Buffalo Bills fullback Corey McIntyre has played 32 games for head coach Chan Gailey. In those 32 games, he has touched the ball on offense nine times - and just one of those nine came during last year's 6-10 season. (For the record, he's produced 41 yards and a touchdown on those touches.)
So when McIntyre was seen scoring on a 65-yard touchdown pass in the third practice of training camp, naturally a few heads turned, and chuckles were exchanged.
The play, as it turns out, was far more than a blown coverage and a comedic moment: the Bills are planning on expanding the role of the fullback entering the third year of Gailey's run in charge of the offense, and with that change, McIntyre is going to be asked to do much more than he's been asked to do in the last two years.
"We have asked him to catch more passes in this camp than I think he has in the last two camps combined," Gailey told reporters Sunday evening. "He has done a good job going outside and doing some different things. Yes, it is going to evolve a little bit more. But he has done a good job of accepting the challenge of doing some different things that he has not had to do in years past."
McIntyre's challenges are not limited to his new role, as the team brought in a sleeper roster candidate to compete in the expanded fullback role: 2010 seventh-round pick Dorin Dickerson.
When the Bills worked out Dickerson in May, they told him they were looking for an H-Back, which in Gailey's offense essentially boils down to a player that can switch between lead blocker and "move" tight end at the drop of a hat. Philosophically, that type of athlete could make Buffalo's offense much more difficult to game plan for, as an H-Back could help Gailey disguise formations with fewer personnel packages.
For months, we've talked up Dickerson as a legitimate candidate to make the team based purely on how he fits athletically into that philosophy. A big man (6'2", 226 pounds) with wheels (he ran a 4.40-second 40-yard dash at the 2010 NFL Combine), teams have struggled to find a true position for Dickerson, pigeon-holing him into specific roles and watching him fail along the way. In Buffalo, his role would be that of a utility infielder, doing many different things under the "H-Back" umbrella.
Dickerson, however, has been up-and-down through the early portions of training camp. He ran a lot with the first-team offense in spring workouts, but has reportedly shown inconsistent hands on the practice field over the past week or so. If he can't improve on his early-camp struggles, it'll leave the door open for McIntyre to keep his roster spot and expand his role.
Another key to the McIntyre/Dickerson battle, beyond how each performs in the expanded offensive role awaiting the victor, is how each plays on special teams. Where Dickerson has much better athletic upside as an offensive weapon, McIntyre equalizes the competition with his special teams ability, at least on paper. McIntyre really is one of the best coverage players on the team, if not the very best, and that ability has allowed him to stick around in the NFL for going on eight years now despite his limited success offensively. Dickerson may need to prove himself better than adequate on special teams for his upside to be relevant in the battle again.
Regardless of the victor, this is a highly intriguing developing situation within the context of Gailey's offense, and all of a sudden, McIntyre versus Dickerson is a camp battle that few saw coming, but may hold great importance entering the 2012 season.