At the end of the month the Buffalo Bills will reconvene for training camp, in what will be a crucial time for a team that has playoff aspirations in 2016. There are a plethora of questions facing the team as we get closer to the start of camp at St. John Fisher College.
Through the weeks leading up to camp, 7 ABC will examine the 20 most pressing questions the Bills have for the upcoming season.
Each year, a player or two step up and either earn a bigger role, or they perform at a higher level than they did the previous year. That leads us to our next question:
11) Who are the Bills breakout candidates?
While there are many worthy candidates, based on the current circumstances, these are the five players I've got my eye on to become "breakout" players in 2016.
1) S Corey Graham
- I know what you might be thinking: How can a 31-year-old player top the list for breakout candidates? Well, I believe that it's the perfect storm for a big jump in production from Graham in 2016. Heading into his second year as a starting safety, Graham can improve mightily upon an average first season at the position. He showed in 2014 that he has great instincts, and he even flashed them last season -- but that was without starter Aaron Williams for the majority of the season. Now, with a season of expertise, Williams back at his side, and his mentor Ed Reed helping him learn the position even more, Graham can flourish in the role.
2) DL Corbin Bryant
- We got a taste as to what Bryant could do with an enhanced role in 2015, but he could be depended on in an even bigger sense this upcoming season. While rookie Adolphus Washington will be pushing to start, Bryant is being trained to be the most versatile defensive linemen outside of Marcell Dareus. During OTAs and minicamp, Bryant took a lot of practice snaps at nose tackle, and can already play the five-technique defensive end role. Even if he doesn't start, a strong training camp will go a long way in having him be a major role player for the Bills at the very least -- and a good one at that.
3) RG John Miller
- Former third-round pick John Miller is going into his second season of starting and the Bills are hoping for big improvements from the second-year pro. Miller battled a few separate things last year: Injuries for much of the second half of the year, the death of his mother when he was in London, and getting used to playing at the professional level, too. There are a lot of reasons for optimism, however. During training camp last year, Miller was a standout and went toe-to-toe with some of the best defensive linemen on the roster. If he can put together a much better season in 2016, the Bills rushing attack could be even more dynamic.
4) WR Dez Lewis
- Through the month of June, it was hard to ignore the improvements shown by the second-year wideout. Lewis had as many first-team reps as anyone not named Robert Woods, and seemed to put the drops from last year's training camp behind him. With nothing certain at wide receiver past the starting pair, Lewis has a very real opportunity to grab hold of a substantial job in the Bills offense. So for that, he should be considered a potential breakout player. However, you have to put his potential impact with the Bills in perspective. If Lewis wins the job, he would be the third wide receiver in a run-first offense. A run first-offense that will siphon targets to Sammy Watkins, that vows to target the middle of the field and get tight end Charles Clay more involved, and one that still loves utilizing their running backs in the passing game. So, even if he wins the job, how much of an impact will he have? Chris Hogan only caught 36 passes and two touchdowns last year in that same role, and even started four games. If an injury occurs that switches up the role for Lewis, but, don't expect him to turn into an overnight sensation unless that comes to pass. That said, I love his talent and how hard he's worked in the offseason to improve upon his deficiencies, and I'm certainly excited to see him try and continue it at training camp.
5) HB Mike Gillislee
- This is a bit of a new one on the list, but there weren't any other glaring candidates outside of IK Enemkpali. Gillislee and Enemkpali are in the same boat heading into the season. Both are trying to secure a substantial role with the team, and are only getting the opportunity due to the normal placeholder being unavailable at the start of the season. The difference between the two is that Gillislee actually showed extremely well in the role during the 2015 season, and that Enemkpali's potential role will be eradicated whenever Shaq Lawson is deemed to be ready to play. In the four games playing in a complementary role, Gillislee averaged over 10 yards per carry and even had three touchdowns. Karlos Williams has had a horrible offseason, which could even pave the way for extended opportunities for Gillislee even when the former comes back from his four-game suspension. LeSean McCoy has been hampered by injuries since arriving in Buffalo, which would make Gillislee just a play away from having a major role. First thing's first, he must win the No. 2 job to start the season over James Wilder, Jr., Boom Herron, Jonathan Williams, and whoever else the Bills might add. If he does, he could have a pretty substantial role.
Bills Training Camp 20 #TC20
11) Who are the Bills breakout candidates?
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