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Ten positions that figure to have the best competition

It’s a time-honored coaching cliché to say that every job is up for grabs when an NFL team goes to training camp.

The reality is, you could name about 40 members of the Buffalo Bills’ 53-man roster right now without much problem. That means about 50 players are going after about 13 jobs when the Bills convene at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford.

While there could be a surprise or two elsewhere, here are 10 positions that figure to have the best competition starting Saturday.

Wide receiver

Locks: Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods

Potential jobs: 3-5

Candidates: Jarrett Boykin, Marcus Easley, Marquise Goodwin, Leonard Hankerson, Dez Lewis, Kolby Listenbee, Greg Little, Walter Powell, Greg Salas.

The case for:

Boykin: A big target over the middle, Boykin will aim to recreate some of the chemistry he had with Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor when the two played together at Virginia Tech.

Easley: Buffalo’s best special-teams player will need to earn a roster spot that way as he attempts to come back from a devastating knee injury.

Goodwin: Still one of the fastest players in the NFL, Goodwin’s last two seasons have been washed out by injuries. He’ll be at training camp for the duration after missing out on a spot on the U.S. Olympic track and field team.

Hankerson: Worked his way up to being Atlanta’s No. 2 receiver, but injuries have plagued him throughout his career. Has talent if he can stay healthy.

Lewis: May have had the best spring of any player on the roster. Drew praise from both Rex Ryan and Greg Roman for his development. The tallest receiver (6-foot-4) on the roster.

Listenbee: Proven deep threat in college will challenge Goodwin for title of fastest player on the team. Teams don’t like cutting their draft picks, and Bills spent a sixth-rounder on Listenbee in May.

Little: Former starter for Cleveland has experience and good size (6-2, 215 pounds).

Powell: Took over as the team’s primary kick and punt returner late last season.

Salas: Stepped up in season finale against Jets and is first in line to fill Chris Hogan’s slot receiver role.

Running back

Locks: LeSean McCoy

Potential jobs: 2-3

Candidates: Karlos Williams, Jonathan Williams, Mike Gillislee, Boom Herron, James Wilder Jr.

The case for:

Karlos Williams: Averaged a sparkling 5.6 yards per carry and scored nine total touchdowns as a rookie. Four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s drug policy presents a big problem for the team.

Jonathan Williams: Rookie fifth-round pick missed all of 2015 season at Arkansas but was looked at as a draft steal. Team can’t be pleased with DWI arrest earlier this month.

Gillislee: Off-the-street free agent gained 267 yards in five games last year, with touchdown runs of 50 and 60 yards.

Herron: Spent some time as an injury replacement on the roster last year and was re-signed this offseason, which shows he made a positive impression on the coaching staff.

Wilder: Path to a roster spot got clearer with the troubles of the players in front of him. Son of a former NFL great sounds determined to make a name for himself.


Locks: None

Potential jobs: 1

Candidates: Jerome Felton, Glenn Gronkowski

The case for:

Felton: Respected veteran who lined up in several spots last year and should be more comfortable in Greg Roman’s scheme but does carry a big salary.

Gronkowski: Showed the versatility Roman favors at the position in college, would come cheaper and is likely more of a playmaker than Felton.

Right tackle

Locks: None

Potential jobs 1-2.

Candidates: Jordan Mills, Seantrel Henderson, Cyrus Kouandjio.

The case for:

Mills: Ended last season with the starting role and has a history with offensive line coach Aaron Kromer from their time together in Chicago.

Henderson: Started last season with the job and lost it because of injury. Should be healthy again after two surgeries to deal with the effects of Crohn’s disease.

Kouandjio: Former 2014 second-round pick comes to camp knowing it’s now-or-never time with the Bills.

Tight end

Locks: Charles Clay

Potential jobs: 2

Candidates: Jim Dray, Chris Gragg, Blake Annen, Nick O’Leary

The case for:

Dray: Seems to have the inside track on one job after being signed to a modest free-agent contract primarily to be a blocker.

O’Leary: Highly productive college player got a year of experience in system, mostly on the practice squad.

Gragg: Also knows the system well and has a fair amount of experience, having played in 32 games over three seasons.

Annen: Has the best combination of size (6-4, 247 pounds) and speed (reported 4.41-second 40-yard dash at 2014 Pro Day) at a position all about creating mismatches.

Edge rusher

Locks: Jerry Hughes, Shaq Lawson, Manny Lawson.

Potential jobs: 3-5

Candidates: IK Enemkpali, Max Valles, Cedric Reed, Lavar Edwards, Lorenzo Alexander, Randell Johnson, Leger Douzable.

The case for:

Enemkpali: Had a terrific spring by all accounts and coach Rex Ryan seems to have a soft spot for him.

Valles: Claimed off waivers late last season from the Raiders, Valles has had time to learn the defense and at 21 is the youngest player on the roster.

Reed: Undrafted free agent out of Texas in 2015 spent last season on the practice squad, so he’s a known commodity to the coaching staff.

Edwards: Joined the 53-man roster late last season but did not appear in any games. At 6-4 and 275 pounds, Edwards should be able to set the edge against the run.

Alexander: Signed primarily for his ability on special teams, which could give him a leg up in the competiton.

Johnson: Might make a position switch to inside linebacker, so he has some positional versatility. Was a reliable special-teams player last year.

Douzable: Played 32 games under Ryan while they were together with the Jets.

Defensive tackle

Locks: Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Adolphus Washington, Corbin Bryant.

Potential jobs: 1-2.

Candidates: Jerel Worthy, Justin Zimmer, T.J. Barnes.

The case for:

Worthy: Got some first-team reps because of injuries to other players during the spring and is looking to carry that momentum over.

Zimmer: Freak athlete who did 44 reps on the bench press during his Pro Day. Doesn’t quite fit the physical profile but is an intriguing prospect.

Barnes: Has experience playing under Rex Ryan in New York and fits the profile of a true nose tackle – something the defense lacks.


Locks: Corey Graham, Aaron Williams, Robert Blanton.

Jobs available: 1-2.

Candidates: Colt Anderson, Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks.

The case for:

Anderson: A dynamite performer on special teams, Anderson has the inside edge to a roster spot thanks to that ability.

Williams: Fell in Rex Ryan’s doghouse last season and will have to prove in training camp he’s worked his way out. Did draw some uninitiated praise from the coaching during spring practices.

Meeks: Has managed to hang around based on special-teams play and will have a chance to do that again. Coaches appreciate his work ethic.

Kick/punt returner

Locks: None.

Jobs available: 2.

Candidates: Walt Powell, Greg Salas, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Kolby Listenbee, Kevon Seymour, Javier Arenas.

The case for:

Powell: Ended 2015 handling both jobs, so he’ll get the first chance to keep them.

Salas: Mentioned by Rex Ryan as a punt-return candidate, which he worked on in the spring.

Woods: Has some brief experience returning punts, although given his role as the No. 2 receiver, it’s likely the team would prefer someone else win the job.

Goodwin: Remember that electrifying kickoff return for a touchdown in a preseason game against Indianapolis? If Goodwin could ever find that form again, the Bills would be in business. He’s running out of chances.

Listenbee: Burner from TCU averaged 22 yards per kick return in college but had just eight attempts. He’ll get a look from special teams coordinator Danny Crossman given his speed.

Seymour: Returned seven kicks for Southern Cal in 2013. Ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Arenas: An accomplished punt returner with a career average of 9.9 yards on 105 attempts with the Chiefs, Ryan has said Arenas will need to earn that job with the Bills for a roster spot.


Locks: None.

Potential jobs: 1-2.

Candidates: Dan Carpenter, Jordan Gay, Marshall Morgan.

The case for:

Carpenter: Even in a “down” year, still converted better than 85 percent of his field goals. He’s healthy and should benefit from the new touchback rule, which brings the ball out to the 25-yard line.

Gay: He’s served as the kickoff specialist the past couple years but will need Crossman to be a strong advocate.

Morgan: An undrafted free agent out of Georgia, Morgan can steal the job by showing the Bills he’s better than Carpenter (or at least equal to him) and cheaper. He may also save them a roster spot if he can boom his kickoffs, making Gay expendable.


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