Pittsford, NY (WGR 550) -- Another year has gone by and another training camp at St. John Fisher College is in the books. The Buffalo Bills hit the air horn on Wednesday afternoon, signaling the end of their yearly stay on campus.
In 2013, the Bills had 18 practices available to the media for viewing and through it all a few players put together either strong or weak cases for making the 53-man roster.
For the second straight year, let's revisit who stood out for three-plus weeks in Pittsford, NY:
Flying up the Depth Chart: WR Chris Hogan
- Playing at a position chock full of youth and talent, the surge of Chris Hogan up the depth chart was not predicted by many. While Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin impressed many throughout training camp, they were expected to be contributors. With Hogan, he seemingly passed the likes of young talents Da'Rick Rogers, Marcus Easley and Brandon Kaufman to be squarely on the roster bubble for the 53-man roster. Hogan is deceptively fast and is among the best on the team in his breakdowns at the top of his routes. Footwork and consistency is key with Hogan, and those are what has gotten him into a favorable light with the coaching staff.
Failed to Impress: Any cornerback not named Stephon Gilmore
- For as good as Stephon Gilmore has looked, the situation on the other side of the field may haunt the Bills throughout the 2013 regular season. Through training camp, due to both injuries and poor play, the Bills tried seven different players as the starting cornerback opposite Gilmore. Whether it was Justin Rogers, Leodis McKelvin, T.J. Heath, Ron Brooks, Nickell Robey, Crezdon Butler or Don Unamba, the result was usually the same. The cornerback struggled to get acclimated to his enhanced role. The Bills will likely depend on McKevlin to defend one sideline when the regular season starts, but it he struggles the Bills could turn to Butler who had the most tolerable three weeks of the rest of the group at outside cornerback.
Best Fight: LB Marcus Dowtin vs. OT Erik Pears
- It wasn't quite like the Bills offense versus Aaron Maybin fight that happened a few years ago, but the scuffle with the realest intentions, and perhaps an unintentional dose of hilarity alongside it, was when linebacker Marcus Dowtin went after right tackle Erik Pears on Day 14. The two were engaged past the whistle and Dowtin was not happy. In fact the linebacker was so enraged when his helmet popped off after a brief shoving match with Pears, that he immediately squared up his body and put up the dukes, signaling he wanted a fist fight. Keep in mind, the right tackle not only had his helmet on but also stands 6-foot-8 weighing 316-pounds. Dowtin, without his helmet, is 6-foot-2 and 226-pounds. Teammates smartly stepped in between both sides.
Most Memorable Moment: Kevin Kolb's trip heard 'round the NFL
- In perhaps one of the flukiest ways to suffer an injury during a training camp practice, veteran quarterback Kevin Kolb was transferring fields to go through the daily routine of throwing against the air to his receivers and tight ends. It had rained the night before, and the rubber mats that are placed down on the concrete to prevent the athletes from sliding on their spikes during their walk were also a little wet. Kolb, not paying too much attention to the state of the mats, slipped during his jog and landed awkwardly on his knee. He immediately got help to his destination and then was taken off the practice field. In the middle of a quarterback competition, there isn't many practice injuries that rank up there with that one.
Rookie Standout: ILB Kiko Alonso
- Many would expect this to be quarterback EJ Manuel, but just because he was better than the mediocre backup does not mean he was the most impressive rookie on the field. Those honors go to second-round pick and inside linebacker Kiko Alonso, who is stepping in during his rookie season to be an every down player. He displayed his abilities throughout camp in diagnosing the run, in coverage and on blitz opportunities. Alonso has the makings of being a very good player in the NFL, he just can't get caught being too aggressive which is his main downfall right now. If he gets better in that capacity, then the linebacker could have a bright future.
Rookie Dud: CB Jumal Rolle
- You can't say the same about undrafted cornerback Jumal Rolle, who often found himself being the target of the quarterback whenever he was on the field. Although he had the interception against the Colts, Rolle has struggled all throughout camp and also doesn't have the solid frame that the Bills are likely looking for in their boundary cornerbacks. He just couldn't adjust or get a handle on what it takes to stay with receivers in the NFL.
Camp LVP Runners-Up: S Da'Norris Searcy & LG Doug Legursky
- A holdover from the last coaching staff, safety Da'Norris Searcy has not only been passed by first-year safety Aaron Williams, but he's shown to be a liability in coverage time and time again. When Jairus Byrd comes back to practice, Searcy will be the one shifting into the backup role and maybe even fighting for a spot on the active roster. Left guard Doug Legursky failed to take advantage of a big opportunity at St. John Fisher College. Colin Brown was ripe for the picking when he struggled as the first-team left guard, but Legursky did nothing with his time with the starters and also helped increase the gap between the two players with poor play through the rest of camp. Legursky is a smaller guy that can get overpowered by much more physically imposing players. It looks as though Brown is closer and closer to nailing down that starting left guard job.
Camp MVP Runners-Up: OLB Jerry Hughes & DL Alex Carrington
- After trading linebacker Kelvin Sheppard to Indianapolis, the Bills took a chance on former first-round pick Jerry Hughes. The designated pass rusher had an incredibly slow start with the Colts and aimed to turn it all around once he got to western New York. Through spring and summer: mission accomplished. Throughout all of spring, training camp and the first two preseason games, Hughes made at least one big play per day. He's proven through camp that he has the ability to consistently get to the quarterback, but that success isn't necessarily guaranteed in the NFL. Even so, Hughes has put himself in great position to have his best season as a NFL player. In 2012, defensive lineman Alex Carrington had a very poor camp, even leading to earning 'Camp LVP Runner-Up' honors after the practices had wrapped up. However, during the season a light went on for Carrington and it seems that no one has flicked the switch off since. The coaching staff raves about the defensive lineman, and he seems eager to learn any tricks to help bot himself and his team improve. His presence could give the Bills one heck of a defensive line if he keeps it up.
Camp LVP: OT Zebrie Sanders
- Nearly coming away with the 'Rookie Dud' honors in 2012, the problems haven't stopped for former fifth-round pick Zebrie Sanders. Granted, last year Sanders had a lot of surgery done while he was on Injured Reserve. However, that does not make excuses for the lack of technique and consistency Sanders failed to exhibit at St. John Fisher College in 2013. Like Da'Norris Searcy, Sanders is a pick from the last coaching staff so don't expect the team to be loyal just because at one time he was a draft pick. Sanders ran mostly with the third-team and could never get out of his own way even against lesser competition.
Camp MVP: CB Stephon Gilmore
- Watching second-year cornerback Stephon Gilmore cover up receivers play after play, and practice after practice, it really makes you believe a breakout campaign could be on the way for the young player. Out there for a multitude of plays throughout camp, you can only count on maybe two hands how many times he was beat on a catch during an actual practice. Gilmore has been poised, consistent and he's even making plays on the ball to force turnovers. If he can transition his play from camp into the regular season, he could be on the cusp of being one of the next great cornerbacks in the NFL.