Training camp hasn’t even started with an official practice yet for the Buffalo Bills, and already we’re chock full of storylines heading into Saturday.
The 7 things that I learned from listening to all that the Bills had to say on Friday morning/afternoon:
1) New Tyrod contract?
- As reports mount that there has been next to no progress between the Bills and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the attention — at least at the present moment — has turned to quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Like Gilmore, Taylor is entering the final year of his contract and is likely to command a salary that will make the Bills cap number in 2016 and beyond go up quite a bit. As starting quarterbacks go, Taylor is criminally underpaid based on his playing level. The most recent reports, from The Buffalo News, say that the two sides have continued to talk and that the Bills were impressed with Taylor’s progress during offseason practices enough to talk contract at this point. That was underscored on Friday, with GM Doug Whaley saying that there is a “free-flowing,” open line of communication between the Bills and Taylor’s agent. Now, will that result in a contract extension ahead of the season? That much isn’t certain, but as opposed to how grim everything has sounded regarding Gilmore, optimism seems to be rising that something could be struck between the two sides ahead of the year, or more likely, into the season.
2) Gilmore’s worth
- Speaking of Stephon Gilmore, the cornerback made it abundantly clear how he felt about his abilities as a player. He believes he is among the best in the league at his position, and after referencing players like Patrick Peterson, Chris Harris, and Aqib Talib -- all players that excel in man coverage -- he also inferred that he should be compensated as such. While he didn’t downplay the success of Josh Norman, a zone corner by trade, he also didn’t name Norman as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL — which could lead some to believe that he’s looking for the type of money Norman was given this offseason by Washington, or perhaps even more. Either way, the short-term outlook for the two sides does not breed confidence by any means.
3) McCoy’s mentality
- A crucial campaign is coming up for the Buffalo Bills — and most everyone involved with the organization knows it. The talent is there for a potential playoff push, and one of the biggest reasons to support that is having a healthy LeSean McCoy. The Bills depend on the rushing attack more than almost any other team in the league, so McCoy’s success is vital to the team in 2016. Speaking with reporters on Friday, McCoy said he’s down to around 210-pounds, which according to him, is the lowest weight he’s been since the second year of his career. McCoy also said that he has a huge chip on his shoulder, he’s re-focused, and that he’s “got a lot to prove this year.” The Bills have said they’ll be cautious with him, and other established starters at training camp this year.
4) A Watkins return earlier than expected?
- To start training camp, Sammy Watkins was placed on the physically unable to perform list, which means he will not be able to participate in training camp practices at the start. The Bills can, however, remove him from the list at anytime, whenever he is medically cleared for takeoff. Watkins is still rehabbing a foot injury that required offseason surgery, but perhaps he’ll be back soon enough. Although the Bills have maintained that Watkins would be ready for the start of the regular season, and haven’t committed to anything else other than that, a new report says that he could be ready to go shorter than anticipated. ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported that she was told that Watkins will be broken in slowly, but “let loose in a week.” It still isn’t a certainty that Watkins will be able to play in preseason games, but they shouldn’t push it even if he’s close. At this point, they know what he is as a player. However, the news is certainly encouraging.
5) Bills feel good with their QBs; the Cardale Jones plan
- Through the past week, the Bills have been linked to free agent quarterback Nick Foles as a potential destination, but that doesn’t appear to be in the plans. Doug Whaley told the media that he felt good about the quarterbacks on his roster at this time, which was an essential vote of confidence for backup EJ Manuel. Unless Manuel really starts to struggle through training camp and the preseason, the Bills appear to feel content with the backup position. As for rookie Cardale Jones, Whaley said they would try to take the old school approach of stashing him away for the season — an essential redshirt year for the young quarterback. Whaley did reiterate that he would let Jones compete, but it certainly doesn’t sound like they’re going to force the issue.
6) The plight of Karlos Williams
- For second-year running back Karlos Williams, the offseason couldn’t have gotten much worse. Just weeks after showing up to the team’s minicamp overweight and out of shape, Williams was then suspended by the NFL four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and clearly drew the ire of the coaching staff. On Friday, Rex Ryan said that they were clearly disappointed in Williams for the offseason, but reiterated that he’s a young player and he hopes that the running back learns from it. On the other hand, Doug Whaley told reporters that Williams needs to understand that every single day, players are competing for a spot on the roster, and as he put it, “cap space.” At this point, according to Whaley, Williams is “behind the ball” and has to work to get out of his current hole. To make matters worse, he’ll start training camp on the Non-Football Injury reserve listing. If he isn’t careful this summer, perhaps his hold on the backup running back job could be in jeopardy even when he comes back from his suspension. After all, opportunity in the NFL is fleeting, and one false step could be all that’s needed.
7) 10 players on reserve lists
- The Buffalo Bills will have at least 10 players to the side of practices for the start of training camp, after having gone through the medical examinations on Friday. Here is the list, in full:
Physically Unable to Perform: WR Sammy Watkins (foot), EDGE Shaq Lawson (shoulder), DL Kyle Williams (knee), WR Marcus Easley (knee)
Active/Non-Football Injury: EDGE Manny Lawson (upper body, sustained working out), WR Kolby Listenbee (double sports hernia surgery)
Active/Non-Football Illness: DL Marcell Dareus (said to be expected back shortly), RB Karlos Williams, OT Seantrel Henderson, S Jonathan Dowling.
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