Evans extension could be completed soon (Photo Source)
After over three weeks of training camp practices, the Buffalo Bills are just two sessions shy of wrapping up 2008 Bills Training Camp at St. John Fisher College. Unbelievable, right? With camp closing after Wednesday's practice concludes, several story lines are becoming prevalent again; and, of course, the Bills continue to make stories on the practice field as well. Here's what we should be talking about as training camp comes to a close...
Peters Watch: Decision Time?
In case you took a holiday to Mars in March and are only just now returning to this glorious planet, Bills LT Jason Peters hasn't reported to Buffalo since taking a physical in early January. Holding out for more money, the break of training camp seems a logical place to get a further reading on Peters' intentions for the 2008 season. Will he report with camp over, or will he continue his holdout? If he continues to stay away, it's likely that he'll be sitting out at least a portion of the regular season.
WGR 550 mentioned on this morning's "Howard Simon Show" that Bills LG Derrick Dockery - the only Bills player to have communicated with Peters (via text message) that we know of - mentioned that he believes Peters will be reporting for team duties "soon". Whether this manifests into truth remains to be seen, but that - coupled with the fact that the Bills made no attempt to sign a replacement tackle after the injury to Matt Murphy - are encouraging signs for fans who'd like to see Peters report ASAP. Stay tuned - we should be hearing much more on this throughout the rest of the week.
New Deal for Evans Imminent?
Rumors have been circulating ever since this past Thursday's pre-season win over Pittsburgh that WR Lee Evans and the Bills are coming closer to agreeing on a long-term contract extension. COO Russ Brandon, who mentioned that he'd like to see Evans in a Bills uniform for the rest of his career, and Evans both confirmed that talks were moving in the right direction late last week.
Evans' deal is expected to be huge, and should it happen quickly, it will really solidify Buffalo's receiving corps for the foreseeable future. This one seems to be much closer than any return by Peters, and it's expected that the ink will be dry on a new contract for Evans by the start of the regular season.
On/Off the Field
The Bills held a night practice Sunday evening and followed it up with an afternoon practice yesterday. The Bills are steadily getting healthier, highlighted by the return of WR Josh Reed to the practice field. Reed's lower back had kept him out of several practices and both pre-season games, but his back is now fine - though he's not completely out of the woods yet. Reed has re-assumed his role of "Trent Edwards' favorite underneath target" immediately since his return; Edwards has spoken glowingly of Reed all week.
“I’m very, very happy with the progress that Josh has made this offseason,” said Edwards. “I was happy with the way he practiced during OTAs and minicamps and he’s progressed a ton since last year, so I’m excited for him this year.”
OT Patrick Estes, injured last week, also returned to the practice field. Missing practice time over the past two days were TE Derek Schouman (who could miss several weeks), WR Scott Mayle, WR Roscoe Parrish (minor knee), WR James Hardy (resting hamstring), CB Kennard Cox and SS Donte Whitner (excused - family).
Position Battles Still Heated
Several position battles are still making headlines over the last few practices of training camp. Let's review:
- RB Xavier Omon took second-team reps yesterday ahead of second-year pro Dwayne Wright, indicating that the rookie has snuck ahead of Wright in the battle for the team's #3 RB role. Wright's fumbles appear to be the culprit.
- Receivers James Hardy and Josh Reed appear to be neck-and-neck for the starting role opposite Lee Evans. Both are expected to be heavily involved in Buffalo's offense.
- With Derek Schouman ailing, rookie TE Derek Fine's solid performances could lead to him staying on the field ahead of Schouman when the latter returns from his knee injury. Courtney Anderson's chances at making the final roster have improved as well.
- Both Kyle Williams and Spencer Johnson - as well as John McCargo to an extent - are vying for the starting DT role next to Marcus Stroud. All three are expected to factor in heavily, but it appears that Williams and Johnson in particular are making strong cases to see the bulk of playing time between the three bigs.
- Terrence McGee and Jabari Greer are entrenched as the starting corners, but the battle for the nickel job is heating up. Will James is the likely starter at this point, but rookie Leodis McKelvin - as well as fellow rookie Reggie Corner - are making a late push for the role. It's expected that James will man the nickel spot to start the season (with McKelvin taking dime work), but the first-round pick should take over the third slot well before the end of the season.
The Bills have their final night practice tonight, and follow it up with an afternoon practice Wednesday to close out their three-week stay at St. John Fisher. We'll discuss the events of those two practices - as well as events tied in with the end of camp - as it happens.