Friday, June 1, 2012

Bills have some narrowing down to do at receiver


Three's a crowd. In the Bills' case, so is 11.

That's the current number of wide receivers on the Bills' roster, a squad overshadowed in OTAs this week by a defensive reconstruction, but a group poised to make an efficient offense more two-dimensional this season.

The corps, led by the rehabbing Stevie Johnson, consists of an eclectic mix of veterans, rookies and third-year players whose primary goal is to not only sync up with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, but also take some of the pressure off the running-back duo of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.

Johnson, still recovering from groin surgery, isn't expected to return to the field until July for training camp, but that doesn't mean Buffalo's top receiver isn't watching and talking with his fellow receivers this week.

“I'm looking forward to getting back,” Johnson told the media Tuesday. “Looking at the guys out there, they're looking sweet and everyone's looking real good. I just want to be back out there with them. I talk with T.J. (Graham) about what to do but it’s like I’m not even out there so how could you really listen to somebody like that? But he’s looking good and everybody’s looking good. I just want to be running around with them. That’s it.”

Graham, the Bills' third-round pick and the only one yet to ink a contract in the crew, was joined this week by fellow rookie Derek Session, an undrafted University of Maine product signed by Buffalo Wednesday. Session is a converted receiver, playing both inside and outside the hashes at the position his final two years in college. He amassed had 132 catches for 1,364 yards and five touchdowns for Maine over his four-year career.

The two rookies are a continuing trend for the receiving squad, a group with an average of only three years experience and an age of only 25. The only Bills receivers with more than three years experience are Johnson (four years), Derek Hagan (seven) and Ruvell Martin (six), not counting utility player Brad Smith, who is entering his seventh season. They may be young, but the Bills see some great potential and raw ability out of many of their receivers, something they found in Johnson, who was a late-round gem for the team.

The third-year players in the group may be under the most pressure to perform this season. Donald Jones, David Nelson and Naaman Roosevelt all saw playing time last season despite injuries, with former Jet/Panther David Clowney in that mix as well. Nelson tallied five touchdowns last season, with Jones and Roosevelt only grabbing one. If their contributions are less than what the Bills are looking for, they may be riding the bench as the coaching staff filters in their other talent.

All that aside, it's still early. Though the Bills may not be as aggressive in their roster decisions as say the Patriots, who cut former Colt Anthony Gonzalez this week, pink slips are certainly in the future for some of the squad. Pending the signing of Graham and the completion of OTAs, minicamp and training camp, a lot can still happen in terms of roster moves and depth-chart decisions.

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