As NFL training camps begin to open up accross the country all 32 teams are faced with numerous storylines and questions unique to their franchise.
That’s no different for the Buffalo Bills, a team with a first-year head coach, a revamped front office and plenty of new faces on the roster. Natually, as the Bills prepare to open up their own training camp at St. John Fisher College on Thursday there is plenty to talk about.
Here’s the top five storylines surrounding the Bills at the start of training camp…
1) Is Tyrod Taylor the Bills franchise quarterback?
For a second consecutive year the Bills enter the season knowing Tyrod Taylor is their starting quarterback, yet understanding that he still has a lot to prove. The relationship between Taylor and the Bills was noticeably strained at the beginning of the offseason following the soon to be 28-year-old’s benching in Week 17 last December. But ultimately the two sides agreed to terms on a restructured contract that has Taylor essentially playing on a one-year prove it deal. Now it’s up to Taylor to prove that he is the Bills “long-term answer,” worthy of a lengthy extension at season’s end. Ideally he thrives in the implimentation of an offense he’s more familiar with under Rick Dennison, but this is a storyline that will haunt his every pass, interception, rush attempted, touchdown and word throughout all of training camp and the regular season.
2) A prove it year for Sammy Watkins
While Taylor certainly has a lot to prove, there may be nobody entering camp with a bigger chip on their shoulder than Sammy Watkins. Coming off of another injury plagued year that resulted in yet another offseason foot surgery, the Bills decided against picking up the fifth year option on Watkins rookie contract. They’re essentially betting against him and it’s up to Watkins to prove not only that he can stay on the field, but that he’s worthy of being paid like a top receiver in this league. And no, that contract may not come from the Bills. 2017 is an audition for him regardless and it all starts with how effective he looks at training camp.
3) Reggie Ragland’s role
Sean McDermott raved about Reggie Ragland back in March, even going as far as comparing him to Luke Kuechly who commanded his defenses down in Carolina. Throughout the offseason, as Ragland made his way back on the field following an ACL tear last August, he was featured primarily as the middle linebacker of the second team. Expect training camp to be an opportunity for him to really earn his stripes though. He could easily give Preston Brown a run for his money at MLB, but truthfully that duo could both be part of the first-team defense. Watching Ragland’s progress throughout camp will be must-watch.
4) Rookie Development
The development of each year’s rookies is always intriguing. The young talents drafted in this past April’s draft could become the future stars of the franchise and several are expected to make an immediate impact. Barring injury, first-round pick Tre’Davious White will start opposite of Ronald Darby and looks to make Bills fans quickly forget about departed Pro Bowler Stephon Gilmore. For Zay Jones, training camp could serve as a first look for fans at Watkins successor, assuming he leaves in free agency next offseason. Maybe Dion Dawkins can make some noise in the open competition at right tackle. And of course everyone wants to see if Nate Peterman shows early signs of being the Bills next Jim Kelly. There will certainly be plenty to watch over at St. John Fisher when it comes to the rookies.
5) Is a big year looming for Shaq Lawson?
During team drills at mini-camp Shaq Lawson looked explosive getting off the ball and registered a few sacks throughout the week of practices. That’s a welcomed sight for the Bills after Lawson spent the first six weeks of last season recovering from shoulder surgery, then adjusting to football at the NFL level the ret of the way. This time around there is no surgery keeping him off the field, and he looks comfortable in a more suitable 4-3 defense. If a monster year is coming for Lawson, training camp is where you’ll get the first glimpse of it.
Honorable mention: Are Adolphus Washington’s day’s numbered?
Cutting ties with Adolphus Washington has been a hottly debated topic on Bills social media, since his arrest on July 9 for improperly carrying a concealed firearm. On the eve of camp however, he’s still a Bill. Whether or not he’s released could depend on the league handing out any kind of discipline. If he avoids suspension he’ll likely survive. Still, this whole ordeal leaves him more vulnerable to being cut than most of his teammates, so he really has to earn his spot at camp and stay out of trouble.
Follow me on Twitter: @Spencito_