May the Best Man Win in Buffalo
The Bills have added some fresh faces to the roster this off season at many key positions. These additions will make for some great position battles heading into training camp.
The most highly contested of the battles might come from the defensive backfield. The Bills drafted former Oregon corner back Jairus Byrd in the second round in this year's draft. Byrd was brought in to compete for the starting free safety spot, which is currently manned by Ko Simpson.
After a promising rookie campaign, Simpson's play on the field and issues off the field may have put him out of favor with the coaching staff. Former wide receiver Geroge Wilson will also compete to start.
There is no question as to why the Bills picked Byrd as competition for Simpson and Wilson. Byrd intercepted 17 passes in college, and brings a much needed nose for the ball to the Bills secondary. Byrd's knack for turnovers could be the deciding factor.
Starting left defensive end will feature a three way battle between current starter Chris Kelsay, first round draft pick Aaron Maybin, and Ryan Denney.
This will most likely come down to how well Maybin progresses through mini camps as well as training camp. The Bills pass rush generated an anemic 24 sacks last season. Maybin figures to have an immediate impact with what many considered the quickest first step of any end in the draft.
The Bills play a cover two style of defense similar to that of the Tampa two, and a strong pass rush generated from the defensive line is a must.
Chris Kelsay was only able to acheive two sacks in what was supposed to be his break out season. Maybin's ability to stop the run along with his pass rush skills will be key for this battle.
Rounding out the key defensive position battles will be the strong side linebacker. Keith Ellison returns as the starter this season at the strong side where he was able to make record 73 tackles a season ago.
Many have been unhappy with Ellison's lack of impact plays. He is not a player that pops out at you on game day, but that can also mean he isn't making many mistakes.
Former Oklahoma safety Nic Harris was drafted in the fifth round of this year's draft. Harris has been moved to outside linebacker by the Bills, and he seems to be a good fit for the cover two defense.
Linebackers in the cover two need to fly to the ball, and are sometimes undersized. Harris fits this description at 6'2 and 234 pounds. Ellison looks to have a big advantage in this battle.
The offensive side of the ball will have an outstanding battle at the right tackle position between Brad Butler and Kirk Chambers. Butler was moved to guard after playing at tackle during his college career at Virginia.
Butler excels at run blocking, and has a nasty streak. After drafting two guards in the first two rounds of the draft the Bills are moving Butler back to his natural position of tackle.
Kirk Chambers struggled a bit at first with the Bills, but filled in nicely last season when called upon due to injury. Chambers filled in for Jason Peters at times while Peters got into game shape after missing training camp.
The team started 5-1 with Chambers at the left tackle position, so he has shown the staff that he can play. Butler seems to be the favorite here, but Chambers will be stiff competition.
One of the most exciting positions to watch will be tight end. The Bills seem to draft a tight end late in each draft, and this year was no exception. The Bills took Shawn Nelson in the fourth round.
Nelson, who played at Southern Mississippi, is an ultra athletic tight end with natural hands, and outstanding speed. At 6'5 he gives the Bills another big red zone target to go with Terrell Owens and last years second round draft pick James Hardy.
Nelson's competition consists of second year player Derek Fine, and third year pro Derek Schouman. Both Fine and Schouman are considered to be underneath threats as well as good blockers, while Nelson can stretch the middle of the field with his 4.5 speed. Nelson's ability to advance in blocking will be a determining factor.
The wide reciever corps in Buffalo is loaded with talent. The starters are set with Lee Evans and Terrell Owens, but after that it is anyone's game.
Josh Reed was very steady for the Bills last year picking up key first downs in numerous games. He excels at sitting underneath the coverage and taking what they give him.
Roscoe Parrish is a burner, and when he gets the ball in space he is one of the most dangerous players in the league. Parrish does not have great size at 5'9 and 171 pounds, but his elusiveness prevents him from taking big hits.
Last year's second rounds draft pick James Hardy had a key touchdown reception to win the game against Jacksonville last year, but struggled for much of the season. Hardy caught only nine balls for 87 yards in his rookie season, but is still a red zone threat at 6'5. Hardy suffered an ACL injury late in the season which will be a setback.
A pleasant surprise to the Bills last season was seventh round draft pick Steve Johnson who caught 10 passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson came on late in the year after Hardy's injury, and he figures to have more of a role in the offense this year. Josh reed should be able to keep the slot receiver job with his ability to get first downs.
The Bills have an interesting few months ahead of them before the start of the season, and there will be no lack of excitement at training camp.
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