Last summer was as interesting a time as any for the Buffalo Bills.
There was a three-way quarterback competition at training camp, and with every practice, there was intensive scrutiny. Every snap Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel, and Tyrod Taylor took, and every drop, read, decision and throw they made was thoroughly dissected. Opinions were shared by the minute, the hour, the day, the week, the month.
With Taylor having firmly established himself as the starter, no such battle will unfold when the Bills take the field Saturday for their first camp practice at St. John Fisher College.
However, there will be plenty of players competing, arguably creating even more fascinating positional showdowns than there were a year ago.
Here are three I am going to be focusing on the most:
1. Backup running back. At the moment, there isn't a clear No. 2 behind LeSean McCoy. That's a concern. McCoy is dominant when he's healthy, but he missed four games last year with various injuries and was hurting before the season even began. The Bills had the No. 1 running game in the NFL in 2015, because they had more than one back made an impact. The coaches will wisely be cautious with his workload during camp and the preseason. But who will step up to prove to be the primary backup? Karlos Williams is suspended for the first four games, and rookie Jonathan Williams has plenty to prove as a player who missed his final season at Arkansas and so far has gained his greatest amount of attention as a pro for a DWI arrest. Mike Gillislee showed tremendous flashes late last season, but are they sustainable? Free-agent signees James Wilder Jr., and Boom Herron (who was on the team last season) are motivated to make an impact, but need to show it.
2. Backup wide receiver. This should be fun to watch. Filling all of those spots on the depth chart below Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods figures to produce some spectacular moments with each competitor trying to outdo the other on every route. Will Marquise Goodwin prove, once and for all, he can stay healthy and use that world-class speed of his to consistently make game-changing plays? Will rookie Kolby Listenbee generate oohs and ahs of his own with his fleet feet? I'm looking forward to seeing who can emerge as reliable, steady forces from Leonard Hankerson, Greg Salas, and Greg Little, all trying to make good on the extra chance the Bills are giving each of them to make an NFL roster.
3. Right tackle. Don't give up on Seantrel Henderson yet. He hasn't given up on himself. He's trying to fight his way back from Crohn's Disease, which ultimately knocked him out of the starting lineup last season and allowed Jordan Mills to take over. Mills is going to be doing all he can to keep the No. 1 job he held at the end of last year. But Henderson, at full strength, is the more talented player. Now, he has a chance to prove just how much drive he has to take back the position he held as a rookie in 2014.