The Buffalo Bills open training camp in two weeks, with the official start of camp coming on July 26. Last week, we profiled the players with the most to lose in training camp. In the spirit of providing both sides of the proverbial coin, today we examine the players with the most to gain at camp.
QB Nathan Peterman
The second-year pro out of Pitt faces a much different training camp than he did as a rookie. Last year, he was a clear backup to starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, as the rookie expected to learn the ins and outs of NFL life. This year, Peterman enters camp with a legitimate chance to become the starting quarterback for week one of the 2018 NFL season.
A strong week of OTA practices in May followed by another strong showing during mandatory minicamp in June has Petermania back in full swing in Western New York. Josh Allen was drafted seventh overall this season to be the quarterback of the future; however, the quarterback of the present has yet to be determined. If Peterman can fend off AJ McCarron, whom the Bills signed in March, then he gives himself the chance to become the full-time starter, even if it’s only until Allen is ready to take the job himself.
[Insert WR Here]
Since we could essentially write the same thing about ten of the wide receivers in camp, I’ll leave the category as open as the current competition. Presumed starter Zay Jones has missed the entire offseason program to date as he rehabs following knee surgery in April. The Bills have rotated each player on the roster in with the first team, with the only consistent member being Kelvin Benjamin, the team’s de facto number one wideout.
Jones’s injury could pave the way for a young, lesser-known player to make the roster, someone like 2017 training camp darling Brandon Reilly or 2018 undrafted free agents Cam Phillips and Robert Foster. It also could allow a veteran like Rod Streater to sneak on to the roster, or keep a veteran (Andre Holmes) from falling off the roster bubble with solid camp performances. In short, the wide receiver competition is wide open. Each player has a chance to claim a role, whether on offense or special teams, with a strong training camp.
G/C Ryan Groy
Buffalo’s super-sub on the interior offensive line has a lot to gain this offseason, namely a permanent place in the starting lineup. There are four players thought to be battling for three spots, with Vladimir Ducasse, Russell Bodine, and John Miller joining Groy in the fight to start at left guard, center, and right guard. In the early going, it seems that Ducasse and Miller have the best chance to start at left and right guard, respectively. Groy and Bodine have alternately anchored the first-team offensive line at the pivot.
Groy’s versatility makes him a fantastic option as a substitute, but he would certainly prefer starting to sitting. Groy rotated at left guard with Ducasse, and he has played right guard professionally, as well. If he has a strong training camp, he can overtake Bodine and solidify himself as the heir-apparent to longtime Bills’ center Eric Wood.
CB Breon Borders
The Bills have eight cornernacks in camp, and I’d expect that they’ll keep five of them (although they could try to go with four due to the versatility they have at safety). In any case, a young player has a chance to make noise in this group. Borders was acquired last year from the Oakland Raiders, as he was signed off the Raiders’ practice squad on December 16. The Bills carried him on the active roster for the remainder of the season, though he was a healthy scratch for all of those games.
If head coach Sean McDermott thought enough of Borders to keep him on the 53-man roster for the last month of the season, he must think that Borders has a chance to succeed at the NFL level. While there are a few rookies to consider here, as well a veteran in Lafayette Pitts, Borders has excellent length and good closing speed. A strong camp could put him in contention for a roster spot, and given the shaky injury histories of Phillip Gaines and Vontae Davis, could also mean that Borders will have the chance to earn legitimate playing time when the real games begin.
DE Shaq Lawson
Yes, we included him on our list of players with the most to lose, as he was a starter for the majority of last season and he could find himself on the outs with a poor camp performance. With the signing of veteran Trent Murphy, it appears that Lawson will compete not for a starting job, but a backup role in 2018. In that way, it seems that he’s already “lost” when comparing his year-to-year expectations.
What, then, does Lawson have to gain? For starters, he could prove plenty of doubters wrong by having a solid training camp and earning a role as rotational player. He played more than 60% of the team’s defensive snaps for the majority of the 2017 season before injuring his ankle against the New England Patriots in December. While his workload projects to be less in 2018, he could certainly earn more time with a solid camp. Lawson has plenty to lose this year, but with a strong training camp, he also has plenty to gain.