The Buffalo Bills have finished their first full week of training camp practices this year at St. John Fisher. The team will play an intrasquad scrimmage on Friday night, and their first preseason action takes place next week. Who are the early candidates for “King of Training Camp”? These are the players who’ve stood out from the pack.
DE Shaq Lawson
The star from the first week of camp has to be Lawson, Buffalo’s 2016 first-round pick. Having shed some pounds, and playing in a more comfortable defensive end role, Lawson has been racing into the backfield in pretty much every practice so far. That bodes well for the resurgence of Buffalo’s defensive line.
WR Rod Streater
Out of the free agent receiver crop added by Buffalo this offseason, the most impressive training camp performer has been Streater. He’s come on hot with a bundle of touchdowns in recent practices, showing off his 6’3” frame as a red zone target. Sammy Watkins and Zay Jones are liable to claim a large proportion of snaps, but Streater is making a case to be on the field in 3WR and 4WR sets.
TE Logan Thomas
There’s a certain pattern to position changes. First, you get the positive comments - “He’s an athlete, he can transition! This suits his style more!” Then you get the realists “Think of how many people have tried to switch positions in the NFL, and how many of those actually succeeded.” Finally, you get the outcome.
Thomas, who stands 6’6” 248 pounds, and is an impressive athlete no matter what position he plays, didn’t work out as a quarterback. When he decided to convert to tight end, it seemed like a good idea on paper - and the Bills added him to the roster, just in case. In his first full offseason at the position, Thomas is trying to silence the doubters. He’s made splash plays in every practice, and his catching technique is great for a player more accustomed to throwing the ball. He’s well on his way to locking up a roster spot as a tight end.
DE Eddie Yarbrough
This second-year player is the surprise star of training camp so far, rising the ranks from the bottom of the depth chart to see time on the second string and even fill in with the ones during Thursday’s practice. The Bills need someone to emerge as a backup defensive end, and while it’s early, Wyoming’s career leader in tackles for loss is making his case.
RT Jordan Mills
When the team is practicing against itself, every positive play is a negative for a player on the other side of the ball. In this case, while Buffalo’s edge rushers are impressing, they’re often succeeding at the expense of the Bills’ right tackle. For now, Mills is holding his position ahead of rookie Dion Dawkins, but if that continues through the preseason, it will put his job in jeopardy.
WR Andre Holmes
Of Buffalo’s free agent receiver signings, Holmes got the biggest salary and had the longest résumé of production; he’s been slotted as a likely WR2 or WR3 for the team as a result. Through one week of practice, however, Holmes has stood out for the wrong reasons - a case of the drops. In almost every practice, Holmes has struggled with dropping or double-clutching passes that come his way. He did take a fall in the very first practice that may have hurt his hand, but right now, he doesn’t look as reliable as Buffalo’s rookie draft pick.
LB Reggie Ragland
Last year’s second-round pick is only a year removed from a torn ACL, and he had a few other offseason surgeries to repair lingering damage from his college career. He hasn’t missed any practice time, but isn’t working at all with the starters. At this point, Sean McDermott says it’s too early to call the battle for starting middle linebacker, but Preston Brown has a chokehold on it - leaving Ragland pinned to the second string.
Buffalo’s star receiver has been rebuilding his chemistry with Tyrod Taylor through the first week of camp. While they aren’t always on the same page, he keeps flashing the ridiculous route running and catching talent that made him a top-five pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Crucially, he looks to have put his foot injury behind him.
Yates hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in practice. He’s shown exactly what he is: a journeyman quarterback with a limited skillset who shouldn’t be expected to start. In one four-play sequence on Wednesday, Yates was sacked thrice and nearly had a pass intercepted. On the other hand, the coaching staff liked him (and rookie Nate Peterman) enough to trade away Yates’s chief competition, Cardale Jones. For now, he looks like a lock for the backup position.