Here are my three thoughts on the Buffalo Bills the day before they begin their rookie minicamp:
>When I think of Cardale Jones, I can't help but go back to 2014, back to that magical run when he led Ohio State to victories in three postseason games. Watching him throw for 742 yards and five touchdowns, and rush for 90 yards and a score on the way to a national championship, I couldn't help but be somewhat mesmerized. I know I had plenty of company, and when Jones flirted with entering the NFL draft with a very limited but spectacular body of work, part of me wondered if the idea wasn't as crazy as it seemed. Jones decided to stick around for one more season, and although he would extend his streak of starting victories to 11, he struggled enough to lose the No. 1 job and become a quarterbacking also-ran in the draft to the likes of Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch, Christian Hackenberg, and Jacoby Brisett. But the proverbial upside continues to be something that captures the imagination. Jones has the ideal size to be an NFL QB, especially one in a cold-weather city: 6-foot-5, 253 pounds. He has an ultra-powerful arm. And the guy is fast and runs with plenty of muscle. Yes, he's extremely raw and needs a lot of polishing from his coaches, but this feels like a lot more than the Bills throwing something against the wall with a fourth-round pick and seeing if it sticks. Jones can be special, and the Bills know it. He's going to eventually bump EJ Manuel off the roster, and regardless of whether the team signs Tyrod Taylor to a long-term deal, it has long-term aspirations for Jones ... provided that what he did in that magical, three-game stretch a couple of years ago wasn't a fluke.
>It's a shame Kolby Listenbee won't be able to do a whole lot on the field during minicamp as he recovers from surgery he underwent in late March to repair a double sports hernia. The speedy wide receiver from TCU needed only a brief conference call with media covering the Bills to make himself one of their more popular picks. With little or no prompting, Listenbee declared that he's "the fastest football player probably in the NFL." And, "I can go to the Olympics if I wanted to." Bold. Brash. A natural brand-builder. Now, let's see if there's any game behind that brand. You have to admire the guy's grit, playing with that double hernia for much of last season. Even the way he got the injury shows his willingness to leave it all out on the field: he was jumping over someone's head to make a touchdown catch, and landed on his tailbone. To be certain, Listenbee can be classified as a "track guy," achieving All-American status for his performance in the 100-meter dash and the 4x100 and 4x400 relays. Track guys tend to be susceptible to injuries, and while he'll arrive at One Bills Drive as damaged goods, there seems to be a bit more football player in him than sprinter. At 6-0 and 197 pounds, Listenbee is larger than your typical "track guy." And he appears to have a bit more toughness than those bearing that mostly disparaging label in the football world. Maybe Listenbee can actually build a special brand of his own.
>It's hard to draw any hard conclusions over the Bills' purchase of land near their practice field to expand the space they have for workouts in Orchard Park. The team already had made it clear it had no intention of leaving Ralph Wilson Stadium any time soon for a new place to play their games. In addition to the stadium renovation, it has made considerable investment to improve its administrative facility, most recently in the draft room. The natural question is whether those upgrades and the additional practice area means that the Bills are committed to keeping their game-preparation/offseason-workout base at One Bills Drive -- even if/when the day does come when they build the new digs that the NFL and multiple club owners want sooner rather than later. My understanding is it does. And that makes perfect sense. The Bills don't need a new practice facility in addition to a new stadium. With the expansion, and a more than sufficient field house, the one they have would figure to be perfectly fine. Does it give the Bills the option to stay there for training camp? Maybe, although the setup at St. John Fisher College, which received a great deal of financial contribution from original Bills owner Ralph Wilson, provides far more room for spectators and retail sales and other fan amenities. Plus, by giving the Bills a presence in Rochester, it helps to attract more fans, especially young ones. And did we mention that Bills/Sabres president Russ Brandon is a St. John Fisher graduate and isn't likely to want the team to be anywhere else for camp as long as he's on the job?