Home > NFL, Roster Roundouts > Roster Roundouts: A Buffalo Bills Training Camp Preview

Roster Roundouts: A Buffalo Bills Training Camp Preview

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flickr.com/jdn

Let’s start with the positives: the Buffalo Bills won all four of their September games last year, and began the 2008 NFL season 5-1.

Okay, well, that didn’t take long.

Following a finish in which the team lost 8 of it’s final 10 games, the Buffalo Bills approached the offseason and decided to both rebuild and reload.  After the well-publicized and now equally well traveled Terrell Owens got his walking papers from the Dallas Cowboys, agent Drew Rosenhaus claimed to have calls from four teams interested in Owens.  Not one media source could find a single team who would give Rosenhaus the time of day regarding Owens, but that became easily explained when Buffalo sigend Owens to a one-year, 6 million dollar contract only three days after his release.

Perhaps the NFL’s most public figure instantly becomes the face of it’s least public team.  The Cincinnati Bengals have attempted to prove that no publicity is bad publicity, and the Bills feel like they can benefit from Owens more than he can potentially hurt the team.

Owens’ stature may provide the Bills instant credibility, but if the Bills are going to be competitive this year, they’ll have to improve their passing game, which ranked 22nd in the NFL in yards per game, and 27th in the NFL in DVOA.

The problem, however, was not as much about the receivers, it was about the turnovers.  The Bills fumbled more frequently than any other team in the NFL.  In games where the Bills won the turnover differential, they were 5-0.  In games where they lost it, they were 1-8.  Turnover differential is a statistic that correlates strongly with wins and losses, but it’s also a very weak predictor of itself on a season to season level.  Just because the Bills finished -8 in turnover differential in 2008 doesn’t mean they’ll finish below zero again this year.

However, if you are trying to prevent turnovers, I would suggest not replacing four players on your OL, and then moving your marginal RT to LT, which is exactly what the Bills did this offseason.  Gone are Jason Peters, Derrick Dockery, Melvin Fowler, and Duke Preston, and Langston Walker will be the LT on this team.  Incoming is veteran C Geoff Hangartner, and rookie Gs Eric Wood and Andy Levitre.  There’s a massive talent upgrade on the interior, but the results could be a rough going in the short term.  The Bills offensive line ranked 25th in the NFL in adjusted sack rate, and given the comings and goings on the OL that would seem like a reasonable expectation for the 2009 unit.

When the Trent Edwards broke down in the midst of a intra-division three game stretch last season, it was about a clear an indicator as there was that the 4-0 start was a mirage.  They had done it with a below average defense and zero pass rush.  Edwards had only threw two picks in the team’s 5-1 start.  Over the next four games, as the Bills tail spun towards 5-5, Edwards would be picked off 8 times before missing the next two games with injuries.  The problem was a mixture of things out of Edwards’ control going wrong (such as Robert Royal fumbling after a 20-yd completion on 3rd and 19), and piss poor play by the protection unit, Edwards included, but by the time we reached Thanksgiving, Edwards was playing shell shocked, and the Bills were, even just two games out, no longer a playoff contender.  Then they turned to JP Losman, and um…well, they weren’t any less of a playoff contender.

The defensive unit watched it’s top corner, Jabari Greer, sign with New Orleans in the offseason.  Now, the Bills are 10o% reliant on the quick development of Leodis McKelvin into a No. 1 corner.  Donte Whitner spent a lot of time playing out of position last year, which should be rectified this season when he’s closer to the line of scrimmage.  They also drafted a pass rusher in Aaron Maybin, who might be the perfect fit in their defense, a 4-3 scheme where he will be asked to rush the passer and the linebackers will have his back against the run.  That, and, the Bills had no pass rush whatsoever from their defensive line last year.  As I write, the team is preparing for a holdout with Maybin, so that could put a damper on his impact as a rookie.

Bills Camp, St. John Fisher College

Since this is a training camp article, let’s focus on what  the Bills can accomplish in training camp to best improve their chances at improving their team.

For a small market team, the Bills are impressively void of any undrafted rookie talent of the recognizable name variety.  USC CB Cary Harris is probably the biggest name, which is saying something, since the Bills appear loaded at corner.  But the Bills aren’t working on a complete roster just yet.  Here’s some positions where a roster spot can be won by an impressive performance in training camp:

Tight End: Derek Schomann vs. Derek Fine vs. (rookie) Shawn Nelson

The Bills have been forgettable at this position forever, and they were downright laughable last year when they let Robert Royal play 16 games.  Shawn Nelson is raw, but incredibly athletic, and the sooner he can make the starting lineup, the better off the Bills will be.  Schomann vs. Fine for de-facto opening day starter is almost not worth following, because they both play the same game.  If you have to place money, it’s probably (a) Fine.

Xavier Omon

How far up the depth chart can he fly?  Omon is nearly certain to make the roster at running back thanks to a suspension of starter Marshawn Lynch, but if he plays well, he may force the Bills to keep him playing.  He’s got a legitimate shot to pass Dominic Rhodes for the Week 1 2nd RB job, in which case, Rhodes’ stay here might be a short one.

Wide Receiver:  Josh Reed vs. Roscoe Parrish vs. P.K. Sam

The addition of P.K. Sam is an interesting one, because he’s a special teamer/kick returner type who made his name with the Ravens, and now could win a job on special teams or even returning kicks for the Bills.  The Bills were trying their damnedest to ship off Roscoe Parrish in a trade package in the offseason, and the team has been trying to replace Josh Reed for at least two years now.  They like WR Steve Johnson, who has the fast track to the fourth receiver job, leaving Reed, Parrish, and Sam to fight it out for only one or two spots.

Offensive Tackle: Jonathon Scott vs. Demetrius Bell

The Bills are unlikely to roster more than three tackles, especially since starting G Kirk Chambers is versatile enough to move outside if needed.  So these two will battle to be the first guy off the bench in a blocking crisis.

Linebacker: Marcus Buggs vs. Ashlee Palmer vs. Jon Corton

There’s not necessarily a spot here for these guys, but if one of them establishes himself as a special teams demon, then the Bills will find a place for him.

Safety: Dustin Fox vs. George Wilson vs. John Wendling

The battle to win a special teams spot, all these contenders have seen playing time in the secondary at different times, and would be about the 4th defensive option, if one can separate from the others in training camp.

There’s also a battle at third quarterback, but between Matt Baker and veteran Gibran Hamdan, I doubt it matters.

Surprise Cuts?

In no particular order, here’s some more well-known names that really need to have a promising camp to earn their spot:

  • WR Josh Reed
  • WR Roscoe Parrish
  • DT John McCargo
  • G Seth McKinney
  • CB Ashton Youboty
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  1. July 28, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    If Xavier Omon gets a chance, I get the feeling he will dominate.

  1. July 27, 2009 at 7:00 pm
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  30. August 26, 2009 at 9:40 am

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