When the real football begins, which under-the-radar players will emerge?
Every summer leading up to training camp Buffalobills.com asks 25 of the most pressing questions facing the team as they make their final preparations for the upcoming regular season. This year we want your opinion on what the most likely answers to these questions will be. After reading each daily installment as the Bills get set for Year 1 under head coach Doug Marrone, go to the Bills daily fan poll leading up to report day at training camp and vote. You could be eligible to win tickets to night practice. Here is the latest daily installment as we closely examine some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 28th and the Sept. 8th home opener.
They exist in every training camp across the National Football League. Players that are flying under the radar among fans, teammates and in some cases even the coaching staff. Come camp time when the pads go on they greatly exceed expectations and land a coveted spot on the 53-man roster, or at the very least a job on the practice squad.
Buffalobills.com takes a look at the unknown talents that could surprise at St. John Fisher and some more familiar talent that could have a bigger role than anticipated.
Jamie Blatnick – The outside linebacker was afforded a lot of snaps in the spring practices and did not disappoint. With solid change of direction skills, the first-year player was consistent in putting pressure on Buffalo’s passers in practice. If he can help on special teams a strong camp could put him in contention for one of the final roster spots.
Marcus Dowtin – Worked at both inside and outside linebacker, Dowtin is a player that is familiar with Mike Pettine’s defense after working under him with the Jets. If his play remains at its current level when the pads go on he stands a good chance of being one of the team’s 53.
Kendall Gaskins – The undrafted running back got a lot of carries in spring practices and despite his sizable frame (6’1” 238) showed an ability to cut and elude initial tacklers. If he can avoid running upright at times when the pads go on he has a good shot at a practice squad role with the chance for a call up in the event of injury.
Chris Gragg – One of the more athletic tight ends in the draft, a knee injury caused Gragg to slip to the seventh round. With Scott Chandler unavailable in the spring, Gragg took advantage of his opportunities in the passing game and is likely to land a reserve role at the position.
Chris Hogan – The first-year receiver was one of the more consistent playmakers in the spring practices and offers good size at 6’1” and 220 pounds. Hogan needs to put together a consistent camp from start to finish however, to separate from what is a very tight group after the top four wideouts.
Keith Pough – Another undrafted prospect that appears to have natural instincts when it comes to diagnosing plays and finding the ball. However, he’ll have to make the most of what figure to be limited reps to make an impression.
Nickell Robey – The USC product has already made a solid first impression showing a nose for the ball in the spring and the ability to run stride for stride with some of the team’s best receivers. The key for Robey will be to show his 5’8” 165-pound frame can hold up when the pads go on at camp.
Lee Smith – Primarily a blocker in his first two seasons with Buffalo, the tight end could have a larger role in the passing game than some might expect. Provided he can steer clear of nagging injuries Smith could prove to be more than just an in-line guy.