Buffalo Bills Training Camp Preview
Five Things to Watch Heading into Buffalo Bills Training Camp
When training camp season arrives, it signals a rebirth, a chance to clean the slate from the previous year and start anew. This is significant for the Buffalo Bills, who decided to clean house within their football organization by bringing in a new GM (Brandon Beane) and hiring Sean McDermott as their new head coach to replace the bombastic, verbose Rex Ryan. As is customary when an entirely new coaching staff takes over, they will install their own offensive schemes, tendencies, and philosophies to fit the current personnel. Of course, this leads to the obvious question: how will the new offensive scheme affect/change the production for all of the Bills’ main offensive starters for fantasy purposes entering the 2017 season? Well, hopefully, this article will illuminate some of those answers by highlighting five pertinent and important unknowns that Bills training camp may answer …
1. New Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison
The Bills’ new OC comes from the Denver Broncos, where he spent the last two seasons, including a win in Super Bowl 50 despite working with an injury-riddled Peyton Manning and benchable Brock Osweiler. In his lone season as a quarterbacks coach with the Ravens in 2014, he stewarded Joe Flacco to career highs in both passing yards and touchdowns (3,986 and 27 respectively). His rushing offense profile, which was molded during his time in Houston (2010-2013), is a one-cut, zone blocking scheme that made undrafted free agent Arian Foster into a four-time Pro Bowler and should suit LeSean McCoy very well.
2. The Backup RB Position
Now, if something ever happened to Shady McCoy, the second-string running back is in line to be a fantasy factor in this offense and that’s where the intrigue begins. With the departure of Mike Gillislee and his 101 rush attempts, 577 yards, 5.7 rushing yards per attempt, and eight touchdowns, it’s assumed that Jonathan Williams, the second-year running back from Arkansas, would assume that mantle. Still “professional touchdown vulture” Mike Tolbert who was signed as a free agent in March and looms large (literally) in the shadows.
3. Competition for the Second and Third Receiver Position
After the departures via free agency of Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin, there are a combined 144 targets, 80 receptions, 1,044 yards, and four touchdowns unaccounted from last season’s wide receiver group. While the WR depth chart behind Watkins isn’t anything to write home about, there are three candidates who will look to take advantage of this golden opportunity:
Corey Brown – The free agent acquisition from the Carolina Panthers, whom head coach Sean McDermott is very familiar with, is hoping to get a chance to be a full-time starting wide receiver, unlike last season.
Andre Holmes – The second wide receiver free agent signing, from the Oakland Raiders, is looking to establish himself as a viable starting receiver and he’s hoping that the Bills are the right spot for him to produce at a high level.
Zay Jones – Drafted in the second round out of East Carolina, Jones broke the FBS single-season and career reception record last year. Based upon his four-year college production, the Bills expect him to be a contributor for the 2017 season.
4. Will 2017 be the last year for Sammy Watkins in Buffalo?
Earlier this offseason, the Bills declined Watkins fifth-year team option, so there is a chance that he’ll enter free agency after the season. It makes perfect sense for a new staff to make Watkins earn that money by staying healthy this year and performing well since they didn’t draft him. Out of a possible 48 games played, Watkins has only played in 37 of them due to a nagging, recurrent foot injury. If he were to have a Pro Bowl-caliber season, it could create an interesting decision for the front office.
5. Is Tyrod Taylor on borrowed time in Buffalo?
Stop me if you heard this one before: “TyGod” has signed a short “prove-it” deal with the Bills early in the off-season. The deal, which only lasts two years, will allow him to show off his skills for Buffalo (or other NFL teams) as he vies for a bigger, longer term extension. Yes, it’s possible that Taylor’s time in Buffalo is numbered, considering the team did draft Nathan Peterman, a fifth-round selection out of the University of Pittsburgh, who led a pro-style offense during his time there.
Taylor has a solid floor due to his running ability, finishing first amongst all quarterbacks in runs, yards and touchdowns on the ground, but will new OC Rick Dennison allow him to open up the passing game, or will the offensive profile remain the same? This training camp and preseason may answer that very question.
For more updated news, notes and analysis on the Bills training camp, check out BuffaloBills.com and follow the team writers as they break down the above issues and many others.