Every season, players have a chance to prove themselves to their peers, coaches, and fans around the league. Whether it is coming back from an injury or becoming the player others expect them to be, these three Buffalo Bills will look to take their game to the next level.
QB AJ McCarron
After spending his first four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals as the backup to Andy Dalton, McCarron wants to show that he can be a starting-caliber quarterback in the NFL. Over those four seasons, McCarron started just three games for the Bengals. In those three games, he performed well, collectively completing 65.1 percent of his passes for 554 yards and 4 touchdowns. In another game where he played most of the way but didn't start, he went 22 for 32, with 280 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.
Going into the offseason, McCarron was expected to fetch a big contract from a QB-needy team. Fortunately for the Bills, they were able to sign him to a 2-year deal for reasonable money to bridge the gap to their quarterback of the future. For McCarron, it’s not about being the temporary guy until Josh Allen is ready; he wants to be a long-term starter as most guys in his position would be. With Allen being brought along slowly, McCarron should be the Day one starter, giving him all the opportunity to be the quarterback he wants to be.
DE Shaq Lawson
Being a first-round pick in 2016, Lawson hasn't lived up to his expectations. Under Rex Ryan, he wasn't playing his natural position as a 4-3 defensive end, and he had trouble adjusting to Ryan’s scheme (as did quite a few members of Buffalo’s defensive unit at the time). In 2017, before the injuries settled in and he was placed on injured reserve, Lawson didn't make as great a stride from his rookie to sophomore season as some would expect. In the 11 games he appeared in for the Bills last season, he only had four sacks. Lawson has notably been working tirelessly this offseason to break out as the premier pass rusher the Bills originally drafted him to be. This is a make or break season for Lawson to show the Bills he deserves a second contract.
DE Trent Murphy
Murphy entered the NFL in 2014 and he didn't emerge onto the scene until his third season, when he posted nine sacks as a member of the Washington Redskins. During the preseason leading up to the 2017 season, Murphy suffered a torn ACL and missed the remainder of the season. Murphy became a free agent after the season and decided to sign a three-year contract with the Bills. Between Lawson and Murphy, one will become the starter opposite Jerry Hughes. Either way, both players will see a good amount of playing time, as McDermott showed last season he likes to rotate all positions on the defensive line. Murphy became somewhat of an afterthought because of the 2017 season and will look to return to his 2016 self.