5 position battles to watch as OTA practices begin

Posted May 21, 2018

The on field competition at a handful of key positions begins this week for the Bills. No job is safe in Buffalo under head coach Sean McDermott, where everything is earned each season.

The first wave of free agency has come and gone and the NFL draft is over. Buffalo added a host of new talent on their roster. Talent that will stiffen the competition at several positions and possibly alter starting lineups come August. That competition begins now in OTA practices, which begin this week.

Here’s a look at some of the positions to watch through the spring.

1. Quarterback
This position battle is obvious since head coach Sean McDermott declared it open after the draft. What’s unique about the quarterback competition in comparison to some of the other positions is there isn’t an incumbent, since Tyrod Taylor is now in Cleveland.

There is an inherent lack of knowledge about free agent signee AJ McCarron because his exposure at the NFL level has been limited in his four professional seasons. Nathan Peterman made all of two starts in 2017 and spring OTA practices will be the first look at an NFL defense for rookie Josh Allen.

If anyone tells you they know who the starting quarterback will be for the Bills in 2018 at this point, they’re lying. There’s a lot to be uncovered here.

2. Offensive line
About the only role that’s certain among the starting five is left tackle. Dion Dawkins play on the edge as a rookie was so promising, Buffalo traded away a more than capable 28-year old left tackle, who was also a second-round pick back in 2012.

Beyond Dawkins however, the other positions are up for grabs. Dependable interior backup, Ryan Groy, now has a legitimate chance to start at one of two positions, left guard or center, and will be battling free agent signee Russell Bodine in the pivot and one of two candidates at left guard. John Miller or rookie Wyatt Teller.

On the right side, incumbents Vladimir Ducasse and Jordan Mills will get competition from Miller and free agent signee Marshall Newhouse respectively.

3. Wide receiver
This position competition has the largest pool of candidates, but beyond Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones, any one of the other players may or may not have a role when it comes time to reduce the roster to 53.

Kaelin Clay is back as is Rod Streater. Streater made a strong case for a roster spot last year before a toe injury cost him the 2017 season before it even started. Clay was more of a special teamer, but has something that’s desperately needed in Buffalo’s passing attack. Deep speed.

Jeremy Kerley will spearhead what’s expected to be a fierce competition for the slot receiver role. Behind him is a slew of candidates including draft choices Ray-Ray McCloud and Austin Proehl.

Andre Holmes and rookie practice squader Brandon Reilly look to have added lean muscle to their frames. They’re no longer the wiry receivers you saw last season. Could that mean bigger roles for them?

There’s a lot that can happen here.

4. Linebacker
Subtracted from the group was the team’s leading tackler last season, but Bills GM Brandon Beane may have found a better fit for McDermott’s defense in the form of Tremaine Edmunds. Though he’s just 20-years of age, the middle linebacker position appears to be a role that’s his to lose. It will be interesting to see who the coaching staff pits against him as competition.

As for the outside roles, second-year man Matt Milano will again do battle with veteran Ramon Humber and Lorenzo Alexander will have young upstarts challenging him for the weakside role.

5. Defensive end
This is where most of the offseason churn on defense has taken place. Out were Ryan Davis and Cedric Thornton, though he played primarily defensive tackle, and coming in were Trent Murphy, Terrence Fede and Owa Odighizuwa.

Murphy will be the main competition for Shaq Lawson for the starting left defensive end role. Fede and Odighizuwa will push Eddie Yarbrough for rotational roles.