoe said. "So I wouldn't say that we'll probably hold too much back."
NFL preseason schedule,Page 2C