More so than the competition stewing under center at Bills camp; the gaggle of athletes vying for time at receiver has become one of the most intriguing parts of the preseason for the Bills.
One player at the crux of the battle is incumbent gadget player, Brad Smith. Smith’s role on the team was expected to be reduced this season and restructuring his deal during the dog days of summer indicated that he was well aware of what may be coming down the pipe.
With Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods, T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin slotted in as Buffalo’s top four wide outs, Smith was looking at the prospect for significantly fewer targets per game before the bags started being packed for St. John Fisher. The emergence of Chris Hogan, hype surrounding Da’Rick Rogers and the performances of Marcus Easley and, to a lesser extent, DeMarco Sampson has thrust Smith into some hot water.
Smith wasn’t going to be a major offensive contributor for the Bills this season. The draft all but guaranteed that the organization was looking for more speed and talent to complement their shiny new rookie quarterback. Even without a defined role on the offensive side of the ball, Smith still remains a quality special teams contributor both as a returner and in coverage.
Of course he has likely been supplanted as a return man too. Considering that, is there still a spot for Smith on the 53-man roster? Or will he be released to ensure a spot for one of the popular youngsters like Hogan or Rogers? Continue reading
If there’s one rule of thumb that football fans need to follow it is to not read too deeply into the results on the scoreboard from preseason games.
While the third game is typically considered the final tune up for a team’s starters, the Bills entered their 2013 slate with the opportunity to see a handful of potential starters in extended auditions during their 44-20 win over Indianapolis.
E.J. Manuel was the greatest beneficiary of the extra playing time as he ran Buffalo’s offense for the entire first half while Kevin Kolb served as the emergency quarterback due to missing time last week with a knee injury and family issue. I wouldn’t necessarily say that Manuel made the most of his opportunity, but the extra playing time certainly won’t hurt his progression.
The shining moment of his day came on a surgically precise two-minute drill to give the Bills the halftime lead. The 92-yard drive likely served as a nice confidence boost for Manuel as the 92-yard trek was really the first evidence of the swagger that was on display during his most impressive games at Florida State.
Assuming he has the upper hand in the quarterback competition, I’d say that Manuel didn’t do anything to hurt his status on the depth chart. He took care of the football and even showed how dangerous he can be outside of the pocket on a pair of runs. His touchdown pass to Dorin Dickerson was perfectly thrown and served as a perfect cap to his preseason debut.
Manuel was somewhat limited to start the day, as the Bills featured a run-heavy look to start their possessions. In addition to the majority of run calls, Manuel was a little cold off the bat when putting the ball in the air. It wasn’t until his final couple of series when he started to heat up. He had his fair share of flaws; double clutching a few throws and getting a little too cute with others. Perhaps it was a case of nerves more than anything else and Friday’s matchup against Minnesota will serve as the link in the chain for Manuel. Continue reading
Now that Bills training camp is truly up and running – it is closer to the end than the beginning, actually – it seems like a safe time to look into a few more position battles.
One of the most intriguing positions on the roster is linebacker. While the Bills re-vamped defensive line has fans and media drooling over the potential they may hold this season, the linebacking corps leave something to be desired.
Entering camp, the Bills base defense would start Kelvin Sheppard at mike with Nick Barnett on the weakside and Kirk Morrison on the strong side. However, as Joe Buscaglia reported today, it seems as if Arthur Moats has the inside track on the starting strong side position.
Moats, who also received some complimentary press last week, appears to have finally settled into a position that suits his skillset as a somewhat undersized pass rusher. After originally being slated as an inside backer in the 3-4 after his draft year, Moats floated to the outside and gained instant fandom for his hit on Brett Favre. However, he still struggled to see playing time since his 6’0” frame is not ideal for and outside linebacker position in a 3-4.
For than matter, his size isn’t ideal as a defensive end in a 4-3 either. Although he does have the pass rushing skillset that is desired from a rush linebacker in an even set.
However, Moats’ promotion shouldn’t be welcomed with sunshine and lollypops. It is not much different than if a late round pick or undrafted free agent managed to earn regular playing time. Simply put, it isn’t necessarily an ideal situation. Continue reading