Buffalo Bills training camp officially reached its conclusion on Thursday with the final camp practice of the 2011 season. While the Bills pack up and head back west to Orchard Park, we'll recap the biggest risers and fallers of camp. In our view, there are five players who saw their stock soar at St. John Fisher College, and five more who didn't do so well.
Five Risers: These five Bills players saw the most significant gains in the court of public opinion over the past three weeks.
- WR Donald Jones. When camp began, Jones was a low-end depth chart guy - a fifth receiver at best - that most believed would stick thanks to special teams prowess. Now he's the front-runner to be the team's No. 2 receiver after the trade of Lee Evans. You don't make bigger training camp gains than that, folks.
- LG Chad Rinehart. Chan Gailey may not be pleased with the goings-on up front, but there was a very real chance that Rinehart might be on the roster bubble when camp started. Now, it's a possibility that he could start at either guard position, and he's a virtual lock to make the team.
- DE/OLB Alex Carrington. The second-year lineman out of Arkansas State came into camp much bigger and stronger, but maintained enough athleticism that the coaching staff felt comfortable using him at outside linebacker. He's been a very effective defender from both positions to this point in the pre-season.
- OLB Danny Batten. With Arthur Moats moving inside, Batten has risen to the top of the team's very young outside linebacker reserves in a short amount of time. Gailey, not one to hand out effusive praise on a whim, called Batten a "pleasant surprise" and praised his work ethic in a recent interview.
- TE Scott Chandler. Perhaps he simply looks good because of the dearth of talent the Bills have had at this position for years, but Chandler has emerged as the clear top tight end on the team, and could possibly be a passing game factor for Ryan Fitzpatrick this season.
Five Fallers: If they could do it all over again, these five Bills players would be most anxious for a change in a positive direction during training camp.
- LG Andy Levitre. A full-time starter since his rookie season, Levitre is suddenly fighting tooth and nail to keep the left guard job he's held without competition for two years.
- ILB Kelvin Sheppard. GM Buddy Nix touted Sheppard as a possible starter when he was drafted. Today, he's shelved with a hamstring injury while the Bills have gotten deeper and more versatile in front of him on the depth chart.
- TE Shawn Nelson. The 2009 fourth-round pick is again missing copious amounts of practice time (this time due to a leg injury, not migraines), and if he can't make it back onto the field for a pre-season game or two, he's a likely roster casualty.
- C Geoff Hangartner. Last year's starting center is now the backup center, has not received much (public) consideration for a starting guard job despite upheaval at both positions, and was not hand-picked by Gailey as a reserve worthy of starting consideration the way Rinehart was.
- WR David Nelson. With Evans out of the picture, it seems that every Bills receiver's position has changed but Nelson's. Jones is now a starter and Roscoe Parrish is in for a bigger role, but Nelson still seems entrenched as a slot-specific fourth receiver in Chan Gailey's offense.