Rookie minicamp just wrapped up for the Buffalo Bills. The draft selections, undrafted free agents, and tryout players have converged for the first organized offseason practices in western New York. But as mandatory minicamps, OTAs and training camps start up over the coming months, every team has questions that need answered and focus points for their fans. The Bills are no exception.
Here are a few of my burning questions for the coming Buffalo practices:
What does the depth chart look like at middle linebacker?
Throughout the offseason, the middle linebacker position has been a source of consternation for Bills Mafia who watched previous stalwart Tremaine Edmunds leave to sign a big contract with the Chicago Bears when free agency opened in March. Since Buffalo played their last game, they’ve re-signed A.J. Klein and Tyrell Dodson, and drafted Dorian Williams out of Tulane in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft. They join last year’s draft picks Baylon Spector and Terrel Bernard as the men who could potentially find themselves as the starting middle linebacker for the Bills when they line up to play against the Aaron Rodgers-led New York Jets offense on Monday Night Football to open the 2023 regular season.
General manager Brandon Beane noted after the draft that Tyrell Dodson was the “leader in the clubhouse” for the job after the draft, but it feels probable that the Bills will give last year’s third-round pick Terrel Bernard every chance to live up to a Day 2 investment by winning the job.
How quickly can we expect meaningful contribution from first-round tight end Dalton Kincaid?
How many video clips I see of Dalton Kincaid catching passes in team drills from Josh Allen is going to be a focal point for my spring and summer online stalking. With local media often unable to provide the details on which player is playing what position with what unit, sometimes we’re forced to rely on clips and notes that would indicate Kincaid is getting reps with the ones.
“Kincaid made a great play over Matt Milano.”
“Dalton found a soft spot for a touchdown from Allen in red zone work.”
With the Bills admitting they plan on utilizing Kincaid to create an “11.5 personnel” grouping, how often they’ll be able to utilize their new first-round weapon early in the season will be a meaningful contributing factor towards how much the opening-game offense looks like the Week 9 offense.
Who’s the starting right guard for this team?
Swiss Army knife offensive lineman Ryan Bates held the position to the starboard of pivot man Mitch Morse in 2022. Then the Bills drafted University of Florida monster O’Cyrus Torrence in the second round of this past NFL Draft. Second-round picks can reasonably be expected to frequently compete for starting jobs on most teams, which immediate makes the right-guard position one to watch for Buffalo this spring and summer. Do the Bills value Ryan Bates’ versatility enough to make him the first man off the bench of any of the five offensive line positions while allowing the rookie to man Bates’ previous position?
As with the Dalton Kincaid question, digging deeper into who’s playing with and against Torrence may clue us in to whether he’s getting meaningful reps with the first team. If we hear he’s holding his own against starting defensive tackle Da’Quan Jones for example, it speaks well not only from a competency standpoint, but also from an informational slant.
If Torrence is the starting right guard for this team, do the run schemes change slightly to accommodate the road grader? Do mid zones and gap/power runs become a favorite in the preseason with Torrence in lieu of outside and wide zones and pin/pull? What they’re running when he’s in and how he performs with each play might give us insight into the run schemes for 2023 if he wins the job.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!