June 19, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Derek Hagan (80) looks for a during the Bills minicamp at the Ralph Wilson Stadium practice field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE

Buffalo Bills Training Camp Preview: Receivers

Editor’s Note: With training camp starting very soon, we’ll be breaking down the competition at each position on the Bills’ roster. This is the second part of the series. (Earlier: QB/RB/FB)

Wide Receiver

Roster Locks: Stevie Johnson, David Nelson, T.J. Graham

In the Mix: Marcus Easley, Donald Jones, Derek Hagan, Ruvell Martin, Naaman Roosevelt

Longshots: Kamar Aiken, David Clowney, Derek Session

Breakdown: This might be the toughest battle in training camp, with eight guys battling for just two or three open spots. We’ll start with the locks: Johnson is obviously the star with the big contract. Nelson is a great fit for the offense and a reliable slot receiver. He’s not getting cut. Third-round pick T.J. Graham isn’t getting cut unless he is a complete disaster.

After that is a big jumble. Donald Jones clearly has the inside track on one of remaining roster spots, and even the other starting receiving WR role opposite Johnson. Jones is hardly a lock though, with so many guys ready to pounce. Easley has a tremendous level of hype considering the only football he’s played since 2009 is four preseason games (in which he’s caught a grand toal of seven passes). But the man looks like a NFL receiver and certainly seemed like one during the last preseason. He’ll get a chance. Easley and Jones are probably the favorites right now to make the team.

That’s far from a certainty though, as six other guys will be fighting for those spots as well. I’ve got a bit of soft spot for Hagan. The journeyman really did play well after latching on with Buffalo late last season. Martin, another journeyman, surprisingly made the team after last camp and even hung around the whole season. He was almost non-existent on offense but did contribute on special teams. It’s hard to see him sticking again, but I would have said the same thing last season. Roosevelt, the Buffalo native, has been cut the last two seasons but brought back to the practice squad and activated later due to injuries. He’s out of practice squad eligibility, though, and he’s going to have to really impress to leapfrog the guys ahead of him on the depth chart.

The last three guys have long odds to make the roster. David Clowney has played in the NFL for a while, but has never been terribly effective. The Bills brought him in because he’s fast and the team really needs a deep threat, but the drafting of T.J. Graham probably means Clowney is in trouble. Aiken was on the Buffalo practice squad in 2011 after a nice preseason, but he simply has a big mountain to climb to make this team. Session is an undrafted rookie out of Maine who will have to absolutely steal the show to even get considered for a spot on the roster.

Tight End

Roster Locks: Scott Chandler

In the Mix: Lee Smith, Kevin Brock, Mike Caussin

Longshots: Fendi Onobun

Breakdown: Chandler is the clear starter and the only real receiving threat among the group. Armed with a nice new contact, Chandler’s preseason goal should be not to get hurt.

The Bills will carry at least one more TE. Smith is the leader for a spot at the moment. He’s not a receiving option, but he is a mauler as a blocker, giving him value in jumbo packages. Caussin has decent hands and saw some time in 2011 but was derailed by injury. Brock also got onto the field late in 2011 and caught a few passes. Onobun has bounced around a lot in his short NFL career and hasn’t really impressed.

There’s not a lot to separate the group at the moment, so camp will be important to see how this shakes out. It will be interesting to see if the Bills elect to keep three TEs, or if they use FB Dorin Dickerson as a third TE to save a roster spot.

 

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