Buffalo Bills: LeSean McCoy, RB
McCoy dealt with a handful of injuries last season, playing just 12 games. He was still a Pro Bowl selection and showed he can be the quick, shifty back he was in Philly with 1,187 total yards. The Bills were once deep at running back, but issues this offseason have emphasized McCoy's role in the offense. He's a big part of their rushing attack, which was No. 1 in 2015.
Buffalo Bills: Kyle Williams, DT
… Kyle Williams was, for a stretch, one of the league's most consistently-disruptive interior linemen. In 2010, he led the NFL in defensive tackle grade, notching six sacks, eight hits, and 29 additional hurries; he followed that up with excellent seasons from 2012–2014, a span over which he recorded 26 sacks on the interior for Buffalo. Marcell Dareus may have a higher ceiling, but he doesn't have the longevity of Williams yet.
Buffalo Bills: RB Reggie Bush
The release of Karlos Williams on Saturday gives Reggie Bush a chance to carve out a big role as both LeSean McCoy's backup and the team's main passing-situation and third-down back. Bush's biggest strength has always been his ability to make plays after the catch; Rex Ryan recently likened him to a Ferrari, envisioning him as an explosive run–pass option out of the backfield for quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
BUFFALO BILLS: *Kevon Seymour, cornerback. The Bills might've landed legitimate CB1s in back-to-back years, with Seymour potentially following Ronald Darby's blueprint for cracking the starting lineup. The sixth-round pick continues to impress with suffocating coverage on the perimeter. Seymour locks receivers up with perfect hip-pocket positioning, but he also flashes the short-area quickness and ball skills to bat away passes at the moment of truth. He recorded a pair of pass breakups in the end zone on a two-point conversion attempt and a potential touchdown toss on consecutive possessions in Saturday's preseason matchup with the Colts. With the rookie stepping in and looking comfortable with the first unit, Seymour could emerge as the Bills' nickel corner by the end of camp. *GRADE: A
Adolphus Washington, DE, third round
With top picks* Shaq Lawson (shoulder) and Reggie Ragland *(knee) sidelined, the Bills' focus turns to Washington. Like Lawson and Ragland, he was immediately named a starter after being drafted. If all goes well, Washington will eat up space as a 3-4 defensive end and contribute as an interior pass-rusher in sub packages.
Winners: *Rex Ryan's bad-luck summer included losing his top two draft picks to injury, but at least third-round pick Adolphus Washington (defensive line) has flashed in both preseason games. Sixth-rounder Kevon Seymour *also has earned snaps in perhaps the deepest cornerback group in football.
Reggie Bush only needed a one-word endorsement to convince me that his comeback bid could be successful.
Bush caught a screen pass from Tyrod Taylor during a Buffalo Bills full-squad drill on Monday, weaved through the first-team defense and then burst along the sideline. "Damn!" shouted one of the linebackers in pursuit, pronouncing the word in two long syllables as he whiffed on the 31-year-old running back, who is returning from a season-ending MCL injury in 2015.
Bills defenders chase LeSean McCoy all the time, so a quick cut shouldn't catch them off guard. Bush obviously still has some niftiness in him./Associated Press
Bush won't recapture the success of 2011 through 2013 this year. He won't have the breakout season we have been waiting on since The Da Vinci Code was in theaters. His primary role will be as a kick and punt returner. But the Bills offensive line helped guys named Karlos Williams and Mike Gillislee combine for 5.6 yards per carry in relief of Shady last year. Bush could rack up a lot of yardage in a changeup role.
The Show-Me Quarterbacks
Washington's Kirk Cousins and Buffalo's Tyrod Taylor both landed starting roles by stepping up as contingency plans for failed first-round picks. Now, both enter this fall looking to show their franchises that last season's performances were no fluke.
After piloting a 2015 Bills offense that finished ninth in the league in DVOA, Taylor was rewarded with a "long-term" deal earlier this month. But even more than most NFL contracts, his is comprised almost entirely of funny money. Only $9.5 million of Taylor's five-year, $90 million deal — the total of this season's base salary plus his signing and 2016 roster bonuses — is guaranteed. The bulk of the payout comes only if Buffalo elects to keep Taylor on its roster by the third day of the 2017 league year; that's when a $15.5 million option bonus, as well as his $12 million 2017 base salary, would become guaranteed.
For Taylor, that makes 2016 hugely important: If he's anywhere close to the player he was a year ago, he'll ensure himself of getting at least one more season of NFL starter pay.
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Buffalo Bills
This is now the third time I've* written about Tyrod Taylor as some form of sleeper this offseason, so forgive me if you've heard some of this before. Taylor remains criminally underrated in early fantasy drafts as he's currently going as the 15th to 18th quarterback off the board. He missed two games with injuries in 2015, but was a fantastic fantasy quarterback otherwise. From Weeks 1-4 (pre-injury), he was the fourth-highest scoring quarterback, and from Weeks 9-17 (returning from injury), he was the ninth-highest scoring quarterback. Overall, he averaged 19.33 fantasy points per game in 2015, which extrapolated to 16 games (far from an exact science) would have netted Taylor a whopping 309.28 fantasy points. That would have earned him a fifth-place finish among all fantasy quarterbacks. He averaged the third-most fantasy points per drop back all season, behind just Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. Sammy Watkins looks to be close to fully recovered from offseason injuries, and the team gave Taylor a pay raise this year, but he's still essentially playing for a long-term contract. So far, he's looked electric in the preseason and I'm expecting another outstanding fantasy season from him in 2016. With the Bills defense suffering numerous setbacks recently (Reggie Ragland out for the year, Marcell Dareus *hit with a four-game suspension) they could be a little bit more porous, creating negative game scripts where Taylor needs to sling the rock even more. Even if his pass attempts don't rise, his ability as a runner gives him reliable weekly production. All told, Taylor is shaping up to be the perfect late-round quarterback to target on draft day with both a tremendously high ceiling and safe floor.
Tight end - Charles Clay
When you think breakout players, second- or-third-year players typically come to mind. Not with the tight end position in 2016. The 27-year-old Clay, who's entering his sixth pro season, will become the No. 2 target for the Bills this season.
Back in May,* Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News *reported — with the headline "expect more production from Clay" — Rex Ryan and Co. have prioritized making the veteran tight end a more substantial part of the passing attack in 2016. With Tyrod Taylor making a concerted effort to improve down the middle of the field, the nimble H-back tight end hybrid is in an ideal environment to truly break out this season.
Also, the presence of primarily blocking tight ends Chris Gragg and Jim Dray should alleviate some of in-the-trenches duties Clay had last season. At nearly 6'3", 245-pound with 33-inch arms and 7.07 three-cone agility, it's easy to see why the Bills and offensive coordinator Greg Roman wanted Clay so badly last offseason.
Buffalo Bills -- Mike Gillislee (RB)
Now that the Bills sent Karlos Williams packing (overweight, substance-abuse suspension), someone is going to need to spell LeSean McCoy in what was actually the league's best rushing attack in 2015 (2,432 yards, 4.8 average, thanks in part to Tyrod Taylor). The carries could go to Reggie Bush but it's 25-year-old Mike Gillislee who Rex Ryan recently called "probably the No. 2 back right now." Probably doesn't pay the bills but he's worth a late-round shot after averaging 5.7 yards per tote on 47 carries in 2015.
The Bills' secondary is one of the best in football.
Both* Ronald Darby *and Stephon Gilmore earned top-10 overall grades among NFL CBs last season. Corey Graham was one of the better safeties in the league last year in run defense (7.6 run-stop percentage was ninth-best among safeties), and Buffalo gets Aaron Williams back after a 2015 season lost to injury.
Rookie to watch
Adolphus Washington, DT, Ohio State (Round 3, pick No. 80 overall, Ohio State)
Buffalo got tremendous value when they nabbed Washington with the 80th-overall pick, it would not have surprised us one bit had he gone much earlier in this spring's draft. Washington figures to see quite a bit of playing time right from the get-go, and if his first preseason game was any indication, he should be an immediate factor.
Highest-graded player of 2015
Richie Incognito, LG, 90.0 overall grade
Incognito enjoyed a renaissance season in Buffalo in 2015, finishing 11 games last season with above-average grades, and he only had two games with below-average marks. The veteran guard also didn't miss a single snap last season.
Breakout player watch
Sammy Watkins, WR
Watkins enjoyed a semi-breakout last season in 2015 as one of the most dominant WRs in football from Week 9. Over that stretch, Watkins, was our fourth-highest graded receiver in terms of overall grade, and was second—trailing only Antonio Brown—in receiving grade. If Watkins can maintain that level of performance for an entire season, he'll vault himself straight into the conversation for best receiver in the game.