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The Buffalo Rumblings Podcast: tight end, linebacker, and training camp questions

Tight end and linebacker should provide the Bills with sneaky good productivity in 2018

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In the latest edition of the Buffalo Rumblings Podcast, John Boccacino and Anthony Marino take a look at two areas where the Buffalo Bills could be sneaky good in 2018: tight ends and linebackers.

With training camp starting at St. John Fisher College on July 26, our podcast duo also provided their insights into three burning questions all Bills fans are asking themselves as the team prepares to open training camp.

Even though he has battled an assortment of injuries, Charles Clay has been a solid contributor during his time in Buffalo. Last year, Clay led the team in receiving yards (558) and was second to LeSean McCoy in receptions (49). He averaged 11.4 yards per catch as a reliable pass catching threat over the middle, and hauled in two receiving touchdowns.

Clay, who has averaged six targets per game since coming to Western New York, is the clear-cut No. 1 tight end on the team, as he should be with a $9 million cap hit in 2018. While Clay isn’t perfect, he is an ideal target for Buffalo’s roster of inexperienced quarterbacks, and should be in line for another solid season. As an added bonus, during his Bills career Clay has established himself as a good run blocker, too.

His ability to lineup at tight end, in the slot, and as a threat out wide should only enhance Clay’s reputation as a reliable receiver in new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s system.

When Clay suffered a leg injury in Week 5 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Nick O’Leary stepped right in and showed he is capable of replicating Clay’s production from the tight end spot.

The grandson of famous golfer Jack Nicklaus, O’Leary enjoyed a breakout 2017 campaign, recording 22 receptions for 322 yards (a nice 14.6 yards per catch) with a pair of touchdowns. O’Leary could stand to improve his effort in the blocking department, but together with Clay, this gives Buffalo a nice 1-2 punch at tight end.

Logan Thomas, a converted quarterback, is a raw talent who definitely has potential thanks to his outstanding athleticism, but he has a ways to go before he supplants O’Leary and Clay on the depth chart.

The duo turned their focus to the linebackers, which should also be a sneaky good unit, led by first-round pick Tremaine Edmunds, veteran Lorenzo Alexander, and promising second-year man Matt Milano.

Edmunds has really impressed head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier in OTA’s and mandatory mini-camp, and is expected to be an impact contributor at the middle linebacker position from day one.

The hope is Alexander, who along with Kyle Williams is the emotional leader of the Bills defense, can return to production that mirrors 2016, when he recorded 12.5 sacks, compared to last year when he managed only three sacks.

Alexander, who enjoyed a solid performance in the Wild Card loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, has been penciled in as starter on the outside, with Milano, who made 49 total tackles with one interception, slotted in as the other starting outside linebacker.

Boccacino and Marino then took turns answering three pivotal questions facing the Bills as they prepare to open camp.

1. How will the offensive line situation play out?
2. What becomes of former first-round pick Shaq Lawson, who was rumored to be on the trade block, and what is his role among defensive ends?
3. The biggest question the Bills face: who will be the team’s starting quarterback in Week 1 at Baltimore? Hint: barring injury/a lights-out performance in training camp and the preseason, both Boccacino and Marino expect a non-rookie to be under center vs. the Ravens.

Check out our Buffalo Rumblings podcast for the answers to these questions and more! The Buffalo Rumblings podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podbay, Podfanatic, and practically everywhere podcasts are found.

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