5 Bills Predictions for 2015 and Beyond

The Buffalo Bills training camp is about to get underway from St. John Fisher. Here are five predictions or five things that I 'Bill-ieve' will occur this season and beyond.

Buffalo Bills training camp begins today! It’s an exciting time for Bills fans as expectations for the team are high this season. With the start of training camp, here are five things I ‘Bill-ieve’ will occur this season with Buffalo.

1. 2015 will be Fred Jackson’s last season with the Bills

Jackson can still play in the NFL, but he’s lost a step. Last season, the running back had his worst YPC average of his career (3.7) and he’s going to see a significant drop in his snaps this season as long as LeSean McCoy stays healthy. Jackson did have a career high in receptions last season (66), so he may find himself being used on passing downs due to his ability to catch the ball and block in 2015. That said, I see this season as Jackson’s last year with the Bills. He’s currently 34 years old and is entering the final year of his contract. Something tells me that Buffalo would have some sort of ambassador role waiting for Jackson if he decided to retire following the season.

2. An UDFA will make the Bills roster

Two players really stick out as favorites to me: Cedric Reed and A.J. Tarpley. Reed looked like a star in the making following his 2013 season at Texas. The defensive end registered 10 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss with the Longhorns and expectations for his 2014 season were through the roof. Reed finished his senior season with 5.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss. It turns out that Reed played throughout the season with a torn meniscus. He had surgery in January and is now healthy. Reed showed his passion for the game by playing through the injury but unfortunately it caused him to drop out of the draft. That said, he could be an absolute steal for Buffalo. Keep an eye on him at training camp.

Tarpley had a productive career at Stanford and stands a chance of making Buffalo’s 2015 roster due to their lack of depth at insider linebacker. Nigel Bradham, Preston Brown and Ty Powell all seem to have spots locked up but Tarpley could compete for a fourth spot alongside fellow rookie Tony Steward and Jimmy Gaines. Tarpley played well during the team’s mandatory minicamp and is another player to watch at training camp. He may have to show some special teams ability to make the squad.

3. Marcell Dareus gets a long-term deal done before the start of the season

The Bills need to free up some money to get this done before the start of the season but they’ve already started that process by releasing offensive guard Chris Williams. Doug Whaley has said that extending Dareus is the team’s No. 1 priority and the two sides have had continued talks throughout the offseason. Ndamukong Suh’s deal gives the Bills some guidelines to use in regards to Dareus. Realistically, he could get a contract in the $100 million range. Dareus is not only Buffalo’s top run stuffer, but he’s also a nightmare in terms of getting after the quarterback. He’s the complete package and the team’s top defender. That’s saying something considering the talent on the defensive side of the ball.

4. Stephon Gilmore should be next in line

While I’m not predicting that a contract gets done this season with Gilmore, I do believe that the team’s focus should turn to the cornerback after Dareus gets locked up. Yes, Cordy Glenn and Nigel Bradham, both starters, have deals that run out this season so the team could focus on one or both of them, but I’d argue that Gilmore is perhaps the second most important player on the defensive side of the ball behind Dareus. Rex Ryan knows that having a No. 1 cornerback is needed to make his defense thrive and Gilmore finished the 2014 season on a tear. Gilmore may have his best season yet under Ryan and the team will have to pay Gilmore accordingly when the time comes. The sooner discussions begin, the better.

5. Regardless of the QB play in 2015, the Bills draft a QB early in the 2016 draft

There’s a chance that E.J. Manuel could play well in 2015. He was pulled quickly in 2014 and only has 14 starts under his belt. He’s flashed his talent at times and if he shows improvement in terms of his accuracy, perhaps Manuel locks down the job in 2015 and the future.

Matt Cassel is the game manager. He won’t wow you in terms of his stat line but perhaps he can be Buffalo’s version of Alex Smith. Greg Roman had terrific success with Smith in San Francisco so it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see Cassel have success in a role that sees him pass the ball 20-25 times a game.

Tyrod Taylor is the unknown. He’s certainly the most athletic quarterback on the team but training camp will really tell the story in regards to how well he can play the quarterback position.

Any of these players could win the job in 2015 and play well. That said, no matter how well any of these quarterbacks play, Buffalo needs to address the position early in the 2016 draft. I believe the team will take a quarterback by the end of the second round. There are quite a few quarterback prospects in the 2016 draft. Players such as Connor Cook, Cardale Jones, Jared Goff, Trevone Boykin, Christian Hackenberg, Cody Kessler, Gunner Kiel and even Kevin Hogan could go within the first few rounds of the draft. The Bills would be wise to draft a quarterback early and let him learn on the sidelines behind the winner of this year’s quarterback competition.

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