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Preseason Watch List: AFC East

A detailed look at the key questions facing each team in the preseason


The Bills return to St. John Fisher College under the watch of new head coach Sean McDermott. The first-time head coach brings an experienced coaching staff with him, led by offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. It's difficult to believe the once proud Bills -- who made four consecutive Super Bowl appearances -- are currently enduring a 17-year playoff drought, and the team only has two winning seasons over that span. Luckily for Bills fans, and McDermott, the cupboard isn't entirely bare as the Bills went 7-9 last season and had the league's best rushing offense (2,630 yards and 29 touchdowns). Where the team needs help is improving a passing offense that finished with just 3,036 yards and seven touchdowns, and with a defense that gave up 2,130 yards rushing and 21 rushing touchdowns.

Camp Details:

  • When: 7/26 (Rookies and Veterans)
  • Where: St. John Fisher College (Rochester, NY)
  • Open to Public: Yes (See Website)

Preseason Game Schedule:

  • Aug 10 -- Minnesota 7:00 pm EDT
  • Aug 17 -- @Philadelphia 7:00 pm
  • Aug 26 -- @Baltimore 7:00 pm
  • Aug 31 -- Detroit 7:00 pm

What We're Watching:

  • Establishing the Sean McDermott Era -- McDermott and new general manager Brandon Beane are first-timers, but they've seemed at ease in their new roles. McDermott has set a more serious tone after former head coach Rex Ryan tried too hard to be everyone's best friend. He's preached accountability and believes the key to returning to the playoffs is through teaching and repetition. Anytime a team embarks on a coaching overhaul; there's the potential current personnel won't accept the new rules. Camp will go a long way in illustrating how far away the Bills are from turning things around. 
  • Does the new system fit LeSean McCoy well? -- The Bills are abiding by the adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" concerning the rushing offense. New offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and offensive line coach Juan Castillo were impressed with the system they've inherited (the Bills led the league in rushing in consecutive seasons) and are planning only minor tweaks. The biggest difference will be utilizing the fullbacks more as receivers out of the backfield. 
  • Is Sammy Watkins healthy? -- Watkins dealt with a foot injury last season and lost his effectiveness.  Watkins opted for surgery in January after rehabilitation and rest failed to correct the problem. The Bills chose not to exercise Watkins' 5th-year option, making this season a make-or-break for the talented pass catcher.
  • Andre Holmes versus Zay Jones -- Veteran Andre Holmes is the odds on replacement for Robert Woods in the starting lineup, but Zay Jones -- a 2nd round rookie -- has looked sharp in early practices and has a much higher ceiling. 
  • Jordan Mills versus Dion Dawkins at right tackle -- Jordan Mills is the incumbent and has earned the coaches praises in the offseason, but Dion Dawkins is a road-grader rookie selected in the 2nd round. The two will compete to solidify the lone question mark on an otherwise stellar offensive line.
  • Finding starting linebackers -- Ramon Humber, Preston Brown and Lorenzo Alexander will open camp as starters, but 2nd year Reggie Ragland and veteran Gerald Hodges will have ample opportunity to win roles.


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