The Buffalo Bills resume training camp practices tonight at 7:15 PM after getting Sunday off, and they have three practices open to the public this week before flying to D.C. to open their pre-season schedule. With over a week's worth of practices under their belts, including a few sessions of live football, Buffalo's young roster will be able to perform for their coaches for the first time in a live game setting.
Naturally, the vast majority of any given NFL roster has a lot to prove in the pre-season. We think these five players have an unusual early opportunity to make big statements Friday against the Redskins.
QB Trent Edwards. Tabbed as the first-team quarterback to start training camp, Edwards has been the most consistent signal caller at Fisher to date by a considerable margin, though he's still been less than stellar in many cases. He's taken more shots down the field in recent days, so there are (very small) reasons for (very small amounts of) optimism. Strong performances early in the pre-season for Edwards could allow head coach Chan Gailey to end his "quarterback competition" a bit earlier than anticipated, which would be very beneficial for the continuity of the first-team offense. Edwards gets his first crack at cementing his starting status in Washington.
OLB Chris Ellis. He's been the recipient of very public praise from Gailey for his progress in transitioning to outside linebacker, and more importantly, he's been showing very well on the practice field. Taking first-team reps for Chris Kelsay (who just returned to the field after a shoulder injury), Ellis has looked competent on the strong side, playing with good leverage, looking adequate in coverage, and showing good hustle rushing the passer. He might get a chance to start against the Redskins, but even if he doesn't, he still has a fantastic opportunity to unseat Kelsay for the starting role on the strong side.
CB Leodis McKelvin. No Bill has struggled more at Fisher this year than McKelvin. Though he is still getting first-team reps at cornerback, he's been beaten routinely by the Bills' unproven receiving corps, whereas Drayton Florence has picked off two passes and played much more consistent football. Meanwhile, McKelvin has continuously muffed punts and kickoffs, and may be playing his way out of those conversations with his questionable hands. Still, this coaching staff seems to emphasize play in games more than play on the field, and if McKelvin performs in Washington, he'll re-gain some of the trust he's lost over the last week and a half.
DE John McCargo. Once considered an afterthought with the Bills transitioning to the 3-4 defense, McCargo has been a mainstay at defensive end on the Bills' second unit defensive line. He was there to begin camp, playing opposite Spencer Johnson, and continued to play there when Johnson got hurt and rookie Alex Carrington joined the second unit. It's clear that McCargo doesn't factor into the team's long-term plans as a five-technique end, but in a transition year where the Bills are expected to incorporate 4-3 looks (they've been using them in practice frequently), McCargo has a chance to stick as a rotational player in the scheme with strong pre-season play.
OG Andre Ramsey. It's likely more a function of circumstance, but with injuries at tackle (Ed Wang, Cornell Green), caution with projected starters (Demetrius Bell, Eric Wood) and more injuries on the interior (Cordaro Howard), the Bills have had to do some shifting with their offensive line depth. The result has been Ramsey getting first-team reps at right guard when Wood doesn't practice. The second-year player out of Ball State has displayed solid athleticism in the camp setting, but seems to be more of tackle than guard. Regardless, if Wood doesn't play against Washington, Ramsey should get the call with the first unit, and a strong performance would go a long way toward building confidence in the Bills' offensive line depth.