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Bills Training Camp Preview: Who's ready to emerge on offense?


The Buffalo Bills have completed their team offseason workouts with OTAs in May and Mandatory Minicamp in June. That means the next time we will see the team in action is at St. John Fisher University for Training Camp at the end of July.

Between now and then, we're taking a three-part look at the Bills' roster for a Training Camp preview. 

Up first will be a dive into the offense and looking at five players who could be ready to emerge as important playmakers in 2023.

RBs James Cook & Damien Harris

There's a lot to be excited about for the backfield tandem of James Cook and Damien Harris who both offer contrasting styles of play that can elevate Buffalo's ground game this season.

A dive into the numbers, and Cook turned in an impressive and efficient rookie season despite not being a full-time starter. His 5.7 yards per carry ranked first among all RBs in 2022 with at least 80 carries. 

25 of his 89 rushing attempts resulted in a first down as did five of his 21 receptions. With production like that, it's not a surprise that the second-round pick was the top-rated rookie on the Bills' roster, per PFF.

The Bills haven't released a depth chart for 2023 yet, but Cook has eyes on the top backfield role in Buffalo.

"Obviously, RB1," Cook said on The Rich Eisen Show when asked about his goals for the upcoming year . "Just come in and do what I do. Change the game with my versatility. Catching the ball out of the backfield. Pass blocking. Just try to do what I can do to help the team win games and ultimately win the Super Bowl."

Cook will have a new backfield mate to compete with as the Bills signed Damien Harris to a one-year deal in free agency. Harris, a third-round pick out of Alabama in 2019, dealt with injuries in 2022 that hampered his production, but his 2021 season ranked among the league's best. 

Harris racked up 929 yards and 15 touchdowns (tied 2nd-highest in NFL) on the ground in 2021 with the New England Patriots. 13 of those 15 TDs came inside the 20 yards line — and with the expectation that QB Josh Allen could run less this season, Harris' usage in the red zone will be a vital addition to this Bills team. 

"From right now until the end, I'm going to have to earn everything I get. I'm going to have to earn every carry that I get," Harris said earlier this offseason.

OT Spencer Brown

Second-year offensive tackle Spencer Brown had an up and down year with Buffalo, and the offensive line as a whole struggled down the stretch of the season. Brown dealt with an ankle injury that kept him out of multiple games early in the season. But from Week 9 on, Brown started every game for the Bills. 

The results from the season were mixed as even though Brown was the team's primary RT, his production lagged at times. PFF ranked Brown 76th among all offensive tackles. 

"I thought it was really a learning experience for Spencer. He saw a lot of time," head coach Sean McDermott said. 

PFF graded the Bills' O-line unit 23rd in the league last season, and the team went out and upgraded the interior of the line with the additions of guards Conner McGovern (FA), David Edwards (FA) and second-round draft pick O'Cyrus Torrence. The team also signed OT Brandon Shell in free agency.

With the expectation that the O-line will be better across the board, GM Brandon Beane expressed confidence in Brown's ability to have a bounce back year in 2023.

"What I saw in Spencer is a guy, the second half of the season that played better than the first half of the season. So I got a lot of confidence in him," Beane said.

WR Trent Sherfield

The Bills' WR depth will look markedly different than it did in 2022 and if there's one word to describe the changes it's this: Speed. 

Buffalo signed former Dolphins WR Trent Sherfield and former Saints WR Deonte Harty, both of whom are lightning quick. Sherfield in particular bolsters the team's WR corps after he was the third-leading receiver for the Dolphins last season. 

One of Sherfield's standout qualities is his YAC ability with 145 of his 417 receiving yards coming after the catch. Sherfield had a 75-yard touchdown against the 49ers where he caught the ball at his own 35-yard line, then out ran the 49ers defense the rest of the way for the score.

Throughout OTAs and Mandatory Minicamp, QB Josh Allen raved about Sherfield's work ethic and his fit in the offense.

"Trent Sherfield, getting a lot of the Z reps and learning this offense," Allen said. "I've loved what I've seen from Trent so far, the dude works extremely hard. He's one of the hardest working guys on the team. Doesn't complain about anything, he's rolling right now."

Facing the Bills three times last season on the opposing sideline, Sherfield's impact stood out to the Bills coaching staff and the versatility he can bring with both his receiving and special teams skills.

"I respected his game being on the other side going against him this past year in particular, and what a great young man in terms of what he brings to our football team off the field," McDermott said.

TE Dalton Kincaid

Even after the Bills made a flurry of free agency moves to upgrade the offense, that didn't stop them from moving up two spots in the first round of the NFL Draft to snag TE Dalton Kincaid out of Utah. 

Behind-the-scenes footage of the Bills' draft room showed just how high of an opinion they have of Kincaid, with Brandon Beane calling him the best pure pass catcher in the draft. In his final year at Utah, Kincaid was the highest-rated TE in the country on a per-route basis where he caught 70 passes for 870 yards and 8 TDs. 

But just how productive can the rookie be in 2023? It remains to be seen how Kincaid will be utilized, though Josh Allen is already establishing a strong connection with his new weapon.

"You look at his catch radius, he makes some pretty unreal catches," Allen said. "So you throw that in with — again, being young to the game, he hasn't played that many years of football — he's got a lot to learn and he's very eager to learn. And to have Dawson (Knox) and him paired up together, they do some things slightly different.  But I think they're going to pair very well together."

Beane said even though Kincaid has a very high potential, it's important to remember that he will still be working through rookie growing pains that every new player does when they enter the league.

"I don't want us putting crazy expectations on him. I think you set him up to fail if you do that. But happy where he's at and looking forward to watching him continue to grow in our system," Beane said. "He's working hard. He's giving himself every chance he can to make plays out on the field by studying and working his craft."

Scroll through to see the best shots from the Bills veteran media day shoot on June 12, 2023. This gallery is presented by Ticketmaster.

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