Training Camp Preview No. 1: Runners and Catchers

(WECK 1230) — Something lighter-hearted needed to come out of this space after Thursday’s apocalyptical essay on the future of the Bills, or lackthereof.

Luckily, in strode a Tweet from follower HomeSlice5484, whose name is presumably an homage to Chris Spielman and Robert Royal’s uniform numbers. Hechallenged me to name a depth chart pre-camp, and see how well I did post-camp.

I look forward to being wrong. Remember that Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix are evaluating these players not just based on game tape and talent, but gut instincts. Old football guys aren’t afraid to cut players and, as we saw with their drafting strategy, trust their guts more than players’ reputations.

Feeling the need to string this out a few days, I’ll do a handful of positions at a time, beginning with running backs and wide-outs. For our purposes, let’s go with the guidelines the Steelers used for their 3-4 defense’s 53-man roster.

Running backs (4-5):

Joique Bell, Rodney Ferguson, Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Corey McIntyre, Chad Simpson, C.J. Spiller

Several things to note here. First, Jackson has probably the third-most raw talent of the tailbacks, but will be the No. 1 entering camp. We all know Spiller is a freak and the future No. 1, perhaps by midseason. I don’t fear a lengthy hold-out from him at all.

I still think Marshawn Lynch could be in Seattle, maybe even by the time camp starts. There’s also a chance he winds up home in Oakland if the Raiders don’t like what they see from Darren McFadden, who was an on-field mess in 2009. If Lynch stays, he’ll be your No. 3 out of camp.

Lynch’s displeasure with our fine city is just one of the reasons I didn’t cross out Chad Simpson. The other is his value on special teams, which is coincidentally what will likely separate McIntyre from Ferguson, who has more pure running back experience. McIntyre is viewed as a veteran presence. He captained the Falcons special teams unit in 2007.

Wide receivers (5-6)

Marcus Easley, Lee Evans, James Hardy, Felton Huggins, Chad Jackson, Steve Johnson, Donald Jones, David Nelson, Roscoe Parrish, Naaman Roosevelt

This is another tricky list to trim. I originally had Hardy cut in favor of Jackson, but Chad Simpson’s inclusion is enough special teams/kickoff return insurance for the team to take a look at Hardy for another year (provided his health is checking out).

Evans and Johnson will be your Nos. 1 and 2 wide receivers, and fantasy nerds who snag Evans this year could be in for a nice surprise. I genuinely believe Gailey will identify a quarterback close enough to get real numbers into Evans’ hands.

Hardy may be your No. 5 wide-out, to be honest. Marcus Easley is a raw and wonderful talent, and the idea of switching between him and Parrish in the slot is intriguing because of the mismatch potential. In the slot on three receiver sets, the Bills have the option of the physical, big Easley or the shifty Parrish. It’ll keep nickelbacks on their toes.

So, why the change in fortune for Parrish, who seemed destined to say goodbye to Buffalo after a dismal few years? Clearly, the City of Buffalo wasn’t Roscoe’s problem here (remember, he initially signed a contract extension). The kid wanted the ball, and the Bills didn’t think he needed it. I think Gailey values No. 11, and suspect he’ll have a bounce back year in some regard. In a sense, it’ll be a quasi-Josh Reed return to fan favor. By the way, don’t be surprised if Reed has an a-okay season when Philip Rivers goes all “PHILIP RIVERS” — thanks, James Todd Smith — in San Diego.

Huggins’ time is likely over. He was a Jauron feel-good guy and may end up with R. Manuel Jauron in Philadelphia when they need a special teams signing. Roosevelt is all-but-destined for the practice squad. Remember, he was a quarterback even into his time at the University at Buffalo.

Email: nickonweck@gmail.com

2 Responses to Training Camp Preview No. 1: Runners and Catchers

  1. Great article Nick, thanks for the reference. 5484 is actually my birthday. I don’t mind the Spielman reference but Royal? The only play I remember from him besides his fumbles is the should have been TD from Evans where he leaped out of bounds.

    Looking forward to the next prediction! Great job with the site and the show. Can’t wait till the season.

  2. Andrew Browne says:

    Nick,

    I agree for the most part with your analysis of the players, but I must disagree with your analysis of the draft and Nix and Gailey using “gut instinct” to pick their players. The Bills draft was above and beyond and every pick rated a value pick except for Terrell Troup in the 2nd who draft analysts said could be had at the end of the second round instead of the top of the round. Every other pick was a good value at the spot they drafted them. There are numerous sites that back this up.

    The only place that you could say that they used their gut instinct on players was the notdrafting of a QB or OT. I think Nix answered that question when he said that if you have questions at a position it does you no good to bring in a guy who is another question and for the most part the QB pool at 9 was full of guys who were questions and could not contribute this year. Spiller will contribute this year a lot, as you said, maybe starting by midseason. The plan is to build slowly get value at each pick and with each Free Agent and stack guys until you have a heck of a squad.