Countdown to Bills Camp: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

July 24, 2018 - 6:30 pm
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Derek Kramer
@DerekKramerWGR

The Buffalo Bills get started with training camp at St. John Fisher College on Thursday, we continue our series looking at the team with a pair of positions, the wideouts and tight ends. 

Previously: 

Secondary
Linebackers
Defensive Line
Offensive Line

Next up:
 

WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS

The Bills depth chart at wide receiver is being looked at by fans and analysts alike as potentially one of the worst in the NFL. Andre Holmes led the Bills receivers in touchdowns last season with 3 (on 13 total catches in 2017). Deonte Thompson led the wideouts in yards with just 430 after being added during the season off of waivers. Injuries to their top receivers in Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews and Zay Jones did not help matters for the Bills putrid passing game. However, quarterback Tyrod Taylor was also rather conservative in his passing, which also contributed to the passing game's struggles in the same year where former Bills like Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Sammy Watkins thrived on other teams. 

As for the tight ends, Charles Clay remains a steady starter at the position, with depth coming in Nick O'Leary and Logan Thomas. Clay was second on the team with 49 catches and led the team with 558 yards. O'Leary has become a solid second tight end, quietly fourth on the team in yards last year with 322 yards on 22 catches. Thomas, a converted quarterback, will battle with Khari Lee and Jason Croom for the third spot. 


NOTABLE DEPARTURES: 

It's usually already a bad sign for a team to lose their leading wide receiver, it's even worse when your leading receiver had 430 yards on the year. Thompson left in free agency, and while he's not an elite player, the Bills now have no true deep threat on the roster and plenty of questions at the position. Jordan Matthews was injured in his first practice with the Bills, and was allowed to leave for New England after only playing in 10 games. Brandon Tate was also not brought back, but he is more of a return specialist. 

The tight ends saw no departures, with Clay, O'Leary and Thomas all returning. 


NOTABLE ADDITIONS: 

The Bills added a couple of players in the draft, but not too much else, which is a surprise given this team's lack of production from the receivers. Buffalo signed Jeremy Kerley, a seven year veteran of the Jets and 49ers, in free agency. Then the Bills drafted Ray Ray McCloud and Austin Proehl with their final two picks, and added a notable name from the undrafted rookies in Robert Foster. 


WHAT TO EXPECT: 

The Bills wide receivers may become an experiment in what a quarterback can do for their wideouts. Bills fans saw several former Bills receivers blow up last year when they left Buffalo while the team's leading wideout had less than 500 yards. Some of that has to do with the quarterback, where Taylor was more conservative in the passing game last year than in his first two seasons with the Bills. But the team also had more talent in Taylor's first two years. A depth chart of Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin seems better talent-wise than one of Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones and Jeremy Kerley. 

However, watching Woods, Goodwin and Watkins blow up last year and seeing a player like Jordan Matthews' production crater in Buffalo makes me think we will see more production from last year from the wideouts with a quarterback that isn't worried about turning the ball over. At the same time, AJ McCarron, Nathan Peterman and Josh Allen are rather unproven and could easily struggle this season with a subpar receiving group. 

In the end, Benjamin is capable of being a top wideout for a team that sorely needs one. Jones needs to improve after a poor rookie season, but most rookie receivers tend to be below average (the 2014 WR class was a big exception). Clay should remain steady as a safety valve and O'Leary is a solid second tight end for the team. After that, there are too many questions, including at QB, to expect a 1,000 yard receiver or a player to have more than 6 touchdowns this season. 


Up next: running backs

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