With only 4 weeks until training camp opens at St. John Fisher I review four important battles to watch for the Buffalo Bills.
Offensive Guard- The Bills let their free agent guard Andy Levitre walk out the building and didn’t draft a guard, which means the front office is really high on the players they have or don’t value the position much. New Head Coach Doug Marrone is an offensive line coach first and foremost and probably feels the talent they have he can coach up to hold solid at the point of attack. The Bills also signed free agent Doug Legursky from the Steelers to help fortify the position in case current incumbent Colin Brown doesn’t pan out. The player to watch out for is Zebrie Sanders if he has fully recovered from his back surgery. Sanders was a tackle in college, but he is better suited at guard where he is stronger in run blocking and carries a good amount of girth to hold off rushing lineman.
Outside Linebacker- Manny Lawson is penciled in on one side and Mario Williams will flip between defensive end and outside linebacker as well, but the fourth spot could go a number of different ways. Arthur Moats is still in play acting as a speed pass rusher, and even rookie Kiko Alonso could fill that position if he isn’t shoved inside. There are a lot of guys to do many things, but who will take that position is crucial especially for run defense purposes.
Third Cornerback- Stephon Gilmore and recently extended Leodis McKelvin will get the starter spots, but the third corner is still up for grabs. Aaron Williams will be shifted between safety and corner all season and play some sort of hybrid role, but after that the questions of Justin Rodgers’ health, Ron Brooks’ size and Crezdon Butler’s experience all start rushing to the head like a bad headache. Someone needs to win the job and Brooks may be the best candidate, but their level of play may mean the difference between a good defense and one that teams with strong aerial attacks can’t wait to play.
Kicker- Rian Lindell has been with the team for 10 years and has been the model of consistency. The problem is that former coach Chan Gailey didn’t trust him outside of 40 yards and they just drafted a place kicker in Dustin Hopkins to challenge him. Gailey’s decision not to use Lindell can be used against the former coach as contributing factors into some of the losses last season, but those hesitations could rear again into the new season. If Hopkins shows the leg strength and accuracy needed from 40+ yards then Lindell could be seeing his final camp with the Bills. The team won’t make any quick decisions and this will play out through the last round of cuts, but the choice between the two could be the difference between a win and a loss later on.
Next up three names that could be on the chopping block without a good camp.