Key Positions To Watch During Bills Training Camp

Bills WR Stevie Johnson interacts with fan during Training Camp at St. Johns Fish (Photo: via zimbio.com)

Bills WR Stevie Johnson interacts with fan during Training Camp at St. Johns Fish (Photo: via zimbio.com)

It is that time of year again, summer is upon us meaning only one thing, Training Camp has arrived.  The Buffalo Bills will be heading up to their usual spot at St. John Fisher in Pittsford, New York.  Bills training camp is set to start on July 28th.  The complete training camp schedule can be found here (http://wp.me/pcQbV-4De).  There are a few positions that fans will be sure to keep an eye on throughout camp.  The first position will be the Quarterback position. 

With the competition of Kevin Kolb and EJ Manuel heating up after minicamp, this will be the topic of the summer.  Another position you should keep your eye on is the Linebacker position.  The emergence of rookie Kiko Alonso can push him potentially into a starting role with Nigel Bradham as the inside linebackers.  The question is who will back them up and also who will play on the outside with them.  Finally the last position to keep your eye on is the Cornerback position.  Outside of Stephon Gilmore and potentially Leodis McKelvin, starting spots are up for grabs.  Let’s take a closer look at each of these positions and who could emerge as the starters.

Naming a starting quarterback after minicamp wasn’t an option for Coach Marrone; he felt as if they were in a dead heat and that one would emerge during training camp.  He’s on record saying that he wants one to emerge “sooner than later” just from a team stand point.  He wants the quarterback to be the right choice for the team and it gives the team a clear cut view of what they can expect.  History is on the side of EJ Manuel, in the sense that rookie quarterbacks that are selected in the first round typically start week one. One could argue since the Bills moved out of the top ten that the Bills won’t be pressured to start him right away.  There have been success stories such as Aaron Rodgers where they have sat behind an experienced quarterback to later take over the team years later.  Kevin Kolb has experience on his side and will lean on it going into training camp.  He knows what to expect going into these situations and he has been in a quarterback battle every year dating back to his days with the Philadelphia Eagles.  Competition is nothing new to Kolb and I’m sure he will fight his hardest to win the starting spot.  Overall, this will be the story line all training camp long and it should be.  The Bills haven’t had great quarterback play since Jim Kelly left. As for a prediction who will emerge as the starter, I believe it will be EJ Manuel.  Manuel will begin to separate himself from Kolb at the end of training camp leading into the preseason games. Starter: EJ Manuel

The next position we will take a closer look at is the Linebacker position.  This one is very intriguing for multiple reasons.  The different styles of defensive fronts that Coach Pettine wants to run will involve a lot of linebackers.  The linebackers on the roster are Arthur Moats, Nigel Bradham, Kiko Alonso, Jerry Hughes, Marcus Dowtin, Kourtnei Brown, Manny Lawson, Bryan Scott, Brian Smith, Keith Pough, and Chris White.  This list doesn’t include players that could potentially play outside linebacker in Mario Williams and Mark Anderson.   This group is very talented, fast and also very athletic.  The competition will really heat up in the weak side linebacker position.  Alonso has made strides during OTA’s and minicamp; he is gauged to be the starter at this point.  Dowtin will be pushing him for that position throughout training camp.  Dowtin came over from the Jets where Pettine loved his athleticism.  Another guy to keep your eye on is UDFA Keith Pough.  He may be smaller than other linebackers on the roster but he makes up for it with his instincts and his tackling ability. Don’t be surprised if you see him emerge in the JLB position.  Nigel Bradham has been impressive and we saw some of this flash last year during the season.  Bradham will line up in the SILB position.  The free agent signing of Manny Lawson proves that the Bills wanted pass rushers, which is why I believe he starts at the SLB position.  The Bills will have good depth at the positions with Scott, Pough, Dowtin, Hughes, Anderson, Moats and White.  Starters: JLB-Mario Williams WILB-Kiko Alonso SILB-Nigel Bradham SLB-Manny Lawson

Last but not least we take a quick look at the cornerback position leading up to training camp.  Stephon Gilmore has locked up the #1 CB position without question.  From that spot on everything seems to be an open competition.  Leodis McKelvin would have the easiest road to the #2 CB spot but coming off an injury and not participating in OTA’s or minicamp could hurt his chances. With the likes of Crezdon Butler, Rob Brooks, Kip Edwards, Justin Rogers, Jordan Dangerfield, TJ Health, Nickell Robey, and Jumal Rolle on the roster there will be good competition for spots on the roster.  The nickel corner back position is something to watch during training camp. Brooks held the spot for limited time last year due to injury.  Robey has been a surprise this spring, emerging as a threat to take that starting spot with his play making abilities.  Let’s not forget that Aaron Williams will be available for the position even after converting to the safety position.  Butler could emerge at the #2 spot with his physical style of play.  He spent most of his time last year on the practice squad but did come in and contribute the last game of the year with a key forced fumble. This group will have their work cut out for them and will have the eyes of Bills fans for sure.  Starters: RCB-Stephon Gilmore LCB-Leodis McKelvin