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. With Year 3 under head coach Chan Gailey and veteran player report day at St. John Fisher fast approaching, here is the latest daily installment as we closely examine some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 24th and Sept. 9th.
Position battles are nothing new to the training camp setting and typically the most intriguing ones involve starting roles. While there are some of those that exist for the Bills, there will be a healthy number of eyes focused on the competition involving a pair of quarterbacks, neither of whom has a chance to be the starting signal caller for the team in 2012.
"Probably the stiffest competition from what we've seen in shorts in the spring might be at number two quarterback," said Bills GM Buddy Nix looking ahead to training camp. "I don't know how it's going to turn out. It's just a matter of these guys having to play. All this will be decided in camp when things are live and in preseason games."
Such a statement might be surprising for some. Vince Young has the name recognition as well as a 39-19 career record as a starter in the NFL. To many he would seem to be the favorite to land the job. But Tyler Thigpen has intimate knowledge of Chan Gailey's offensive system having worked with him in Kansas City and last season in Buffalo.
"I think it's going to be a good competition," said Chan Gailey. "Tyler has the advantage of being here and being in the system. Vince has the advantage of playing in games and the experience. Vince has more experience than Tyler. Tyler has more experience in this offense than Vince. So there's a trade-off there. It depends on who ends up doing the best job during the course of the entire preseason."
For Young going from the Philadelphia Eagles offense to Buffalo's scheme was a big adjustment. In the spring practices Young's play was a bit inconsistent as it looked like he wasn't quite trusting everything he was seeing in the pass game. There were also plays in which his natural ability was on display and evident.
"We've got some long plays," said Young. "We're doing some things out there to showcase a lot of the talent that we have from the backfield to the tight end to the receiver. It's definitely long, but the coaches do a great job to make sure we get the scripts and go over them, over and over. One thing that's been helping me out is a lot of film work, seeing the play and then calling the play. And then seeing it on film has been helping me out learning plays pretty fast."
"He's got a lot on his plate and he's trying to digest a whole lot of stuff," said quarterbacks coach David Lee. "You can tell when it's good, it's really good, but when it's not it's because he hasn't been here long enough. But I think to this point his progress has been good."
"He's done a very good job under the circumstances. He had to come in and try to learn all that stuff. It's very difficult," said Gailey. "We're in so much more of an advanced stage now than we were two years ago. He's trying to learn what the base concepts were and how we've advanced to where we are today without having the benefit of going through the baby steps. But he has a natural feel for playing the position and that's what is going to make it a good battle in camp."
For Thigpen an abdominal injury robbed him of reps for the better part of two weeks during OTAs and minicamp. Reps that Young took instead. Thigpen did return for the final week and a half of practices and made his share of plays as well.
Having played for three teams over the last three seasons, Thigpen is all too familiar with battling for a spot on the depth chart.
"The biggest thing anywhere I've been is there's always been competition," Thigpen told Buffalobills.com. "At the end of the day I think competition makes you better. It's either going to make or break you. The only thing coach can do is just push each and every one of us harder and make us better quarterbacks."
When camp gets underway next week, the plan according to Gailey is to equalize the reps as much as possible with the second team offense between Thigpen and Young. He even intends to work each of them in with the first team from time to time to see how they're able to function in that role should the need ever arise during the regular season.
All the two quarterbacks are focused on with camp closing in is putting their best play on display as often as possible while also maintaining a level of professionalism between one another.
"My job is to compete for the second job so that's what I'm going to do," said Young. "Get in here and study extremely hard with new terminology and things like that. That's all I can do is play my position and play my role."
"I feel like we're a good group together," said Thigpen. "We're supportive of one another and if I see something I'm going to tell Vince or if I see something I'll tell Fitz, or if they see something I would hope they would tell me something. At the end of the day it's competition, but I've also got to worry about myself and take care of my job and the rest will take care of itself."