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Posted: Wednesday, 24 July 2013 12:10PM

Bills positional outlook: Offense



(WGR 550) -- With only a few days to go before the Buffalo Bills begin preparations for yet another NFL season, there are more questions than answers heading in to training camp at St. John Fisher College.

A new team president, general manager, head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and quarterback (among others) will lead the organization on a journey bedecked in ambiguity.

Both sides of the ball will have a massive overhaul from how the Bills looked throughout the 2012 campaign. With two offensive minds running the show in head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, the Bills are hoping for a rejuvenated spirit on an otherwise stagnant approach near the end of last season.

Here's a position-by-position look at the Bills roster on offense:

Quarterback
Returning players: None
New faces: EJ Manuel, Kevin Kolb, Jeff Tuel
- My, what a difference a year makes. The Bills have replaced all of their quarterbacks from 2012 and are going with a brand new approach. What it boils down to in training camp is whether or not EJ Manuel is ready to take over the starting job this early in his career. It's likely that the Bills would love that to be the case for their 2013 first-round pick, but they aren't going to force the issue if he's just not ready. That is why the Kevin Kolb signing was a necessary one for the Bills. While there are some arguments that the Bills would have been better off restructuring Ryan Fitzpatrick's contract, it also can't be ignored that the team probably just wanted to move on from that chapter of franchise history. At this point, Kolb is a mediocre quarterback that has suffered his fair share of injuries. Manuel represents hope and optimism, which is why if the two practice and play to a tie, the job will likely be Manuel's. As for undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel, whether or not he makes the roster is up to how the other positions go. If they want to keep an extra player at a different position, the Bills can likely just stash Tuel on the practice squad if they so choose.

Running back
Returning players: C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Tashard Choice, Zach Brown
New faces: Kendall Gaskins, Drew Smith
- C.J. Spiller gets the top draw as the Bills player fans (and fantasy football owners) are most excited about. Finally, Spiller looks poised to step out from the shadow cast by former head coach Chan Gailey and his mind-numbing ways of substitution. With a heightened role, Spiller just might bust out to become one of the top running backs in the league. The only lingering concern is whether or not he'll be able to handle the bulk of time on the field. Was there a reason Gailey kept Spiller on the sidelines after a few solid plays in a row? We'll have to find out. Fred Jackson returns to play the role of complementary runner to Spiller, because he still has a lot of game left in him. He has to iron out the fumbling problems from 2012, however. Tashard Choice was re-signed on a one-year deal, but his safety is not guaranteed. Undrafted rookie Kendall Gaskins looked solid throughout spring practices and could potentially push Choice out the door if he continues along that path.

Fullback
Returning players: None
New faces: Frank Summers
- The biggest question isn't who will win the fullback job, it's if the Bills keep a fullback on their roster whatsoever. Perhaps they'd rather go with one of the big running backs (Gaskins, Smith) that they signed as undrafted free agents without having to tie up a roster spot with a fullback. Or maybe they'll use a tight end in more of a fullback role. They have options, but likely wanted to keep one player on just to be safe.

Wide Receivers
Returning players: Stevie Johnson, T.J. Graham, Brad Smith, Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley, Kevin Elliott
New faces: Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Da'Rick Rogers, Brandon Kaufman, DeMarco Sampson
- No other position on the Bills roster offers more hope, youth and concerns as the wideout group does in 2013. The wily veteran (if you consider 27 to be elder-statesmen like) is Stevie Johnson. Three straight seasons of 1,000 yards proves his a consistent player in the NFL, and now he just needs some help at the position. Out of the gaggle of young wideouts, the one likeliest to crack the starting lineup is second-round pick Robert Woods. There's a natural aspect to his game that you just can't teach. The other players that will compete for playing time will be Marquise Goodwin, T.J. Graham, Chris Hogan, Brad Smith and Da'Rick Rogers. Unless Smith really stands out, it's going to be tough for him to crack the roster out of camp. Goodwin and Graham will look to chip in when they can, but likely will take a backseat to Woods barring injury. Rogers is a player that fans are really excited about, but he has to prove maturity and consistency on the field -- two things that have been lacking for the past couple of seasons and spring practices. Hogan really looked the part during OTAs. If he continues down that road, he could sneak on to the 53-man roster or the practice squad at the very least. As for Brandon Kaufman, Kevin Elliott and DeMarco Sampson, it will be an uphill climb for any of the three to make the roster.

Tight Ends
Returning players: Scott Chandler, Lee Smith, Mike Caussin, Dorin Dickerson
New faces: Chris Gragg, Mickey Shuler
- After undergoing surgery to repair a torn ACL, Scott Chandler seems confident he'll be ready for the start of the season. An underrated pass-catching tight end in the league, the Bills will hope he can make it back in time and be a safety blanket for the new quarterback. Lee Smith continues along as a key blocker and will likely continue to get in a scuffle or two on the field with his ferocity in that aspect of his game. Mike Caussin, Dorin Dickerson and Chris Gragg will all be fighting to be the third tight end on the roster. Caussin really excelled during the off-season workouts after spending all of last season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Dickerson went to the coaching staff to ask to move back to tight end after being moved to wide receiver ahead of the spring workouts. It was a smart move for self-preservation, considering all the young talent the Bills have brought in the past two years at wideout. Their seventh-round pick Gragg shows a little stiffness in his movements, but still presents a young speed option for the Bills at the position. Mickey Shuler, more of a blocker than a pass-catcher, is likely to be just a training camp body that serves as insurance if anything happens to Lee Smith.

Offensive Tackle
Returning players: Cordy Glenn, Chris Hairston, Erik Pears, Zebrie Sanders, Sam Young, Thomas Welch
New faces: Hutch Eckerson
- As the offensive tackles go, the only real question is what will happen at right tackle. Cordy Glenn is locked in for his second year as the starting blind-side protector, but it's still a toss-up as to what will happen on the opposite side of the line. Chris Hairston looked to be the younger, cheaper and equal option to Erik Pears, but the former has had trouble with injuries his entire time in Buffalo. Hairston now finds himself on the PUP list to start training camp, and will miss practices until he is medically cleared. Because of it, Pears has found new life. He'll get all the first-team reps and could really convince the coaching staff that he should be the starter heading in to the season. Zebrie Sanders and Sam Young each will be fighting for second team reps. Thomas Welch hooked on the roster near the end of last season because of injuries and could challenge to make the 53-man outright. The group's long-shot is Eckerson, whom the Bills signed on the same day as Aaron Corp this off-season.

Offensive Guard
Returning players: Kraig Urbik, Colin Brown, Chris Scott, Keith Williams
New faces: Doug Legursky, Zack Chibane
- The steady force in this group is right guard Kraig Urbik, who re-upped during the regular season to stick with the Bills for a few more years. He was as consistent as any offensive lineman the Bills had last season. The real fight will be between Colin Brown and Doug Legursky for the starting left guard position. At this point, you'd have to think the favorite to land the gig would be Legursky. He was brought in as a free agent by the new coaching staff and GM and seems like a schematic fit for what they're trying to do. Brown has the leg up on him right now because of his familiarity with Glenn and Eric Wood, but also with a few months head start on the playbook. Either way, both will likely be on the roster because each have experience playing center. Chris Scott, Keith Williams and Zack Chibane all will have to fight to unseat one of those two. It will be tough though, because of the versatility both Legursky and Brown provide.

Center
Returning players: Eric Wood, David Snow
New faces: Ryan Turnley
- Eric Wood goes in to the most important season of his life. At the end of 2013, Wood is set to become an unrestricted free agent. A year without any injuries will help him significantly, and the Bills are certainly depending on him to be a steady force with a position in flux right next to him. He is the most important piece on the team's offensive line. David Snow was brought on to the active roster a few weeks in to 2012 due to a number of injuries to the offensive line. With both Legursky and Brown having center experience, it's going to be a challenge for Snow to make the roster barring an injury. The good news though is that Snow still has practice squad eligibility. The undrafted free agent Ryan Turnley will serve as the third-team center, but will likely be one of the first cuts of the year unless he really shows something early on.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

All photos courtesy of AP
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