The Buffalo Bills will have some interesting training camp battles over the summer. On the offensive side of the ball, the majority of the starting jobs have been determined. That said, there are a few depth jobs that will be up for grabs at St. John Fisher College. Here are five offensive camp battles to watch.
Running back No 3: Mike Gillislee vs. Jonathan Williams
Entering training camp, this should be Gillislee’s job. The running back joined late in the season and made an impact with the Bills in the month of December. During that time, he carried the ball 47 times for 267 yards and three touchdowns. His 5.6 YPC average was due in large part to Gillislee breaking off long runs on a weekly basis. In his first four games with Buffalo, Gillislee had runs of 30, 19, 60, and 50 yards. It wasn’t until the season finale that Gillislee struggled to pick up yards. Gillislee proved to be a dangerous runner outside of the tackles.
Williams could be 4th or 5th on the depth chart at running back entering camp depending on where they place him in regards to James Wilder Jr. However, it won’t take long for Williams to move up the depth chart. Back in 2014, Williams was one of the most elusive players in college football. That season, Williams had a 101.9 elusive rating which was the fifth best in the FBS according to Pro Football Focus.
Williams has the ability to be a three-down back in the NFL and at camp, he’ll immediately get the chance to take over the third running back job.
Fullback job: Jerome Felton vs. Glenn Gronkowski
Everyone points out that Rex Ryan loves Jerome Felton and Gronkowski faces long odds of making the 53-man roster. Buffalo’s head coach is certainly high on Felton, but he’s also a big fan of Gronkowski. Ryan personally called the fullback after the draft to recruit him to join the Bills.
This competition will unfold at training camp and if Gronkowski comes close to playing at the same level as Felton, look for Buffalo to release the veteran. According to Joe Buscaglia, releasing Felton post-camp would save Buffalo $1.65 million.
Gronkowski’s ability to play an H-back role with Buffalo may give him the edge here.
Wide receiver No. 3: Leonard Hankerson vs. Greg Salas
It’s very possible that another Bills wide receiver steps up and competes for this job but Hankerson and Salas are the two favorites entering camp. Hankerson and Salas were both added to the Bills late in the 2015 season.
Among the two, Hankerson is the more proven entity. That said, Salas made a good first impression in Week 17 against the Jets. Back in March, I predicted that Salas had the inside edge.
Salas made a good first impression with Buffalo. He appeared in two games in 2015 with the Bills and performed well in Week 17 against the Jets. The receiver caught three passes in Week 17 for 41 yards and also recovered a fumble early in the game. Although those stats may not jump off the page, all three receptions came on third down plays that resulted in first downs for the Bills.
Tight end No 2: Jim Dray vs. Chris Gragg vs. Nick O'Leary
This competition won’t excite many Bills fans, but Buffalo will have a competition for the No. 2 tight end job behind Charles Clay. The No. 2 tight end will be Buffalo’s blocking tight end and all three players have the ability to get the job done.
Dray’s grades from Pro Football Focus put him in the middle of the pack as a blocker, but he still may be the favorite for the job.
Dray’s blocking ability and knowledge of Greg Roman’s offense will help him in camp.
Chris Gragg may be Dray’s biggest competition. Gragg has been an underrated blocker when given the opportunity, but he’ll have to prove himself all over again at camp.
O’Leary’s roster spot is far from guaranteed at this point. He really didn’t do much as a rookie and was only promoted to the 53-man roster after other teams showed interest in signing him off of Buffalo’s practice squad. He’ll have to show a lot of improvement this offseason to stand a chance of winning this job.
Right tackle competition: Jordan Mills vs. Seantrel Henderson vs. Cyrus Kouandjio
This is probably just a two-man race between Mills and Henderson, but Kouandjio will apparently receive one more chance to prove himself at camp. If he struggles, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Bills keep one of their undrafted free agents or sign a veteran for depth.
The real competition is between Mills and Henderson. Neither player has been spectacular, but Mills probably has the inside track at the job as Henderson tries to come back from Crohn’s disease. Mills started the last five games of the season with the Bills, and while he was far from spectacular he had flashes of strong play.
Henderson missed the final five weeks of the season due to Crohn’s disease and no one really knows if he’ll be able to bounce back. He started 10 games in 2015 so the coaching staff will give him a chance to win the starting job at camp.
It wouldn’t be a major surprise to see the Bills add another offensive tackle before the season after other teams trim their respective rosters.null