In three weeks, Buffalo Bills training camp begins at St. John Fisher College. Which players have the most to prove this summer?
Here are 10 to track as a new season dawns:
WR Marquise Goodwin: He didn’t qualify for the Olympics so now Goodwin hopes to revive a football career that’s been derailed by injuries. Before broken ribs ended his 2015 season, Goodwin again flashed world-class speed at St. John Fisher College. He proved he can get behind defensive backs. But there’s another speedster in town (TCU rookie Kolby Listenbee), Dez Lewis looked like a new player in minicamp and the Bills signed a slew of veterans. Goodwin, a former third-round pick, is on the bubble.
DT Jerel Worthy: With veteran Kyle Williams still easing back into action, Worthy could open up with the No. 1 defense in camp. Abandoned by several teams, the 2012 second-rounder says he’s rejuvenated in Buffalo. Worthy recommitted in just about every way from nutrition to the weight room to his mental approach. So will it all transfer to pads? Rex Ryan needs as many bodies as possible up front, a problem last season.
FB Jerome Felton: After signing a four-year, $9.2 million contract, Felton was then reduced to about 10 snaps a game. LeSean McCoy ran mostly out of the shotgun and single-back formations. Elsewhere, the fullback position is being phased out. Can OC Greg Roman find a role for Felton this summer?
LB Reggie Ragland: Top pick Shaq Lawson won’t be helping this Bills defense any time soon as he recovers from shoulder surgery. That means the Bills will be expecting even more of an instant impact out of their second pick, Ragland, to improve the NFL’s 19th-ranked defense. He’s a heavy hitter, no doubt, one that reminds Ryan of linebackers past. But whether he can cover backs and tight ends in space at this level remains to be seen. No doubt, opposing offenses will try to scheme tight ends and backs and slot receivers into one-on-one situations vs. Ragland.
QB EJ Manuel: He’s set to be the No. 2 quarterback again but the Bills would sure love some peace of mind in camp after a rocky spring. Rookie Cardale Jones is not ready to be the backup.
T Jordan Mills: Seantrel Henderson still needs to add strength after his two offseason surgeries in relation to Crohn’s disease. The right tackle job is Mills’ to lose. With everything set on the left side, Eric Wood back at center and John Miller now healthy at right guard, stability at right tackle is all this Bills’ line is missing. It’s not always pretty but O-line coach Aaron Kromer sounds pleased with what Mills can do. Now, he’ll have his first full training camp in Buffalo to grasp the complicated blocking schemes.
OLB IK Enemkpali: He’ll have a realistic shot to start. When push comes to shove, Ryan may be inclined to roll with the player who knows his defense best at strong-side linebacker (Manny Lawson) but he was also the one who believed in Enemkpali when nobody else did and Enemkpali got some run with the starters during the spring. Enemkpali will now get a chance to prove he’s a new player with the pads on. He’ll be a player to track during one-on-one, pass-rushing drills. For Ryan’s defense to work, pressure must come from all angles and it’s looking like Enemkpali could figure into those plans.
K Dan Carpenter: He has competition this summer. Undrafted rookie Marshall Morgan is in town to push the veteran. After missing six extra points in 2015, the pressure’s on Carpenter.
TE Charles Clay: Of course, Clay’s job is not in jeopardy. He’ll be the starter again. But Clay might’ve been one of the team’s most under-utilized players a year ago. With Tyrod Taylor expected to take a big step in Year Two – and work the middle of the field more often – Clay’s role in the passing game should grow. While he’s not a 6-foot-5, Jimmy Graham-like athletic specimen, he is a former running back who can do a lot of damage after the catch. The Bills will need to keep finding different ways to get him the ball.
RB Karlos Williams: He showed up overweight in minicamp, maybe by 20-25 pounds. Even Ryan said the Bills would need to set a realistic weight-loss goal for Williams by Day One of training camp, which probably means he’ll be starting practice conditioning on the sideline. Can he return in time to keep his No. 2 job behind McCoy? Nothing is guaranteed. The team drafted Jonathan Williams, Mike Gillislee finished 2015 strong and don’t count out James Wilder Jr., a tall, strong back who impressed coaches during the spring.