We've officially hit August, and we're just 12 days away from the Buffalo Bills' pre-season opener against the Washington Redskins. The Bills have only completed four training camp practices to date; as it's so early, all of the competitions that we've been anticipating are far from over, particularly at quarterback. With that in mind, however, there are six stories developing that might not change any time soon. These six items, again, are not set in stone.
Trent Edwards has an early stranglehold on the starting QB job. This goes beyond the fact that Edwards opened camp as the No. 1 QB on the depth chart. Edwards is seeing significantly more team work than his two chief competitors, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm, who are currently swapping between the second and third slots on the depth chart. With Levi Brown sneaking in some third-team reps, both Fitzpatrick and Brohm have been the fourth QB through on occasion. Fitzpatrick is erratic, and Brohm has shown a similar tendency early in the camp setting. Edwards, meanwhile, has been consistent, if somewhat unspectacular, making sharp throws on a daily basis. It seems very unlikely at this point that anyone but Edwards will open the season as the starter, but the four pre-season games will hold more sway than what the players accomplish on the Growney Stadium field.
Marshawn Lynch isn't getting a lot of work. Fred Jackson remains the first-team running back, and younger players Chad Simpson and especially Joique Bell have been getting a lot of work running the ball during team drills. Lynch has looked excellent to this point in camp, but he's not taking a lot of reps - and C.J. Spiller isn't even in camp yet. It could just be that Chan Gailey and the coaching staff want to keep their stars fresh, because Jackson isn't seeing a ton of work, either, but Lynch's camp workload is something to pay attention to over the next week or two.
Demetrius Bell had better be ready to start the season at left tackle. Bell is still not a full camp participant, as he's watched a couple of practices while the coaches ease him back into the lineup. He missed all of spring practices while he continued to rehabilitate the knee injury that ended his 2009 season, with Jamon Meredith taking every first-team rep in his stead. Meredith and Ed Wang are the only other tackles to take left-side reps aside from Bell to this point in training camp, and both have struggled mightily - Meredith with speed, Wang with speed and, on occasion, power. Neither is ready to play left tackle full-time in the NFL, and while Bell may not be, either, he kind of needs to be.
Pass-rushing optimism should be tempered for the time being. Aaron Maybin has looked quick and fluid rushing from his new position. Chris Ellis has been impressive, as well. Rookies Danny Batten and Antonio Coleman have flashed ability in this department, as well. But we did just get done talking about how shaky Buffalo's tackles have been in camp (Cornell Green included), so until these Bills OLBs look good rushing the passer against other NFL teams, expectations and optimism should be held in check.
The winner of the second WR position might end up being a figurehead. Steve Johnson has been getting the bulk of the starting WR reps opposite Lee Evans, and he's been consistently sharp in the early stages of camp. Nearly every young receiver - with the possible exception of Donald Jones - has shown flashes of brilliance in the camp setting, as well. Felton Huggins and Marcus Easley have been particularly spiffy, Chad Jackson and James Hardy have been dependable and consistent, and Naaman Roosevelt and David Nelson have a lot of potential, as well. All have made plays. We need to be paying more attention to the entirety of the receiving corps, and not just who's getting first-team reps, because the Bills are likely to play a lot of different No. 2 receivers this year. All of these guys can play.
Ellis Lankster is further bolstering Buffalo's loaded secondary. We knew entering camp that Buffalo was deepest in the defensive backfield (though an argument can certainly be made at running back), but we also knew that the Bills had several young defensive backs that were unknown commodities. Lankster, a second-year pro out of West Virginia, was one of those players. He's having an outstanding camp thus far, with a highlight-reel interception and several excellent pass break-ups under his belt. He also appears to be one of the team's most naturally athletic defensive backs, and while the Bills are deep, they don't have many truly outstanding athletes at corner. Last year's seventh-round pick looks like a lock to make the team at this point, and don't be surprised if he continues to surge up the depth chart over the next several weeks.