Buffalo Bills training camp at St. John Fisher has had plenty of highlights for Bills fans. There is the notable chemistry of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson, Scott Chandler catching everything in sight and many of the defensive standouts have performed up to expectations.
That said, there have been five players who have really stood out thus far. Let's take a look at the players and how they've impressed both coaches and fans alike.
Corey McIntyre has been with the Buffalo Bills since 2008. During this time, he's carried the ball nine times for 39 yards and has 14 receptions for 90 yards. These aren't exactly stats that jump off the page. That said, Chan Gailey wants McIntyre's role to expand in the offense, especially in the receiving game.
“We’ve asked him to catch more passes in this camp than we’ve asked him to catch in the last two camps combined,” said Gailey. ”He’s done a good job going outside and doing some different things so yes it’s going to evolve a little bit more, but he’s done a good job of accepting the challenge of doing some different things that he hasn’t had to do in years past.”-Chan Gailey, Buffalobills.com
McIntyre has taken on this expanded role and even scored on a 65-yard reception during a July 28th practice.
It's apparent that the Bills plan on utilizing the fullback position and McIntyre has impressed thus far.
When Tank Carder was drafted by the Bills in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, I was ecstatic. Carder is one of those overachiever types that have long NFL careers. Through five training camp practices, Tank Carder is making a believer out of everyone.
If you watch a practice, Tank is all over the field. He's showing that he has great instincts on the field, batting down a few balls and collecting an interception off of an errant Vince Young pass. In a piece on Tank Carder written by Sal Maiorana, general manager Buddy Nix had this to say:
“Tank is very instinctive.”
Nix isn't the only person in the organization with praise for Carder. In a transcript from the Buffalo Bills website, Chan Gailey had this to say:
Yeah, he has gotten his hands on more passes defensively than maybe any other player to this point, which has been pretty impressive. It would be hard not to notice him on the field. He has a nose for the ball. He has some instincts. We will see when we get the pads on. Some guys do it better. Some guys do not do it as well. Some guys keep doing it just like they have been doing.
Tank won't see the field much on defense, barring injury, but keep an eye out for him on special teams.
Generally, when you go to training camp, kickers don't get much attention from the fans. John Potter, however, is turning a lot of heads with his powerful leg. Potter has hit almost every field goal attempt he's taken, including a 59-yard kick that went through the uprights on July 31.
Rian Lindell shouldn't worry about losing his job as place-kicker, but don't be surprised to see Potter handling kickoff duties. Per Rotoworld, Lindell only converted 27.9 percent of his kickoffs for kickbacks last season. Don't be surprised if Potter becomes the Bills' kicker of the future.
Graham is the offensive player who has impressed me the most thus far during training camp. When the Bills drafted Graham in the third round of the NFL draft, he looked like a raw athlete full of potential He may realize his potential a lot faster than expected.
Graham has run excellent routes for the Bills, made spectacular catches and used his speed to create separation. Ryan Fitzpatrick sees a lot of improvement in Graham's game already. Per the following from CBS Sports:
"He's obviously a speedster,” Fitzpatrick said. “He's really improved from the first day he stepped on the field in OTAs until now."
Graham credits his on-field performance with his work ethic off the field. In an interview on BuffaloBills.com Graham stated:
“As a 23-year-old with a lot of free time, I spend most of it just studying what I have to do because I know in order for me to play well and contribute this season I had to learn the plays in order for me to run as fast as I could. Even going back to rookie mini-camp and OTAs, just not knowing the plays forced me into not running as fast as I could. I knew I had to learn the plays so I could be comfortable and run a lot smoother.” -T.J. Graham July 29th, 2012
If Graham continues to study and perform on the field, expect to see him make a large impact this season.
While I didn't do these rankings in any particular order, I saved the best for last. Simply put, Stephon Gilmore has been the best cornerback on the field, and it's not even close. In an article by Livingston County News, Gilmore is praised by coach Chan Gailey:
“He’s very consistent,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “There is no up and down in the guy. What you see every day is what you get every day. That has been a pleasant surprise. A lot of the time, with rookies, something bad will happen to them and they go in the tank.”
Bills wide receivers are also impressed with Gilmore.
"I don't know how to say it, but he's up there with some of the DBs in the league who've been playing for a couple of years, and he hasn't even played one play," receiver Stevie Johnson said Saturday. "Really, I don't want to speak too highly, but it's hard to not speak highly of somebody that can play as well as he has from rookie minicamp all the way up until now."
"He's earned our respect already," receiver David Nelson said. "Every time you go against him, you've got to be ready. You know you're going to get everything he has, and it's going to be that way when the ball's snapped until the whistle."
"He's definitely going to be one hell of a player for this team. As long as he keeps working and keeps his head on straight, the sky's the limit." -Derek Hagan
Gilmore has done everything right so far as a rookie. He's been out on the practice field early, played aggressive at the line and has had plenty of pass-breakups. From the time he was drafted, it was known he'd be a day one starter. Although this mainly was due to the lack of depth at the cornerback position, after watching Gilmore, it's safe to say that he's earned his spot.