After a COVID-19 impacted training camp and cancellation of the preseason in 2020, the 2021 version of the NFL will be more of what we are used to. There will be preseason games (one less, down to three) and some fans at camp. Those fans and games will feature the traditional training camp battles and a roster full of players trying to make a name for themselves.
As is the case when people compete, there are winners and losers. What follows is a list of Buffalo Bills players who have the most to lose entering the 2021 season. Loss isn’t the same for everyone. For some, a “loss” may result in a backup or complimentary roll, while for others, a loss may result in a proverbial pink slip. Regardless of how the loss is quantified, these are the players with the most to lose in 2021.
Cody Ford, OG
Ford finds himself on this list again, but at a different position this time. After making the full-time transition to guard, Ford had an injury-marred 2020 season, missing multiple games before a torn meniscus officially ended his campaign on November 27.
Filling in for Ford, Ike Boettger earned a chance to compete for the LG position. Ford will also have competition from free-agent addition Forrest Lamp, a former second-round pick. General manager Brandon Beane has mentioned the toughness of Ford, when he said the lineman has played as many games hurt as he has healthy. Beane also said he would be surprised if Ford is not a starter for the 2022 season. Ford is the favorite to win the battle, but a slow or uneven transition back into the fold this training camp could result in him being on the sideline when the offense first takes the field against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mario Addison, DE
This one may be a bit out there, but imagine the following scenario:
- After packing on some pounds, A.J. Epenesa gets a few sacks in the preseason and wins more than his share of training camp battles with the offensive line.
- While Epenesa is making waves, Carlos Basham Jr. and Greg Rousseau have some bumps, but overall impress in practices and the preseason games.
- Darryl Johnson Jr. may be the key here. As The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia pointed out in his defensive end preview, Johnson played 56 percent of special teams snaps, which was a ten percent drop from his rookie year. That decrease could have been a result of him playing more on defense with the healthy scratch status of Trent Murphy. But with a re-loaded DE room, Johnson may be even more active on teams in 2021, which gives him the edge over Addison.
- The final piece to this puzzle, would be Addison just being… a guy, like he was much of last year—not generating much pressure and staying invisible for long stretches of time.
If the above things happen, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility, Addison could be in danger of being on the roster bubble—even with his contract restructure. If Addison starts to make splash plays, however, Johnson would be the one with the most to lose.
Dawson Knox, TE
Throughout this offseason, Beane and head coach Sean McDermott have shown a faith in Knox, which is evidenced by their lack of movement at this position. A slow or unproductive training camp may change that tune, however. Entering his third year, Knox has a number of plays that tease at his potential. The problem is inconsistency and, last year, availability after playing in only 12 of 16 games.
In 2020, Knox caught just 24 of his 44 targets for 288 yards. His season high in yards was 51, and he had five games, including the playoffs, with 20 or less yards. Maintaining that level of performance could finally trigger Beane and McDermott to make a move prior to Week 1 (looking at you, Ertz).
Devin Singletary, RB
Much like Knox, Singletary is entering a pivotal third year. After a promising rookie season, Motor had a decline in almost every statistical category in his sophomore follow-up. Despite five more carries and a more potent passing attack, Singletary went from 775 yards to 687 in 2021, and his YPC dropped from 5.1 to 4.4. Before his injury, it seemed as if Zack Moss had become more of the featured back.
Moss shouldn’t be Singletary’s only concern. An under-the-radar move the Bills made this offseason was the addition of Matt Breida, the speedster who spent last year with the Miami Dolphins. Unlike others on this list, Singletary’s loss won’t result in a loss of a roster spot, but a slow training camp and preseason could lead to a decrease in his workload in 2021.
Jake Fromm, QB
There is a strong argument to make that the 2020 COVID season hurt no one more than it did Fromm. As a rookie last year, Fromm didn’t get the benefit of a normal offseason of work, or preseason games. Then when the regular season kicked off, Fromm was the “designated survivor,” being isolated from the other QBs to protect against a COVID-19 outbreak (a smart move considering the Denver Broncos had to play a game with a WR under center).
In Year 2, Fromm will have to earn a roster spot. Buffalo brought in Mitch Trubisky to backup Josh Allen. The battle for Fromm will be for the QB3 position (or the practice squad QB if the Bills go with only two on the active roster). The Georgia product will compete with Davis Webb for the third quarterback spot. Fromm has the potential to light it up this preseason, which could get him a more desirable backup spot on another team with potential injuries. A lackluster preseason could see Fromm on the street.