List of Joe – Bills Training Camp Preview

1) AUGUST OUTRAGE! – Aside from being able to get players’ autographs, enjoying the ambiance of football practice, and the reminder that football is right around the corner, training camp outrage is a time honored tradition in Buffalo and tends to make me have tons of agita.

(Look it up if you aren’t Italian)

Get ready for a boatload of the following:

  1. The offense looks like shit, while ignoring that the defense may just be better.
  2. Media fighting with fans about who looks good in camp and who doesn’t.
  3. Preseason only matters when needing an example of your POV about the team sucking or being great.
  4. Over-analyzing every single Tyrod throw and mapping out over the middle passing charts.
  5. Everyone is in the best shape of their lives and the new system is soooo much better than last year’s.
  6. Media complaining about the heat, practice, and fans.
  7. Overreacting to national pundits Bills predictions.

It is always a war of attrition on Twitter during August. I should expect this by now, but I think because we’ve had the Bills hiatus for a few months, it always slams me right in the face when training camp gets here and the discord is in full force. “Oh, right! Football is here and that means I hate my Twitter feed!!!” For the piece, I’m just going to go over training camp battles and some season preview takes, but mostly it will be about August football. I always say, don’t stroke out in August unless an important player gets injured. For the most part, it is bullshit and save your energy for when the real bullets are flying in September.

2) Backup QB position – If there is one player who has been shitted on more since the conclusion of the draft, it is Cardale Jones. Everyone and their mother seems to think he’s going to be the odd man out of the backup QB competition and no one is pulling their punches. It is understandable since there’s a new regime in place and they didn’t pick Jones, but what I think is a dumb POV is when you say he should be cut based off practices or his appearance in the season finale.

It was assumed that Jones was a QB project. He needed at least 2 years or so to hone in his skills since he only started a handful of games in college. This isn’t shocking or breaking news that he is what he is currently. No matter what happens, if I were the Bills, I’d keep him and Peterman and kick TJ Yates to the curb. Yates F’N sucks. We know exactly what Yates is and you can give me all the rigmarole about him knowing the system, but I think that’s just token football talk that is basically a platitude. You want to find your QB of the future? Have as many young QBs on your roster to figure this out. Go with the young guns as #2 and #3. If you have to play any of the 3 this year, you are probably going to be screwed, so, go with the young guys.

3) Battle at WR depth chart – The last time I could remember there being this much competition from #2 to #5 WR was probably in 2011 when the Bills jettisoned Lee Evans to Baltimore and we had Donald Jones, David Nelson, and Roscoe Parrish batting it out. I will say the talent at WR is better than in 2011, but it is a toss up right. As long as he doesn’t go Cyrus Kouandjio in his first training camp, I’d assume Zay Jones would get the #2 slot. It makes sense since he’s a 2nd round pick.

However, Andre Holmes does have the experience, so, if Jones struggles a bit in picking up the offense, they can go there. After Holmes, it gets dicey. Some guy named after a blunt and your token training camp hero (Da’Rick Rodgers/UB Guy) would round out your top 5 WRs. Keep in mind though the Bills probably won’t run too many 4WR sets. You are talking 2TE, the fatback, or 3 WR sets. Last year, Trevor Sieman only attempted 90 passes out of 4 WR sets, while it was double in either 2 WR or 3WR sets. So, it may not matter who is the #4 or #5 WR because they may not even see the filled except for special teams or injuries.

4) Who the hell is the other safety? – Seriously, outside of Micah Hyde, I have zero idea who is playing the other safety position. So, after a quick google search, I see that Jordan Palmer, who they signed from Cleveland, seems to be the guy they have penciled in. I don’t know anything about him. The Bills recently signed Bacarri Rambo, who I really liked a lot when he was in Jim Schwartz’s defense in 2014. Alright, I only liked him a lot because his last name is so F’N awesome and I can tweet out Rambo GIFs. Back to football, I’d assume the Bills are going to do platoon action back there. Certain guys will play during certain scenarios, but there can only be one starter.

5) Shaq/Ragland – The Bills need one of their top picks from 2016 to really put on a show this year. We don’t know much about Shaq/Ragland when it comes to playing in the NFL, but being high picks means you have to be counted on. I look forward to seeing what these guys do in August since they missed training camp last year. A lot has been made about whether Ragland can fit in this defense, but I tend to think when you are an ILB or played Weakside LB, it is easier to make the transition when you go from 3-4 to 4-3.

The edge rushers (more on that later), seem to be the ones who have a harder time transitioning as they either have to go to DE or play your more traditional OLB in a 4-3, which is having more responsibilities than just rushing the passer. As for Shaq, he’s going to be in a great situation since he’s on a loaded DL which should only help him get after the QB because of 1-on-1 blocking schemes where offenses have to worry about 99-95-55. I’m hoping we see some cool reports from training camp how both these guys are playing well.

6) I don’t hate our LBs – Maybe it is just me, but I really like our LB corps. I think Ragland, Brown, Alexander, and Hodges is a unit that has a mix of experience and youth. The Hodges pick up really put the unit over in my eyes. Preston Brown is going back to the 4-3 which is what he flourished in as a rookie in 2014 under Schwartz. Ragland seems to be a jack of all trades type of LB and Alexander can rush the passer.

Look, I’m not saying this is a reincarnation of Spikes/Fletcher/Posey, but they are much better than what they had last year. I think they will be stout against the run and will be able to mix in the occasional blitz on the QB. If anything is worrisome, it will be how these LBs are in coverage. Neither of the 4 are that good in coverage. My hope is Ragland comes into his own in coverage. Oh, and let’s not forget John Wawrow and Rob Quinn’s favorite player, Matt Milano. Of all the positions on a 4-3 defense, LBs tend to play much better as rookies than any other position.

7) How long will the honeymoon last? – I’ve been listening to WGR in the afternoon recently and The Bulldog has mentioned how fans are more excited about McDermott than any of the coaches they’ve hired over the drought. It is pretty close, although I think the Rex Ryan love affair in his first off season had slightly more euphoria because of the hoopla surrounding the team at that time (New owner/more active in FA). Of course, that went straight to hell early in the 2015 season. It will be interesting to see what happens in August.

As I said, Twitter/media aren’t patient and I’ve seen it go to hell pretty quickly.  I think the Bills will be better, but I don’t think it will count in the record department because of their dubious QB schedule in comparison to last year. Unless the defense stays the same or takes a step back, I’m willing to give McDermott a pass if the team wins 4-5 games. IMO, this is kind of a quiet rebuild where the Bills can say all they want how “They are in it to win it!” but I think they know next year is going to be the year they want to make more progress. If anything, I keep thinking this is going to be like the 2006 season. The Bills win 6-7 games with a core of leftovers from the previous regime (Think: McGahee/Spikes/Clements/Fletcher), but will jettison them by next year and have their new crew firmly in place.

8) Battle for RT – Please let Dion Dawkins win this battle. I can’t go another year of Jordan Mills getting Tyrod Taylor killed. In a perfect world, the Bills should have 3 rookies starting (White/Dawkins/Jones) and Dawkins might be the most important one because of how bad Jordan Mills is.

9) Secondary growing pains – I really like the front 7 of the Bills defense. I think you could put it up against any defense in the league personnel wise. The secondary? Not so much. As much as the lunatic fringe hated Gilmore, he’ll be missed back there. They are relying on a rookie CB, a CB who hasn’t played in a zone defense as pro, and Kevon Seymour, who I know next to dick about.

[USC corner, came in late when Darby was benched, c’mon Joe Joe – Rich]

No unit on this team has had a bigger makeover than the secondary. Their safeties and #1 CB are gone and there’s a completely new system for them to learn. It is football 101 to say that a ferocious pass rush will help the secondary. The Bills better hope that’s the case as I’m a little worried about how this unit will gel. Training camp battles for who will be the 3rd CB and beyond will be interesting.

10) Lorenzo Alexander role – Almost every defensive player regressed under Rex Ryan. Maybe you could say Kyle Williams was the same cause he’s had 6 different defensive coordinators and he’s use to the change. But other than that, everyone regressed except for Lorenzo Alexander. #57 has a great story as your typical NFL journeyman who made it big last year. He’s also embraced the fans and the role as a locker room leader. However, I’m a bit worried how he’s going to transition in a 4-3 defense. Is he going to be a situational pass rusher?

Does he play exclusively at DE even though I feel he might be a bit undersized and rushing in a 3-point stance worries me. Last year, he mostly rushed the passer and with the transition to a 4-3, he may have more duties covering RBs out of the backfield. That’s something that leaves me a little queasy. Like I wrote earlier in this piece, the tweener guy who rushes the passer in an OLB position of a 3-4 normally has the biggest adjustment to a 4-3. I always think back to when the Bills signed James Posey. Posey had 10+ sacks as a 3-4 traditional OLB with the Texans. However, when he got here, the Bills had him as weak side LB in a 4-3 and his sack numbers were never the same here. I’m hoping that’s not the case here. It will be an interesting transition to watch in training camp.