The quarterback question still looms over the Bills, as they head into a six week break before training camp. And it’s likely to last a little longer, according to Head Coach Rex Ryan. He has said it’s probably going to be a game or two into preseason before a starter is selected.
During the three-day mandatory minicamp, which just wrapped up this week, it was tempting to watch the quarterback competition and nothing else. Some sideline observers turned into football “day-traders,” evaluating the ups and downs of the three QBs every day, and speculating on what that day’s passes meant to the overall picture.
Those who did that may have missed out on some other trends. There are players who’ve worked hard to raise their stock during the just completed offseason workouts and changed the way the depth chart looks. Here’s a look at four players whose stock is on the rise, at the end of the mandatory minicamp:
OT CYRUS KOUANDJIO
Buffalo’s second round draft pick in 2014 wrapped up the minicamp as the starter at right tackle. That may come as a surprise to many, who watched Kouandjio struggle through the 2014 training camp. He only played in one game last year—a special teams appearance against the Chiefs.
Cyrus Kouandjio started his offseason working hard at LeCharles Bentley’s Offensive Line camp in Arizona and came back to the Bills this spring focused and determined to throw his NFL career into gear. He’s noticed an improvement in his game through the minicamp workouts.
““I’ve felt a huge improvement in my balance,” Kouandjio noted when the minicamp ended. “Being able to do what you want at a certain speed it takes a lot of balance, which requires a lot of core strength. It helps your game a lot. There are a lot of little things that I see in my game that I can fix. I still have a few things I can pinpoint that I need to work on during the break. It’s a process.”
Bills coaches are quick to point out that they haven’t seen Kouandjio yet with pads on, the real test of offensive line effectiveness. But he’s at the top of the depth chart at right tackle for now, and that’s a big jump up from last season.
G JOHN MILLER
You wonder if the Bills knew how quickly this year’s third round pick would slide into the first team, when they drafted him back in April.
“If he wins the job great,” GM Doug Whaley said about John Miller, moments after he was drafted. “If he doesn’t he adds depth…and if he does not start this year he can contribute,” Whaley said.
Once Miller arrived on the scene for the rookie minicamp in early May, he got instant hands-on coaching from new offensive line coach Aaron Kromer. And once the veterans returned for offseason workouts, Miller never left the starting unit.
His stock skyrocketed from the moment the Bills put him on the field two months ago. And there’s no indication it will drop soon.
LB MANNY LAWSON
After his numbers dropped in last year’s Bills defense, there had to be some wondering if the team would expect much from the veteran going into his 10th year.
But Lawson has become an almost indispensable part of the Bills new defensive scheme. Back at his familiar outside linebacker spot, the former 1st round draft pick has seen his stock soar after the offseason workouts.
After Lawson stayed away from some of the early voluntary workouts, the Bills weren’t quite sure what to expect.
“I was mad at Manny, because he showed up for one day and took a lot of things off,” Head Coach Rex Ryan said. “But when we started the OTAs, he came back and I said, ‘Woof—the guys impressive’.”
Lawson figures to get back around the 700-snap mark he had two seasons ago. He had less than half that many snaps in Buffalo’s defense last year.
S COREY GRAHAM
Buffalo native Corey Graham agreed to terms to return to his hometown and play for the Bills.
Another veteran on the Buffalo defense who will play a prominent role is S Corey Graham. And like Lawson, it will be a different role than a year ago thanks to a position change.
Graham spent the last several weeks of the offseason workouts at safety, lining up alongside Jonathan Meeks, Duke Williams, and others. With Aaron Williams staying out of the minicamp as he comes back from offseason surgery, the Bills got a chance to get a long look at the prospects on the back end of the defense.
Graham, heading into his ninth season, provided consistent and steady work during the minicamp and OTA practices. He has embraced the change in position as a way to stay on the field.
“I can play both, but right now I want to focus on safety and learn it and see where it goes,” Graham said back in May, when the position shift was first unveiled. “I’ll see how much I can grasp and see how I'm playing at it," he said.
Based on the results from the just completed three-day minicamp, it’s safe to say Graham will be spending much more of his time on the back end of the defense when the team heads to training camp in July.