ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -- Rod Marinelli is caught in a classic dilemma.
The Detroit Lions head coach still has several items left on his exhibition-season checklist, but he doesn't want to risk getting his players hurt in the final preseason game.
"It's tough," Marinelli said Tuesday. "We have things that we want to work on, but we also have to be smart about protecting our players. We're going to need them for the opener."
That's why a significant number of Detroit's starters will not play Thursday in Buffalo.
"There will be a few that sit," he said. "You have to be smart, but you also have to make sure that you have enough guys to finish the game if a few get banged up."
Marinelli is going to be especially careful with his three main offensive weapons -- quarterback Jon Kitna and receivers Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams. Marinelli said that he and his coaching staff hadn't decided how much the trio would play against the Bills, but he has made it clear that it would be no more than a token appearance.
"It's a fine-edged sword when it comes to getting players ready," he said. "You want to get them in game shape, but a sprained ankle here or there and a guy is out for three weeks. You have to find the right mix."
For the same reason, backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky also will have his playing time limited. Orlovsky said earlier this week that he'd be happy to play the entire game, but he won't get that chance.
"There's no question that I don't want to play Danny the whole way," Marinelli said. "We'll see how long things go with him."
While Detroit's passing game is in good shape, the running attack needs work. The Lions have vowed to focus more on the run this year, but have struggled to move the ball on the ground in the first three preseason games.
That's why, while Kitna, Johnson and Williams might get short nights, rookie running back Kevin Smith and the offensive line will have to spend more time on the field.
"We need to see who can run block," Marinelli said. "We don't need to just try to run the ball, we need to see who can actually do it."
There also will be numerous battles going on, both offensively and defensively, for the final few spots on the 53-man roster.
"There are going to be guys in there competing for jobs," Marinelli said. "We have to make sure that we know who we can trust."
NOTES:@ The Lions made five cuts on Tuesday -- DE Claude Harriott, DB Stephen Howell, C Carroll Madison, LB Tyrone Pruitt and K Dave Rayner -- in order to get down to the league-mandated limit of 75 players. The final roster will have to be set by 4 p.m. on Saturday. ... Marinelli said that K Jason Hanson, who has missed the last two games with a thigh strain, will play against the Bills, and that he expects S Daniel Bullocks to see action. Bullocks hasn't played since tearing his right ACL in a preseason game last August. TE Dan Campbell, though, is not expected to play due to a hamstring injury.