5 Bills starting positions that could be up for grabs
by Joe Buscaglia,posted Jun 20 2014 12:49PM
Over the course of the next month the National Football League, which is loud and vibrant for the rest of the year, will go dark as players and teams prepare for the onslaught of training camps around the country. For the Buffalo Bills, they’ll have some decisions to make not only on who makes the 53-man roster, but maybe even for players that could impact their season dramatically.
Starting positions will be on the line at St. John Fisher College. When the Bills get to training camp for their first practice on July 20, the competitions between some select players at different positions will be front and center for many.
Which five positions might not be set in stone? Here’s a very, very premature look at how things could start off in Pittsford, New York:
1) Strong Safety
- This is one of two positions that is bringing along guaranteed competition with the start of training camp. Throughout the three-day minicamp fourth-year player Da’Norris Searcy got all the first-team looks, but don’t expect that to continue all the way through camp. Second-year safety Duke Williams knows the job is on the line and will likely get his opportunities to shine with the first unit as well. Searcy has the added advantage of much more experience in regular season games on the defensive side of the ball. However, that’s also that much more tape on him which could expose some of his flaws. Also working in the favor of Williams is the fact that he was drafted by the current regime. Searcy, in the final year of his contract, was not. The two will likely get an equal opportunity to win the job, with a tie likely going to Williams.
2) Right Tackle
- This became a competition as soon as the Bills elected to not use their first-round pick on an offensive lineman, and instead took one in the second round with starting potential. Erik Pears is the incumbent, bouncing back from a below average 2013 campaign and returning to average. The Bills know they can do better at right tackle, though, and they would want to get younger, too. Second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio enters as Pears’ central competition. Make no mistake, the team wants Kouandjio to win that job but they won’t just hand it to him. They made the calculated risk in selecting him, regardless of concerns over his long-term playing status due to his knee injury. It’s Kouandjio’s job to lose.
3) Right Guard
- The Bills have been looking to upgrade at three of their five positions along the offensive line following the end of the 2013 season. They already signed a new starting left guard in Chris Williams, they drafted the aforementioned Kouandjio to compete for the starting right tackle job, which leaves right guard as one they’re interested in creating some competition. Kraig Urbik, who turned a fantastic 2012 season into a contract extension, has seen his production slip some which has opened the door for the Bills to contemplate competition. Through minicamp, Chris Hairston split the first-team reps with Urbik which was a signal that they may be looking for new blood at the position. Don’t discount Cyril Richardson, J.J. ‘Unga, Antoine McClain or Mark Asper yet either, but Hairston seems to be the guy they’ve liked the most through the offseason practices.
- Fullback is a position that isn’t talked about very often, but it’s one that has seen first-team reps split between the only two on the roster. Frank Summers and Evan Rodriguez both ended the 2013 season on the Bills active roster. While the former made the team straight out of training camp, the latter was added months into the season and eventually worked into the offense. Summers is your old-school type of blocker, but Rodriguez is the more athletic and versatile type that can offer a lot in the passing game. However, Rodriguez doesn’t offer quite as much as a blocker, and the Bills could be favoring a run-heavy attack once again. As training camp approaches the two will likely continue to split their reps with all units, earning the designation of a straight up, ‘let the best man win,’ style of showdown.
5) Tight End
- Of the five listed, tight end is really the only one that doesn’t have some clear cut competition. However, Tony Moeaki got a ton of time with the first-team over the three-day minicamp and was relatively impressive. Scott Chandler was the leading receiver on the Bills last year and was excused from the minicamp to tend to a family matter, but will see some stiff competition from Moeaki during training camp. Don’t be shocked to see some two tight-end sets featuring both players, because Chandler has proved to be a consistent target in his own right. Moeaki created a bit of a rapport with EJ Manuel over the last few days and would likely need a big training camp to unseat Chandler. However, it’s worth monitoring for two reasons. First, the Bills were very much considering using the ninth overall selection on Eric Ebron had they stayed at their selection. And secondly, they’ve been talking up Moeaki since the end of last year. It’s not an outright competition, but keep an eye on this one.