We’re entering the time of year where peak roster competitions are taking shape. From now until the regular season begins, players will seek to establish themselves as invaluable cogs in the process machine. Which players have the most to gain during this critical time? Here’s a few thoughts on the matter. Don’t be shy about adding your own below.
Lawson currently sits in an odd limbo. As a result he’s a player with the most to gain (or lose) during training camp this year. Buffalo elected not to pick up the fifth-year option for the former first rounder, establishing decent odds that Lawson will hit free agency next year. Last season the Buffalo Bills favored Trent Murphy when he was healthy, though the two ended up hitting the exact same number of defensive snaps.
Whether he wants to convince the Bills he should stay or fully take advantage of free agency, Lawson will need to have a big year. That will require being on the field as much as possible, which starts with overtaking Murphy before the season starts. If Shaq can get that done, he’ll put himself in prime position for a nice second contract.
While there aren’t a lot of questions on talent, durability is a major concern. Playing in only 36 games out of a possible 68 with the Houston Texans, it’s safe to say that injuries have thus far derailed Kevin Johnson’s career. The Bills are taking a big gamble with this former first rounder.
Standing in the way of Johnson’s redemption story are two viable competitors for the corner opposite Tre’Davious White. Former Bills (and St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns) cornerback E.J. Gaines is back. Another injury risk, Gaines has already shown well in the Leslie Frazier/Sean McDermott system, which could put him ahead of Johnson. Levi Wallace found himself in the starting role last year after an odd series of events that included spontaneous retirement. If Johnson can beat out both Gaines and Wallace it’ll make waves.
D’Haquille “Duke” Williams
The Bills added several receivers this offseason and they’ll all be looking for targets from Josh Allen. Duke Williams’s NFL aspirations came to a quick end before he became a CFL star. He’ll look to translate his success in the North to the NFL with his second go at the league. Making the final roster would be an incredible feat and that starts now. Williams needs to establish himself right away and earn Josh Allen’s trust.
Dawson Knox/Tommy Sweeney
The two rookie tights ends will almost certainly receive extra practice time as a result of injuries to Tyler Kroft and Jason Croom. The injury to Kroft in particular could mean significant lead time for Knox and Sweeney to impress. If either can take advantage of this extra time and build chemistry with the team it should lead to field time—possibly even in a significant role. That would be a victory for a position that is generally believed to take extra time to translate to the pros.