Free agency is done, the NFL Draft is behind us and the Bills have already run their rookie mini camp. This week, it’s time for the entire roster to come together for the first time since Buffalo’s playoff exit in January.
The Bills open their doors to begin organized team activities, which are a group of volunteer workouts for the 85-player team. Buffalo’s OTAs consist of nine field practices over the next three weeks, leading up to their mandatory three-day minicamp from June 13th through June 15th.
And with the new season comes a lot of questions. Here are seven things we’ll be watching as the Bills return to Orchard Park for the first time this season.
New look scroll set
The Bills learned by the end of the playoff run that their pass catchers had held back the offense, prompting them to add four new players through free agency and the draft. Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, and Dawson Knox all needed additional reinforcements, and the Bills soon added Dalton Kincaid, Deonte Harty, Trent Sherfield, and Justin Shorter. Khalil Shaker, who is holding his title for the second year, is still in the fold. But here’s the big question: Where do all the pieces fit into offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey’s offense?
Diggs will be the Z’s lockout starter receiver who can also move inside into the receiver’s slot on some snaps. Davis is the starting X receiver. After that, it is up to the team’s interpretation. Shaker who can play indoors or at the Z; Same goes for Harty. Sherfield may be able to play all three points, while Shorter will likely be an X receiver through and through. And then there’s Factor Kincaid, who could become the new slot receiver if Dorsey can take his offense into something he wasn’t before and stick with it when times get tough.
What the Bills do at the slot receiver will be the most interesting bit of all of this. Kincaid, Shakir, and Harty have a legitimate chance at leading this trio in picks in 2023, and it could end up being a mix-and-match affair all year long. But OTAs will give each a shot at ahead of the competition heading into boot camp.
bills offseason workouts
Week 1 OTAs
May 22-23; May 25th
Week 2 OTAs
May 30 – June 1
Week 3 OTAs
5-6 June 8 June
Small camp is mandatory
From the 13th to the 15th of June
Any Early Alain Kincaid Chemistry
Bills like Shaker and Harty, but the fifth-round pick and lower-level free agent contract are a drop in the bucket compared to the resource the team used to get Kincaid. The Bills aren’t in the business of letting their first-round options be long-term depth cuts. Every first-round pick they make has become a starting starter, and 2022 senior player Kair Elam is on his way to doing just that in his sophomore season.
This is why tracking quarterback Josh Allen and how regularly he uses Kincaid in these early stages can provide an idea of what Kincaid’s role could be at some point in 2023. Allen showed strong chemistry in early spring practices with the Knox when the end was The tight end rookie, and even as a third-round pick in 2019, Knox ended up playing nearly 68 percent of the snaps during his games. The slot receiver competition is movable enough for Kincaid to do the same if he and Allen show instant quarterback-to-receiver connection.
First look at the massive guard competition
In the Bills’ minds, what they had at left and right guard in 2022 wasn’t good enough. Left guard Rodger Savold was a free flop; He struggled greatly as a pass blocker. Right guard Ryan Bates had a rocky start early into 2022, but he’s improved as the year has gone on, though there’s some wiggle room that made the Bills feel like they could improve that spot. So, the Bills made two significant additions at guard: free agent signing Conor McGovern and second-round pick O’Cyrus Torrence. They then added David Edwards, a very experienced starting starter who had worked for several years with Bills offensive line coach Aaron Cromer, to a one-year deal.
General Manager Brandon Bean said that they have not yet promised anyone a guard job, regardless of their level of commitment through draft selection or compensation. However, all logic points to McGovern being one of the starters in 2023, with Torrence being the favorite to win the other starting job. But it looks like both players will need to earn it, with Bates looking to avoid returning to his former role as bench option and Edwards, 26, hoping to return to fame as he prepares for a good earnings day the next. Market open in 2024. You could even throw longtime Bills player Ike Boettger into the fray. The Bills will likely mix and match all of these pieces left and right to see what’s left in 2023 given how much that guard group dropped the Bills and Allen last season.
Built with a fully sanitary holiday
All offseason, the Bills have made their feelings on right tackle Spencer Brown known. They stuck with some of his challenges early in the season, expressed how well they thought he played late in the year and remained optimistic about what he could become. Their actions matched those words, because they hadn’t added a new piece to the offensive processing room. Instead, they only re-signed David Quessenberry to a one-year deal, but this is a deep signing above all else. The Browns have a clear starting path in 2023. One of the things the Browns have mentioned over and over again is correct tackle that last year he underwent off-season back surgery, curtailing some of his early year progress.
Now for Brown, all excuses have been eliminated. It is in its third season. The Bills have boosted his potential over and over again, and now he needs to deliver consistency coupled with the good flashes from his first two seasons. Outside Quessenberry, one of the liner personnel to watch in case Brown struggles is Edwards. The former Rams blocker was a right tackle in college at Wisconsin but made the switch full time to guard in the NFL and, according to Pro Football Focus, only had 30 team snaps at offensive tackle during his first four years. That’s how competitive Brown will be in 2023. The deck is stacked in his favor, and this spring will be a good opportunity to see some of his progress from last year.
The battle for RDE begins
Although the Bills did not provide an exact timeline for Von Miller, you can take a look at her recent history for a hint. Former players returning from a long-term injury usually result in a conservative approach from the team. With Miller tearing his ACL last November, the Bills likely won’t be looking to push Miller to be ready for the start of the year. They’d leave themselves open to the idea based on his progress, but given their Super Bowl goals, a healthy late-season and playoff Miller should be the priority over getting him back as soon as possible.
That would potentially open Miller up early in the season and would be a massive opportunity for two early picks to change their trajectory and career prospects. The team’s 2020 second-round pick, AJ Epenesa, and its 2021 second-round pick Boogie Basham, have settled into a more rotating role since entering the league. But it was somewhat disappointing that neither of the two young players progressed in Miller’s absence after injury. Instead, the Bills had to rely on Shaq Lawson as their starting lead. Once upon a time, Lawson was an early pick, but at that point in his career, he was a veteran player playing on a one-year deal. The bill returned Lawson to another one-year deal in the event that one of the younger contestants did not feature. Season one in 2023, which starts this week, could be the last chance Ebenessa and Basham have to prove they’re more than just AFL backups.
Five linebackers, one starting job
The Bills will be without Tremaine Edmonds at the starting middle linebacker position for the first time since the 2017 season, so naturally, who replaces him will be one of the most closely watched stories of the spring and summer. The Bills will have five players vying for the job, including 2022 third-round pick Terrell Bernard, 2023 third-round pick Dorian Williams, outstanding special teams Tyrel Dodson, 2022 seventh-round pick Baylon Spector and veteran AJ Klein, who has several years playing experience. Coach Sean McDermott. The OTA would be a good time to see how these five players fare alongside rookie Matt Milano, but the unlined practices don’t yield much opportunity to analyze how the player performs relative to the competition. Fitness is critical to the situation, and there is no way to simulate their game day performance in unpadded sessions. How much they put on Williams’ plate will be the most curious piece, since he is the closest of the five to Edmonds’ size and skill.
Bills Rookie minicamp: Early notes on Dalton Kincaid, Dorian Williams, and more
The first appearance of Elam in the second year
Because the rest of the game hunting took place overseas, the corner buck rarely featured in a local perspective. He was such a pivotal 2022 that the Bills invested their top draft pick, Elam, even being traded to do just that. After a choppy rookie year that saw him even scratch a healthy one at one point, Elam came back to have the best stretch of games in the postseason. But there are two things we haven’t seen yet. First, the Bills have not yet declared Elam the locked-in starter against Tre’Davious White in 2023. That’s likely the way they’re tilted given Elam’s late-season performance and the initial capital that was used to acquire him, but that’s not the case. confirmed so far.
And second, since Elam stepped forward late in the year, we haven’t yet seen the Bills use him as a starter at every turn. That might be their plan for 2023, but they also kept Dane Jackson, who split with Elam in the final stages of the season. The OTAs will be the first opportunity to see the Bills’ vision for Elam in 2023 and whether it’s more of a competition than it’s supposed to be. Elam’s filling in the top job could help the Bills decide on second-year defensive back Christian Binford and whether to move him to a safe place this season.
(Top photo by Josh Allen: Mark Konezny / USA Today)
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