Every year NFL players enter the season with plenty of motivation to perform well and fulfill individual and team goals. Whether it’s fighting for a roster spot, returning from injury or playing in a contract year, these are the 10 Buffalo Bills players out to prove something during the 2015 NFL Season.
Because of the various incentives and catalysts that can affect an individual’s determination, some players just work harder or have that extra boost to succeed. Fortunately for the Buffalo Bills, there are multiple guys in a similar situation on the current roster. Among those who were recently traded or fighting for their careers, here are the ten Buffalo Bills player’s with the most to prove in 2015.
Entering 2015 with his third team in three years, Percy Harvin sounds ready to explode in Greg Roman’s new offense, which has a knack for getting its play makers the ball. After being traded from Seattle to New York in the middle of 2014, the violently fast receiver/kick returner followed Rex Ryan and his coaching staff to Buffalo on what is essentially a prove-it contract.
As if Harvin didn’t already play hard enough, now the extremely talented game changer has millions of reasons to turn in his best performance yet. Percy will also be trying to move on from bad press following his time in Seattle along with the injury issues that have kept him out of 25 games over the past three regular seasons. The presence of new Bills’ wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal should help, as he and Harvin immediately clicked with the Jets last year which resulted in positive gains both on and off the field.
After he was benched in 2014 in favor of Kyle Orton, E.J. Manuel is right in the middle of Buffalo’s quarterback competition heading into this year’s training camp. Troubled by injuries, accuracy issues and an unreliable offensive line, Manuel has been quite the polarizing figure in Buffalo since his rookie year. Some people still believe he can find success with the Bills while others have suggested he could be released if not named the starting quarterback.
Beyond the local scrutiny, Manuel is also fighting off the “Bust” label on a national level. Just in time and heading into his third season, the Bills have a new and experienced coaching staff in place that figures to help E.J.’s development more than the last regime did. New offensive weapons McCoy, Harvin and Clay should also make life easier when he’s under center.
The Bills sounds ready to give 2013’s 1st-round pick plenty of opportunities, which he should be chomping at the bit for after only playing in four games last season. Anything less than a spirited QB battle this summer would be a disappointment.
The veteran offensive lineman was out of football for most of 2013 and all of the 2014 regular season due to his role in the Miami Dolphins bullying incident. Up until that point Incognito enjoyed a fairly solid career and called the time away from the game a “very humbling experience”, something he’d like to turn the page on immediately. Buffalo didn’t waste any time helping that cause, signing the former Pro-Bowl guard early in the off season to solidify its weak interior line.
Tentatively slated to start at guard for Buffalo this season, the man hasn’t been able to hit someone in an NFL-type environment in a long time either; something that shouldn’t be downplayed. With the extra chip on his shoulder and a ground and pound offense that fits his bruising style, Richie can get back to what he does best. Incognito is also on a one-year prove-it deal so he’s got the rest of his career and plenty of Benjamins to play for in 2015.
After four years of backing up Joey Flacco and receiving very little playing time with the Baltimore Ravens, Taylor gets his first chance at a starting quarterback job this season with the Bills. Many have clamored over Tyrod’s speed and strong arm since he entered the league in 2011, with former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis even calling him the “human highlight reel”.
Taylor’s got talent that can get anyone excited, but it remains to be seen what the “wildcard” in Buffalo’s QB battle can do on the field against NFL competition. He was known primarily as a run-first quarterback coming out of college, but by many accounts has improved his passing and accuracy under the tutelage of John Harbaugh in Baltimore. Rex Ryan also stated that he wanted to trade for the former Virginia Tech Hokies’ standout when previously with the Jets, so that could help his chances of winning the job.
Either way Taylor should be licking his chops in the first real opportunity to be the opening day starter, along with proving those who thought he should have switched to wide receiver when entering the league wrong.
The days of Bills fans’ arguing over “The Gilly Lock” seem to be over. Following a solid but inconsistent first two seasons due to injury, the fourth-year cornerback has received a lot of off season praise for his 2014 performance. The former first-round pick was also just profiled as potentially being Rex’s next Revis, or a lockdown defender in his defense. His salary this year is fairly modest at $3.8 mill and in the violent game of football where financial security is king, Stephon has a lot to play for.
The Bills have already picked up Gilmore’s fifth-year option which currently would pay him around $11.08 million in 2016. That’s a top-ten payday for his position and puts the budding star in a prime spot where he can earn that security by playing well and essentially commanding a long-term contract extension. Additionally, Gilmore will be on more of an “island” in coverage this year with Rex Ryan’s defense that loves to blitz extra defenders. Often covering the opposition’s best player, the spotlight will shine even brighter on the physical cornerback in 2015 where he can really showcase what he’s worth.
Buffalo pulled off the blockbuster move of the 2014 NFL Draft when the team traded up to select Sammy Watkins 4th overall. Widely billed as the best receiver in that draft class because of his elite speed and athleticism, Watkins’ only finished fourth among rookies in receiving yards and sixth in receptions. In due fairness, Sammy battled through a hip-injury and mediocre quarterback play that saw him ranked 5th in the NFL for most uncatchable targets last season, all the while coming away with Bills’ team rookie records for receptions (65) and receiving yards (982).
Even with that performance and the stellar play by fellow rookie receivers Odell Beckham Jr. of the NY Giants and Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sammy knows he’s got the ability to do plenty more. Sammy will be fully healthy for training camp and is ready to “dominate” in the Bills’ new offense.The quarterback he will be catching passes from is still up in the air, but if he continues to make grabs like this, everything should workout just fine.
The Bills’ 2014 second-round pick had a quiet rookie season, only dressing on game day once and receiving very limited snaps, three to be exact. Doug Marrone and his coaching staff apparently didn’t like what they saw from Kouandjio, and the lack of playing time drove the linemen to change that perception.
Literally in the days following the end of last year’s regular season, the former Alabama All-American jetted to Arizona for the summer to workout with his brother Arie, former teammate Chance Warmack and trainer Lecharles Bentley, who is a two-time NFL Pro Bowler himself. Bentley is the owner of the L. Bentley O-Line Academy, which teaches offensive line skills and has worked with numerous other Pros.
The trip has already seemed to benefit Kouandjio, as Rex Ryan’s staff has said good things about his performance and currently have him penciled in as the starting right tackle on the depth chart heading into camp. Cyrus has a lot to prove this season and will definitely be trying to shake off the bust label himself in 2015.
After growing up in Pennsylvania and playing college ball at Pittsburgh, LeSean McCoy has flourished into an NFL superstar with the Philadelphia Eagles. With that reality, anytime a hometown guy who happens to be the best player on a team is traded, it usually comes with some shock value for all parties involved. The off season deal that brought McCoy to Buffalo was no exception, as the explosive running back was reportedly not thrilled with the trade at first.
That changed quickly once he realized what the Bills have going on in Upstate New York with new ownership, a new coaching staff and a talent-filled roster. Already miffed at Eagles’ head coach Chip Kelly and his controversial personnel moves since taking over in 2013, McCoy should be plenty ready to show his former boss and the rest of the league that he’s still got it. The chatter about his drop in production in 2014, which saw him average 4.2 YDS/C (down from 5.2 YDS/C the year before) should also fuel the fire for Shady this season.
The Safety from Nevada has been slowly carving out a spot on this team since his rookie year which saw him primarily work on special teams. Last year Duke played a decent 528 snaps and overall had a positive impact on the defense despite the need to sharpen up his pass coverage skills.
Now entering his third year trying to make it a breakout campaign, Williams is right in the mix for the starting safety spot along with the versatile Corey Graham. From the sounds of it the two could actually split time but regardless, Duke will be trying to solidify a position that has been a revolving door next to Aaron Williams for the past few seasons.
After a promising rookie campaign that saw him haul in 17 receptions for 283 yards and three touchdowns, Marquise Goodwin missed six games due to injury in 2014 and only caught one pass for 43 yards. All of the sudden the speedster’s roster spot isn’t guaranteed with the depth Buffalo has at receiver, although Rex has raved about “Flash” and his potential during spring practices.
Buffalo’s new offense should give the third-year receiver/kick returner some opportunity to shine, in which he’ll need to make the most of in training camp to solidify his role on the team. Bouncing back from an injury-hobbled season and fighting for his job will be more than enough reason for Goodwin to come in with a lot to prove in 2015.