The Buffalo Bills made as big a splash as any team in the league when they signed Mario Williams and Mark Anderson in free agency. They faded after a hot start in 2011, but this year, they have the firepower to make a run at the playoffs, if not the New England Patriots and the AFC East title. While Williams, Anderson and the revamped defensive line will lead the charge, the Bills' 2012 rookie class will also play an integral role in their attempt to return to the postseason. Which rookie storylines will be the best to track at next week's mini camp?
Will the Bills install first-round pick Stephon Gilmore as a full-time starter?
Buffalo has been rotating 2011 second-round pick Aaron Williams and 2008 first-rounder Leodis McKelvin with Gilmore on the first team. Longtime starter Terrence McGee took a pay cut of over five million dollars in the offseason while he was recovering from a knee injury that he still only puts at 75 percent.
Gilmore has been impressive enough in OTAs to be given a shot as a full-time starter from day one. If the Bills are serious about relying on him, they should treat him like an entrenched starter in the last practices before training camp.
Is Cordy Glenn ready to protect Ryan Fitzpatrick's blind side?
The Bills were rumored to be interested in Glenn at No.10 as a left tackle when most of the draftnik community had him slotted at guard or right tackle. They were able to land him at No. 41 in the second round and unequivocally put him at left tackle, giving him a lot of snaps at the position with the first team during OTAs. Glenn was a recent convert to the position at Georgia, but his main competition, Chris Hairston, is only in his second year in the pros.
Like Gilmore, Glenn was drafted to be a longtime starter. How soon will they give him all of the first-team reps in the name of making him as ready as possible for the season opener against the Jets?
Can Nigel Bradham carry over the momentum created by his first-team snaps in OTAs?
Bradham got "quality reps" with the first team last week when Nick Barnett and Kirk Morrison sat out of practice. Starting middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard said he was getting more vocal with Bradham on the field next to him because he knows how it is coming in as a rookie. Bradham seemed pleased with his progress, and he could make himself a top backup at multiple linebacker positions because he also played middle linebacker at Florida State.
Linebackers that can run and cover tight ends are going to be crucial when the Bills face the Patriots, and that's exactly what Bradham does best. If he can continue to instill confidence when called on in practice, he might get on the field in passing situations very early in his career.
Will Ron Brooks cost Leodis McKelvin his job?
The fourth-round pick played in the shadow of Morris Claiborne and Patrick Peterson at LSU, but he drew rave reviews in OTAs, including one from defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt, who called him "as quick as any defensive back" on the Bills. Wannstedt mentioned Brooks' ability to play third and fourth corner, which could put him in direct competition with McKelvin, who has been lining up in the slot at times during OTAs. 2011 seventh-round pick Justin Rogers was impressive last year and adds value on special teams, which could mean that McKelvin will be on the way out unless the team decides to carry six corners.