Buffalo Bills Training Camp: 5 Battles Worth Watching
Buffalo Bills 2013 Training Camp: 5 Battles Worth Watching
2013 could aptly be called the year of training camp battles in Orchard Park. For any given NFL team, there is always a limited number of roster spots to fill and plenty of tough decisions to be made by the beginning of the regular season. But for the Buffalo Bills this offseason, those tough decisions will be multiplied by a roster full of unproven players all vying for spots on the team.
Very few positions on the team's depth chart are set in stone at this point, and with head coach Doug Marrone already emphasizing a team-wide roster competition, it should make for a very interesting training camp. There are the ordinary roster battles for backup positions but also several competitions at some of the most important skill positions in football. In fact, on the offensive side of the ball, CJ Spiller and Stevie Johnson are the only players who definitively know where they stand at this point.
On defense, the situation is slightly more clear, with a proven starting front four in Kyle Williams, Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, and Marcell Dareus. Behind them, there is the talented but still developing Stephon Gilmore at cornerback and, assuming the team manages to re-sign him, the always consistent Jairus Byrd. The other defensive back spots are more or less open though, as are virtually all of the linebacker positions. It's presumed that rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso will eventually start, but how soon remains very much in question.
Predicting exactly what the Bills' final 53-man roster will look like is next to impossible at this point, but these training camp battles will no doubt help bring the picture into focus. Virtually every player on the Bills roster is fighting for their job this summer, which should make this a very fun training camp to keep an eye on. Here are five of the Buffalo Bills' most intriguing training camp battles in 2013.
Scott Chandler vs. Chris Gragg
TE Scott Chandler has been a solid option and then some for the Buffalo Bills over the last couple years. He has contributed consistently and was one of Ryan Fitzpatrick's favorite red-zone targets in the three seasons that the Amish Rifle was running Buffalo's offense. It might seem like a given to Bills fans that Chandler's job as the team's starting tight end is safe, but Chandler is coming off of a serious injury and has a legitimate competitor in the explosive, talented rookie Chris Gragg. So far, Gragg has demonstrated all of the confidence, swagger, and play-making ability of an NFL star, so it will be interesting to see how long Chandler can keep him at bay.
Robert Woods vs. TJ Graham
By now you're probably well aware of the state of the Bills receiving depth chart. In case you aren't, it goes Stevie Johnson and then who knows? These two are the likely front-runners to take over the number two wideout spot this fall. Robert Woods has been hailed as the most NFL-ready receiver in this year's draft class and is expected to make an impact almost instantly. TJ Graham, on the other hand, had a quiet rookie season but has apparently taken tremendous strides heading into his sophomore year in the league.
Da'Rick Rogers vs. The World
If this one sounds like a coming-of-age action comedy, it's only because that's pretty much what it is. Think of Rogers as a much, much, much more athletic version of Michael Cera, and instead of facing seven evil exes, he has to face his seven failed drug tests. Okay, so it's not a perfect analogy, but there's no question that the deck is stacked against Rogers. Such is the case with any player with a history of 'character concerns', and Rogers still has plenty of work to do to prove that he has matured and is ready to be a professional athlete. There's no doubting his talent, though, and if he can put his past issues to rest, he could very well be a future NFL star.
Jairus Byrd vs. The Buffalo Bills
It's getting dangerously close to the start of training camp, and Jairus Byrd still has not come to terms on a contract extension with the Buffalo Bills. Byrd has been a defensive anchor and consistent difference maker throughout his career, and the Bills front office will have no excuse if they fail to re-sign him. They have close to $20 million in cap space, and an All-Pro talent like Byrd simply cannot be allowed to walk. Bills fans are no doubt already worried, but if negotiations carry over into training camp, that worry will turn into pure, unbridled rage.
EJ Manuel vs. Kevin Kolb
You knew this one was coming. The Kolb/Manuel QB competition has been the biggest storyline for the Buffalo Bills this offseason and is unlikely to change during training camp. This is the purest definition of a training camp battle, with both players vying for the starting job at the most important position in football. Even if Kolb manages to win the starting job he will instantly be on the hot seat, and each inevitable error will make the chants for Manuel to start that much louder.
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