The first three days of the 2007 Buffalo Bills training camp are in the books, and this newest version of the Bills has hit the practice gridiron running. With six (padless) practices under their belts, some of Buffalo's players are already starting to distinguish themselves amongst their peers, and sound ready to hit the real playing field in meaningful games.
The difference this year, however, is that among those distinguishing themselves, the vast majority of them are young. Really young. We're used to seeing veteran guys making headlines during camp - and to an extent, we're still seeing that (for example, Lee Evans has been uncoverable). But it's a group of young players that are really turning heads. Let's take a look at six players (none of whom have more than one year of NFL experience) who are making plays and climbing the depth chart this early in camp:
MLB Paul Posluszny (#51)
"Poz", who has the chance to become the most popular defender amongst fans on this team, hasn't really started to distinguish himself as of yet; he has, however, been in on a few pass breakups. But it's clear that the coaching staff has an agenda for the rookie 'backer - despite the steady play of John DiGiorgio as the first unit middle linebacker, the coaches have been sprinkling in some first-team reps for Poz as well. As the first full week of practices start this morning, it's not out of the question to see Posluszny's workload with the ones steadily increase - especially if he proves he can keep up mentally.
DT John McCargo (#97)
Of the youngsters making names for themselves, McCargo's progress may be the most welcome to the ears of Bills fans. With the Darwin Walker situation a mess, it was clear that big things are needed out of Big John - and he hasn't disappointed yet. Camp reports indicate that McCargo's motor is running non-stop; he has been playing well in run fronts, getting some penetration and has earned praise from D-Line coach Bill Kollar (a feat within itself). McCargo's play has been so stellar that he has been seeing first-team reps ahead of veteran Larry Tripplett in no-huddle, pass-first situations. Keep an eye on this kid - he could push for a starting spot despite having just five NFL games under his belt.
WLB Keith Ellison (#56)
No one has been more impressive through the first three practices than second-year linebacker Keith Ellison. In short, the kid has been all over the field - he's snagged three interceptions in as many days and has made it difficult for any quarterback to complete passes underneath. Ellison's play is backed up by his incredible learning aptitude - he seems like he has this defense down cold. There isn't a good chance that Coy Wire will be able to snag a starting spot from Ellison taking into account the way the youngster has been playing. If he keeps this up, he'll not only start, he'll be amongst the biggest playmakers for a young Bills defense this season.
TE Kevin Everett (#85)
Everett did not get much accomplished through the first two days of camp, but his third day saw him become a true factor in the passing game:
That's exactly what we need out of Everett - a guy who can line up at tight end or in the slot and stretch the middle of an opposing defense. The fact that he's beating our solid safeties down the field is a good sign - and the fact that he's making plays is an even better sign. This should be, by leaps and bounds, Everett's best season in the league - meaning that he could actually make an impact in the regular season.
DT Kyle Williams (#95)
With all of the depth changes and confusion surrounding Darwin Walker, Kyle Williams has been a model of consistency at defensive tackle. He's been a pretty solid presence in the backfield (even "surprising" J.P. Losman on a play or two) and has not had any serious competition for the first-team nose tackle spot. Bills fans can talk about Tripplett, McCargo and Walker, but it's becoming more apparent that only one tackle has nailed down a starting job, and it's the second-year man Williams. Look for him to become more consistent against the run as he continues to accrue experience this season.
RB Marshawn Lynch (#23)
After missing the first day of practices while waiting to sign his rookie contract, Lynch has practiced the last two days and immediately made his presence felt:
Lynch also saw first team action in a lengthy 7-on-7 period. On the first play the running back lined up outside and crossed up the defenders in zone coverage. Losman found him for a 20-yard pickup. He also put a nice juke on Keith Ellison in the flat after making a reception out of the backfield.
Already, Lynch is causing huge mismatches for defenders in the passing game. Taking the RB-by-committee approach into consideration, it's likely that most of Lynch's big plays will come through the air this season. He is practicing well, and the fact that he's already getting first-team reps speaks volumes on the confidence that the coaching staff has in his abilities. This kid is a superstar in the making.
Note: all information for this article comes directly from the various practice reports filed by Chris Brown over at BuffaloBills.com.