We are almost two weeks into Buffalo Bills camp and sit in a weird spot. We are still over a week out from preseason action. Still, the constant updates of players having good days, players having bad days, fights, injuries, and who is playing with who, makes it hard to pinpoint what storylines have actually mattered and what is just noise. Allow me to guide you through that noise and look at what matters so far.
Isaiah McKenzie Putting the Slot in a Stranglehold
Every year we seem to hear about how good of a camp Isaiah McKenzie is having. Yet, come the season, he struggled to produce on a consistent basis. With just under four full seasons with the Bills, Cole Beasley now out of the picture, and Jameson Crowder sidelined since the start of camp, there may finally be more fire to this year’s training camp smoke surrounding the face of the franchise. New offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey goes as far as to note:
“He’s been doing a great job running routes, being where he needs to be for Josh, creating separation & doing things in our system to gain that comfort level with Josh.”
If McKenzie has already developed a chemistry with Josh Allen and earned Ken Dorsey’s trust, there may not be much Crowder can do to earn the number one slot job back. Perhaps it is Mckenzie’s “turn.”
Defensive Line Dominates
Even with the rotation of offensive linemen so far due to injuries and personal matters, the Bills’ defensive line has been the best position group of training camp. So much so that they had to be removed from portions of practice due to problems they were causing for the offense. Von Miller’s and Ed Oliver’s dominance shouldn’t be a surprise to Bills fans, as both finished last season strong. Oliver has been a constant presence in the backfield throughout camp.
Rob Quinn breaks down Ed Oliver’s expectations this week. But former second-round draft picks Boogie Basham and A.J. Epenesa have both flashed throughout camp. As I outlined before, both players have plenty to prove in training camp. Buffalo’s center Mitch Morse went on to call it “cheating” lining Ed Oliver and Von Miller next to each other. All this without Tim Settle, who has missed most of camp. (But even he managed to grab an interception from Case Keenum prior to getting hurt.)
— Air Raid | Training Camp (@TheBillsGuys) August 2, 2022
Rookie Kaiir Elam challenging Stefon Diggs
Whether he plays opposite Tre’Davious White or Dane Jackson in week one, Kaiir Elam will have a lot on his plate as a rookie. Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier have made it clear they expect him to be an immediate contributor. It would appear Elam is ready to face the challenge. Going up against Stefon Diggs is a tall task for a veteran corner, let alone a rookie.
Throughout camp, Elam has shown he is not easily immediately. Despite struggling with some grabbiness, which led coaches to put him in a pair of boxing gloves, Elam has flashed the skills that made him a number one pick. Elam’s and Digg’s battles have been the main event at Bills camp, with head coach Sean McDermott noting that
“… (Elam) had a couple of good battles yesterday when the ball was thrown into a contested ball situation, and I think Stef won a couple of them and Kaiir won a few as well.”
Leslie Frazier has noted his maturity, contributing to both Elam’s father and Uncle playing in the NFL.
Elam himself describes himself as a “sponge” in trying to soak up knowledge from players like Stefon Diggs. This combination of talent, competitiveness, and professionalism bodes well for the rookie.