Projecting Buffalo Bills Most Heated Roster Battles This Offseason
The Buffalo Bills have been active this offseason adding talent at a number of positions. This means fans should be in store for some of the most heated position battles in OTAs and training camp they have seen in some time.
Coaching staffs love battles at every position, except maybe quarterback, because it will push players and give them the best team possible. This year the Bills are expected to have a number of position battles on both sides of the ball, which should make training camp very exciting for fans to watch.
These are five key position battles that the Bills will have to sort out before the start of the 2014 season.
Contenders: Erik Pears, Chris Hairston, Cyrus Kouandjio, Seantrel Henderson
This should be the biggest battle in training camp not because of the size of the players, but because there are legitimately three players who have a good chance of starting. I believe seventh-rounder Seantrel Henderson, while he has the physical talent, is still a year away from making a serious push for a starting spot.
Last year's starter, Erik Pears, will most likely get the first chance to claim his spot but will be on a very short lease. He struggled for most of the year, particularly in the run game, and that was one of the reasons the Bills decided to use their second-round pick on Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio.
At 6'7" and 322 pounds, Kouandjio should be ready to step in Week 1 and give Buffalo a strong run blocker on the right side they were missing last year.
Projected Winner: Cyrus Kouandjio
Third Wide Receiver/Slot Receiver
Contenders: Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin
Even though Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams are securely entrenched as the No. 1 and No. 2 wide receiver, there are still a lot of snaps up for grabs for the third wide receiver. This is a battle that will come down to two second-year wide receivers in Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin.
Entering the offseason workouts, Woods would seem to have the edge over Goodwin. He was more involved in the team's offense last year with double the receptions (40) and double the targets (86) over Goodwin (17 receptions, 32 targets).
This spot is Woods' job to lose, and he could be in line for a big second season now that the team has a wide receiver like Sammy Watkins. Opposing defenses are going to have to turn their attention toward Watkins, which should give Woods more room to operate out of the slot.
Projected Winner: Robert Woods
Contenders: Kraig Urbik, Cyril Richardson
It isn't out of the realm of possibility that the Bills could have replaced three out of their five O-line starters from last year. This speaks to the type of players the Bills front office was able to get in free agency and the draft, especially finding a player like Cyril Richardson in the fifth round.
Last year's starter, Kraig Urbik, performed well for a majority of the season and was graded as second-best offensive lineman on the Bills by Pro Football Focus (subscription required). This doesn't mean that he should get comfortable, as Richardson is ready to step into the right guard position right now.
He has the size (6'4" and 343 pounds) and the power to create a dominating duo with Cyrus Kounadjio on that right side for C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
The guard out of Baylor is not a finished product and could use some time working on his technique. One of the reasons he fell to the fifth round was he was continually exposed by defensive tackle Aaron Donald at the Senior Bowl. This should be a close battle, but I think the experience of Urbik will win out.
Projected Winner: Kraig Urbik
Contenders: Nickell Robey, Corey Graham
Last year, undrafted rookie Nickell Robey was one of the biggest surprises for the Bills. When the team was struck with numerous injuries in the secondary, Robey got a chance to play and looked great.
Unfortunately for him that doesn't guarantee him keeping his spot in 2014, with the Bills adding cornerback Corey Graham this offseason. Graham has more experience than Robey, as well as more size to match up with some of the bigger wide receivers.
There is the belief that Graham was brought in to play safety; however, ESPN's Mike Rodak breaks down why it may be a little too soon to assume that. I would have to say I agree with Rodak and that Graham will be entering camp competing with Robey and depending on how things play out, he could eventually move to safety.
Projected Winner: Corey Graham
Contenders: Da'Norris Searcy, Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks
The biggest question mark left for the Bills right now is who is going to replace Jairus Byrd at safety. If Corey Graham battles for the nickel cornerback position, that leaves three players on the roster who should get a look.
The favorite right now should be Da'Norris Searcy, who filled in for Byrd at the beginning of last season when he was dealing with plantar fasciitis. The 2011 fourth-round pick is entering his fourth year, as well as a contract year, and will want to play well in hopes of earning a big contract.
Duke Williams was a fourth-round pick for the Bills in last year's draft and will be strong competition for Searcy. Williams' scouting report out of college last year sounds very similar to Louis Delmas' scouting report, a safety that Jim Schwartz had in Detroit.
Projected Winner: Duke Williams
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