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Bills notebook: Williams back to try to earn No. 2 RB spot

The locker is now completely empty.

When Fred Jackson was cut, his locker was still full of clothes and fan mail. On Tuesday, it was cleared out. Life, indeed, goes on for the Buffalo Bills after losing their longtime leader.

LeSean McCoy is the obvious No. 1 back and still working toward a Week 1 return off his hamstring injury. Who will be the No. 2 back this season? It sure sounds like it’ll be Karlos Williams.

Before undergoing a medical procedure midway through camp, the fifth-round pick out of Florida State was on track to be McCoy’s backup. Now that he’s back practicing, running backs coach Anthony Lynn indicated Williams can earn this role.

“Right before Karlos got hurt, Karlos was at the No. 2 spot,” said Lynn, then citing fourth-year back Bryce Brown. “It’s been a good competition between him and Bryce, though. And in my opinion, it’s still going on. You just create a competition and whoever goes out and performs the best, they’ll get in the rotation.”

While that competition is ongoing, Williams can “absolutely” earn the No. 2 job, Lynn said.

The fact that Williams is still new to the running back position works to his advantage. Lynn and the Bills haven’t had to undo bad habits. The former safety has been decisive, explosive, better than expected.

“He was like a sponge,” Lynn said. “He was growing leaps and bounds. And that surprised me but it probably shouldn’t have because he’s played the position only a year and a half. So you tell him to do something and he does it. You don’t have any bad habits where you’re trying to re-train a guy. He just shot up the depth chart. He had a good scrimmage, had a good game and he had some good practices so he definitely deserves a shot as the No. 2.”

Fully healthy? “Right now, he looks healthy as hell to me.”

Of course, midway through camp Lynn was critical of Brown’s fumbling. He described fixing this as a “process” on Tuesday, one that can’t be corrected in a month. Brown’s receiving ability has stood out. Now, Lynn wants him to run to his size.

Said Lynn, “He has some burst, some quicks and he’s a 230-pound man. I just need to get him to run like that more often.”

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Before training camp, the best backs in recent memory believed McCoy still had a lot to give. But he’s still 27. He still has 1,808 career touches. There’s a fear with all backs at this point in their career that the wheels could fall off without warning.

As one personnel executive said then, “Once his quickness goes, that’s it for him.”

So McCoy injuring his hamstring on Aug. 18 isn’t exactly a good omen. Not to mention the Bills have invested a five-year, $40 million contract in the back. Big picture, Lynn sees a player still in his prime.

Even if that quickness could go at some point.

“That could be true. But that quickness is still there,” Lynn said. “That’s one of the things I’ve been most impressed with – his speed through the hole. His speed through the hole and his ability to win one-on-one’s is still there.”

Lynn actually believes the two weeks off could’ve helped McCoy. He sees a benefit in rest for the veteran.

And in coaching backs with the New York Jets (2009-13), Cleveland (2007-08), Dallas (2005-06) and Jacksonville (2003-04), and spending six year in the league (including three with Terrell Davis in Denver), McCoy’s game stands out.

“You’ve always had the Marshall Faulks, the Barry Sanders and he fits into that mold,” Lynn said. “He’s shifty. He can win his one-on-ones and when you get him to the second level in space, he’s a ‘space back.’ ”

Lynn believes McCoy is “absolutely” still in his prime. He’s been impressed, particularly, with McCoy’s willingness to take on linebackers as a blocker in pass protection.

It doesn’t sound like McCoy will be taken off the field much.

“Sometimes, that’s a 40-50 pound disadvantage,” Lynn said. “You don’t see a mismatch like that anywhere else on the field. A lot of guys of his caliber, they won’t stick their face in there. So you have to take them out and get that blue-collar guy in there who will.

“But he will. Yeah. I’ve been very impressed. He takes pride in it.”

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For the first time in the NFL, Tyrod Taylor is preparing as a starting quarterback. On Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, he becomes the Buffalo Bills’ 15th starter since Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season.

Matt Cassel is the No. 2. EJ Manuel is the No. 3. And on Tuesday, quarterbacks coach David Lee made it clear that Taylor will not need to look over his shoulder.

In his first comments since Taylor won the job, Lee said that Taylor arrived in Buffalo “wanting to be the quarterback.” A backup for four years in Baltimore, he was ready to take over.

“He never said a word to anybody and it was burning in him,” Lee said. “I knew it, he knew it, but it had to happen on the field. I don’t know if you could be more fair to three quarterbacks than we have since OTA No. 1.”

The Bills took this quarterback competition through three exhibition games and, in the end, Taylor made the most plays. In addition to completing 77.4 percent of his passes for 236 yards with another 108 rushing yards during the preseason, he was the most consistent in practice at St. John Fisher College.

Lee noted that when he was with Rex Ryan on the New York Jets’ coaching staff, they actually tried to acquire him. At the time, Lee admits he was concerned with Taylor’s accuracy, too.

“Rex really liked him, tried to get him and couldn’t get him,” Lee said. “We’ve had our eye on him a long time. There’s so few of those guys in the league who can beat you with their legs as well as their arm. You think of the guy in Seattle, the guy in San Francisco and our guy here. I don’t know about the other starters – maybe Tannehill – but it’s rare to have a guy who’s multi-dimensional and can beat you with his legs and his arm. It’s a good feeling having him.”

The Bills sure wouldn’t mind if Taylor became their own version of Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick or even Ryan Tannehill. Ryan has been a fan of running quarterbacks, probably because he knows how difficult they are to defend as a defensive coach.

email: tdunne@buffnews.com

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