Previewing the Buffalo Bills’ 2014 Training Camp

Previewing the Buffalo Bills' 2014 Training Camp

Buffalo Bills Minicamp
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills are getting a head start on their training camp as they prepare for the Hall of Game against the New York Giants on Aug. 3. After a very eventful offseason, the team is ready to get back to work in earnest. Is 2014 the year the Bills finally make a breakthrough? The coming weeks will be the first step in determining the answer.

Schedule

Buffalo Bills Minicamp
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Schedule

Buffalo Bills Minicamp
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Bills are scheduled to move into training camp at St. John Fisher College outside of Rochester, NY on July 18. Camp officially kicks off at 6pm on July 20. The team will be in action on July 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31 and Aug. 1 until they depart for Canton, OH for the Hall of Fame Game. They will return to New York for practices on Aug. 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 18, 19 and 20, with the final practice taking place on Aug. 21.

Quarterbacks

E.J. Manuel New York Jets v Buffalo Bills
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Quarterbacks

E.J. Manuel New York Jets v Buffalo Bills
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It’s all about E.J. Manuel this year for the Bills. Buffalo will only go as far as their second-year QB can take them. Their offense has an abundance of playmakers. Their defense, despite key losses, should be excellent. Manuel needs to prove that he can be a franchise quarterback, or the Bills’ run of mediocrity will continue. Thad Lewis will likely be Manuel’s backup, with Jeff Tuel and Dennis Dixon also looking for spots on the roster.

Running Backs/Fullbacks

C.J. Spiller Buffalo Bills v Jacksonville Jaguars
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Running Backs/Fullbacks

C.J. Spiller Buffalo Bills v Jacksonville Jaguars
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This is arguably the strongest area on the roster. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are as good a one-two backfield combo as there is in the NFL. Spiller in particular looks ready for a bounce back season after a very disappointing 2013. Even at 33, Jackson is the team’s most reliable player. Offseason additions Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon add great depth to the position. Frank Summers and Evan Rodriguez could both make the team as fullbacks.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Sammy Watkins Buffalo Bills Rookie Minicamp
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Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Sammy Watkins Buffalo Bills Rookie Minicamp
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The Bills completely overhauled their receiving corps, adding Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams and letting go of Stevie Johnson. Watkins will be under a lot of pressure as a rookie, but the Bills haven’t had a receiver with his talent level in more than a decade. Robert Woods and Scott Chandler should be two of E.J. Manuel’s favorite targets. Marquise Goodwin and Chris Hogan represent good depth, while Williams is the Wild Card.

Offensive Line

Eric Wood Buffalo Bills v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Offensive Line

Eric Wood Buffalo Bills v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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In Eric Wood, the Bills have one of the most reliable centers in the league. His veteran presence will be critical on a line that has been shaky in years past. Cordy Glenn is looking like a franchise building block at LT. Rookie Cyrus Kouandjio looks ready to start opposite Glenn, but the guard spots are up for grabs. Kraig Urbik, Chris Williams, Cyril Richardson and Mark Asper are among the candidates for those two spots.

Defensive Line

Kyle Williams New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills
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Defensive Line

Kyle Williams New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills
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The two Williams on the Bills' defensive line, Mario Williams and Kyle Williams, give the team two perennial Pro Bowlers who will demand double teams, freeing up the rest of the defense. Marcell Dareus looked ready to join those two, but his antics off the field leave his situation cloudy, as he may be facing a multi-game suspension. The Bills have decent depth here, with Jerry Hughes, Jarius Wynn and Alan Branch all vying for playing time.

Linebackers

Brandon Spikes New England Patriots
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Linebackers

Brandon Spikes New England Patriots
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

This was looking like a possible position of strength for Buffalo after they brought in Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers to join star rookie Kiko Alonso. However, Alonso will miss the entire season with a torn ACL. Spikes’ veteran leadership will be even more important without Alonso. Third-round pick Preston Brown is looking like the favorite to replace Alonso. Nigel Bradham, Manny Lawson and Ty Powell will all vie for playing time.

Defensive Backs

Aaron Williams New York Jets v Buffalo Bills
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Defensive Backs

Aaron Williams New York Jets v Buffalo Bills
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While the loss of Jairus Byrd leave the Bills without a true star, they still have great depth in the secondary. Buffalo goes four deep at cornerback with Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Nickell Robey and new addition Corey Graham. After his best season as a pro, Aaron Williams will take Byrd’s spot. Da’Norris Searcy, Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks will compete for the strong safety spot, with Searcy the favorite.

Special Teams

Brian Moorman Buffalo Bills v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Special Teams

Brian Moorman Buffalo Bills v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Dan Carpenter returns as Buffalo’s kicker after an excellent 2013 season. Dustin Hopkins will try to make the team as a kickoff specialist. Brian Moorman will look to retain his longtime role as punter, though he isn’t quite at the level he once was. He will be challenged by Jake Dombrowski, though he is a long shot. Marcus Easley will once again be the primary gunner on kickoffs after a fantastic season in the role last year.

Biggest Camp Battle: Replacing Kiko Alonso at WLB

Kiko Alonso Cincinnati Bengals v Buffalo Bills
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Biggest Camp Battle: Replacing Kiko Alonso at WLB

Kiko Alonso Cincinnati Bengals v Buffalo Bills
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After excelling as a rookie in the middle, Alonso was expected to move to his natural position on the outside. His season-ending injury now leaves that spot open. Nigel Bradham and Manny Lawson are decent options who have experience, but third-round pick Preston Brown is currently the front-runner for the job after an excellent mini-camp where he displayed the kind of intelligence that is rare in a rookie, much like Alonso last year.


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