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Buscaglia: 2016 Bills Training Camp Awards

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Posted at 5:43 PM, Aug 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-23 17:44:28-04

Another year has passed, and the Buffalo Bills have finished up yet another training camp at St. John Fisher College — their second with Rex Ryan as head coach. The Bills finished up the three-and-a-half week camp with 17 practices to help get themselves ready for the 2016 season.

Just as it happens every year at camp, storylines emerged all throughout late July and August, and the team has had to make adjustments as we’ve gone along. And in the process, some players have stood out, and some fell back to the rest of the pack.

Over the past four years, we’ve handed out awards for the most memorable things that happened for the Bills in the summer in Pittsford, NY. So, for the fifth straight year, here is this year’s version of my annual Training Camp Awards

Flying Up the Depth Chart: S Duke Williams

 

 

- What a change this has been from this time last year. After the 2015 version of training camp, Duke Williams had fallen behind so much that he was buried on the depth chart, and in a season that he was expected to push for a starting role, he fell remarkably short. That was 2015, and whatever changed for Duke Williams this summer, he needs to keep it going. For the first two weeks of training camp, the bottom four safeties on the roster were lumped together with Williams, Robert Blanton, Jonathan Meeks, and Colt Anderson. Then, once Aaron Williams suffered a concussion right before the team’s first preseason game, that’s when it all started to shift for Duke Williams. Following a fantastic performance against the Indianapolis Colts, not only was he getting worked in with the first unit, he was the only safety to take reps with Corey Graham and the starters over the past two weeks.  Williams, as long as he doesn’t regress in a major way, has taken over as the No. 3 safety for Rex Ryan’s defense and is getting closer and closer to lock territory.

Failed to Impress: WR Dez Lewis

 

 

- Considering the opportunity that was in front of him after all the offseason practices — and how well he played during those set of workouts, Lewis’ tumble down the depth chart is perhaps the most disappointing development of training camp. Of course, you can throw in the injuries as well, but from an on-the-field viewpoint, Lewis is now in jeopardy of even making the roster. Just as it happened in training camp last year, Lewis seemed like he started to over-think things, and began double-clutching his catches and started to trust his hands less and less. Rex Ryan has been disappointed by Lewis, has admitted as such, and even brought up the possibility of him not making the team. It’s almost fitting, that on the final day of practice, Lewis looked on the way to make a tough contested catch, only to let it go right through his hands and hit him in the chest — and that’s not all. Cornerback Sterling Moore then came over, essentially swatted Lewis in the helmet and knocked him over, which then popped the ball straight into the air and allowed Sammy Seamster to pick it off. Lewis, for the time being, is on the outside looking in on the 53-man roster it seems, and he needs a huge final two weeks of preseason to prove otherwise.

Best Fight: OLB IK Enemkpali vs. OT Cyrus Kouandjio
- There weren’t many fights to speak of during training camp — although Eric Wood’s obscenity-laced verbal takedown of wide receiver Walt Powell for getting a penalty during the two-minute drill was as good as any — but the scuffle between IK Enemkpali and Cyrus Kouandjio stood out purely for the irony of the situation. Enemkpali, who came to the Bills after being released by the New York Jets last summer, threw some punches at Kouandjio after a high intensity rep during team drills. If Enemkpali throwing punches wasn’t evidence enough, it just so happen to fall — to the day — on the one-year anniversary of him  punching Jets quarterback Geno Smith in the face, and subsequently breaking his jaw. There may not be a more memorable scuffle, with that type of reasoning, than that for quite some time.

Most Memorable Moment: Reggie Ragland Suffers a Torn ACL

 

 

- Sometimes in training camp, the most memorable moments aren’t necessarily the ones that fans will  fondly look back on. This year, while on the campus of St. John Fisher College, there was no bigger development than when second-round pick and starting inside linebacker Reggie Ragland went down on a non-contact play with a knee injury. I can remember it vividly: Ragland going down after hobbling a couple of steps, then crashing to the ground before a defensive backs coach screamed out “Medic!” A fairly large crowd of the medical staff surrounded him, while owner Terry Pegula hovered over to see what was happening — all the while the injury happened literally right in front of the golf cart that general manager Doug Whaley was sitting in. He walked off under his own power, and that was the last time we’ve seen Ragland in a Bills uniform. It just goes to show, even the most careful of training camps yields huge injuries, and this one was no exception.

Rookie Stud: CB Kevon Seymour

 

 

- With all the expectations placed on outside linebacker Shaq Lawson, inside linebacker Reggie Ragland, and defensive lineman Adolphus Washington — and even the potential that quarterback Cardale Jones shows, the one rookie that stole the show for the majority of training camp was sixth-round pick Kevon Seymour. He has helped turn the cornerback position into an embarrassment of riches, now that the Bills have Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby, and Nickell Robey-Coleman in the starting roles, with quality depth in Seymour, Corey White, and Sterling Moore. Seymour went from a roster bubble player before spring workouts started, to be the likely first man off the bench in the event of an injury or poor play. And the best part? He’s shown he can play both on the outside and in the slot. It seems like the Bills might have hit a home run with their sixth-round pick.

Rookie Dud: WR Kolby Listenbee
- Coming into training camp, we knew full well about the injury and potential timetable for first-round pick Shaq Lawson, and although the injury to Ragland was disappointing, he was having a strong training camp up to that point. The rookie draft picks for the Bills this summer have been generally impressive, but of the entire group, the most disappointing has been Kolby Listenbee — only because we haven’t been able to see him and what he brings to the table just yet. He’s still recovering from the double sports hernia surgery from the pre-draft process, and seems likely to start the year on the Non-Football Injury list for the Bills. This in no way is a criticism of him as a player, it’s just we haven’t been able to see him in any capacity — outside of one day that he worked to the side a little bit with the training staff. The rest of the drafted rookie class has been that good.

Camp LVP Runners-Up: OT Jordan Mills & HB Boom Herron
- For the most part, the starters for the Buffalo Bills lived up to the hype. Most, except for starting right tackle Jordan Mills, who has struggled significantly since the start of training camp. His spot on the offensive line raises the biggest question mark as we get closer to the season. The Bills have to be hoping that Seantrel Henderson takes to being back to practice well, because he could serve as a genuine upgrade to the struggling Mills. Boom Herron, once a solid runner in the NFL, has really shown the mileage of his years in the league have worn on him a bit. He struggles to generate any big gains, and even fumbled the football during training camp this year. He’s nestled right at the bottom of the running back depth chart.

Camp MVP Runners-Up: CB Stephon Gilmore & WR Sammy Watkins

 

 

- As previously stated, the starting players were, for the most part, able to live up to the hype during training camp. Two of the best players on the entire roster, Stephon Gilmore and Sammy Watkins, were among the best on a day-to-day basis. Gilmore set the tone early on with one dominant performance after another, closing out training camp with four interceptions in a rather limited amount of reps during team drills. He was usually in the hip pocket of all the receivers, and was one of the best players on the field. If it wasn’t for the tornado that was the camp’s MVP over the last two weeks, Gilmore would have won the top honors. As for Watkins, when he was able to get back to practice, it was incredibly easy to see how much more talented he was than most any player he went up against. Watkins, if he stays healthy, is primed for a breakout season that resembles close to the second half of his season in 2015.

Camp LVP: RB Karlos Williams

 

 

- This is a pretty open and shut case in my view. Karlos Williams not only showed up to offseason workouts overweight by football standards, but was suspended by the NFL for four games shortly before training camp even began. Once the Bills got to St. John Fisher College, Williams spent a little over the first half of camp on the Non-Football Illness list, unable to participate in practices. Once he was there, he was buried on the depth chart and working with the scout team, while still looking as though he was carrying a legitimate amount of extra weight. Then, Williams was released by the Bills after one of the most promising rookie seasons for running backs in 2015. That’s as bad of a training camp as you can get.

Camp MVP: OLB Jerry Hughes
- It didn’t matter who he went up against through the final two weeks of training camp, outside linebacker Jerry Hughes was constantly making his presence felt in the backfield. It was almost laughable at times, with Hughes getting past the right tackle so quickly — and since the quarterback can’t be hit — he was basically just standing in the backfield next to Tyrod Taylor and watched right next to him as he delivered a pass. He was either doing that, or setting up his teammates to make a play on the interior — and mostly just being a thorn in the side of the offense. He has taken to the left side of the defense quite well, and is likely in line for a much bigger season than what we saw from him statistically in 2015.

Other Memorable Moments in pictures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss a day of practice? Catch up with my daily observations:

Day 1 - Saturday, July 30

Day 2 - Sunday, July 31

Day 3 - Monday, August 1

Day 4 - Tuesday, August 2

Day 5 - Thursday, August 4

Day 6 - Friday, August 5

Day 7 - Saturday, August 6

Day 8 - Monday, August 8

Day 9 - Tuesday, August 9

Day 10 - Wednesday, August 10

Day 11 - Thursday, August 11

Day 12 - Monday, August 15

Day 13 - Tuesday, August 16

Day 14- Wednesday, August 17

Day 15 - Thursday, August 18

Day 16 - Monday, August 22

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia