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Bills will have many starting jobs available



With the Organized Team Activities and mandatory minicamp behind him, Bills Head Coach Doug Marrone can set his sights on what should be a very busy training camp and pre-season.  Marrone and his staff will have a number of decisions to make when it comes to starting spots for the 2013 campaign.

The biggest decision, of course, will come at the quarterback position.  The field of competitors is basically down to two after the recent release of Tarvaris Jackson.  If Marrone wants experience, he can go with free agent pick up Kevin Kolb,  

If he wants to go with on the job training then Marrone can opt to put rookie E.J. Manuel in charge, fresh out of Florida State.

Kolb's biggest edge is his NFL resume which might carry quite a bit of weight with a first time NFL Head Coach, and a first time NFL Offensive Coordinator in Nathaniel Hackett.  Add in an offense that is expected to be run at a very fast tempo with considerable no huddle, and a bevy of young receivers, and Marrone might feel more comfortable with the quarterback who has six years of NFL experience, 34 games and 21 starts on his resume.

Kolb, who turns 29 in August, has a 9-12 record, with seven of the starts coming in Philadelphia and the other 14 in Arizona.  Kolb has completed 59% of his passes for 5,206 yards, 28 touchdowns and 25 interceptions.  If Kolb wins the job, he'll have to prove he can stay healthy.  Kolb got his first chance to start in 2009 when he won a competition with Michael Vick but Kolb ended up getting injured in the season opener and Vick took the job for good.

WIth Arizona in 2011, Kolb missed time due to a toe injury and a concussion, the second of his career.  Last season, the Bills knocked him out with a rib injury in week six.  Kolb has never started more than nine games in a season.

It will be interesting to see how Marrone plays this, if the competition between Kolb and Manuel is close.  Marrone's been preaching playoffs and not rebuilding so does he go with Kolb thinking he gives the Bills a better chance to win right away?  

On the other hand, since it is his first season on the job,one would think  Marrone is in a position where he could take some lumps while developing a long term answer at the critical quarterback position, an answer the Bills haven't had for most of the last 16 seasons.

I think the job should be Manuel's to lose since it is a rebuilding season, in my opinion, and Manuel can grow with the rest of the team but if Marrone is going to promise that everyone is competing for a starting job then I guess he can't just give one to Manuel because he's a first round pick.  

It will make for an exciting training camp and pre-season as we see how Marrone splits the time/reps for the pair in both practices and games.  Manuel is said to be a pretty quick learner so we will see how or if that translates to early success on the field.

No matter who wins the quarterback competition, that person will be throwing the ball to a very inexperienced group of receivers. Outside of Stevie Johnson, there doesn't appear to be anything set at that position.  

Of the 13 wide receivers listed on the roster, nine are rookies.  Johnson, the grizzled veteran in his sixth NFL season, has 249 career catches.  The second best total on the team belongs to Brad Smith with 101.  The rest of the wide outs have combined for 53 catches.  

On paper, there is some very intriguing talent like second round draft pick Robert Woods, considered the leading candidate for a starting job.  Woods impressed observers during the off season workouts with his ability to get open and his sure hands.

With 2012 draft pick T.J. Graham and 2013 pick Marquise Goodwin, the Bills could probably win a number of forty yard dashes but can they be NFL receivers?  Despite his speed, most of Graham's receptions during his rookie season were on short passes. Graham caught 31 passes last season.  Of those 31, 12 were thrown behind the line of scrimmage while 16 traveled 1-10 yards.    Of course, both Kolb and Manuel have stronger arms than Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The story of Da'Rick Rogers will certainly be worth watching later this summer.  An All SEC performer at Tennessee before getting kicked off the team, Rogers has a strong skill set but will have to keep his nose clean since he is on a very short leash with Marrone.

Andy Levitre's departure opened up a spot at left guard and it appears Colin Brown and Doug Legursky will be the two main combatants. The 6'7" 326 pound Brown has played in 12 games with the Bills over the last three seasons with two starts, the 2011 season finale at New England(he started at center) and last season at San Francisco.  

Legursky, who signed with the Bills on June 5th, is only 6'1" and weighs 315 pounds. An undrafted free agent out of Marshall,  he spent the last four years with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Legursky saw action in 50 games with 17 starts, mostly at center.

Its possible the right tackle job is up for grabs too.  Erik Pears probably has the inside track having started every game in 2011 and the first seven last season while battling a groin injury.  When Pears was placed on injured reserve, Chris Hairston took over for the remainder of the season.

Cordy Glenn, Eric Wood and Kraig Urbik should be the starters at left tackle, center and right guard respectively.  C.J. Spiller is expected to be the starting running back and assuming he is healthy by opening day, Scott Chandler(torn ACL) should be the starting tight end.
Next week, I'll break down the battles for starting jobs on the defensive side of there ball where there are far more questions.

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