It’s time for our eighth annual Training camp awards honoring the players that performed most admirably through the grind of the past three-plus weeks. While there is still plenty of preparation left for the start of the regular season, here is our list of top performers at St. John Fisher this summer.
Most Valuable Player - C.J. Spiller – If it is even possible C.J. Spiller looks faster than he did last season. His experience in the league has provided him with the ability to read holes and creases that much quicker, and that’s getting him to get to the second level faster. He’s had a strong camp and lived up to the billing of ‘focal point of the offense.’
Most Improved Player – Stephon Gilmore – The Bills top cornerback was pretty darn good as a rookie, but it is evident that Gilmore has taken his game to another level. Team will be hard pressed to get completions against him this season at all. As secondary coach Donnie Henderson barked during practice once, ‘They don’t even throw it over there. That’s like throwing it to a wideout with a blanket on.’
Most Consistent Player - Alex Carrington – The defensive lineman’s versatility is possibly his only asset that’s more valuable than his commitment to fundamentals. Whether it’s pad level, hand placement, recognition of down and distance, Carrington executes the right way just about every time and coaches love his reliability.
Most Valuable Newcomer – Kiko Alonso – The trade of former starting MLB Kelvin Sheppard was made just three days after the team picked Alonso in the second round. With Alonso securing the starting MLB spot he’s going to make Buffalo’s personnel department look awfully smart this season. Honorable mention – Jerry Hughes
Most Encouraging Comeback – Scott Chandler – Just to see the tight end running routes on air in May was pretty startling. After he initially had ACL surgery in early January the question was whether he’d be ready to run routes in the regular season. Chandler is not all the way back yet, but he’s ahead of that original schedule and playing full time Week 1 looks very realistic.
Most Impressive Rookie – Marquise Goodwin – As a third-round pick and diminutive in stature it was not certain what measure of consistency Goodwin would be able to offer, especially when the pads went on. But Goodwin turned in big plays just about every day of practice at training camp and has done so in the preseason as well. He is a lightning bolt on the football field and will be a terror for defensive backs. Honorable mention – Robert Woods
Most Surprising Player – Aaron Williams – With Jairus Byrd not around all offseason the hole looked large at safety, but Aaron Williams transition has far more seamless that most were anticipating. It’s not easy to go from a one-on-one type position like corner to a position where you have to take it all in and execute at the snap of a finger. But Williams has taken to it very, very well and the Bills should be better for it.
Most Promising Player – EJ Manuel – His training camp was cut short by a knee injury, but there was enough progress to go off of in the practices and the first two preseason games to know it’s just a matter of when, not if, it all comes together for this gifted quarterback. Best Hustle Player – Chris Hogan –
The wide receiver is far from alone in this category, but Hogan busted his tail every practice and did not slack on any route he ran over the past three-plus weeks. He also was a hustler on special teams units.