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Bills reset 2015: Rex loads up on veterans

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Despite not drafting until the second round, Buffalo Bills new head coach Rex Ryan managed to fill a lot of needs in the offseason.

So, despite waiting until the second round for their first draft pick last week, the Bills roster has been overhauled for a trip into the 2015 season.

The Bills will get a look at the youngest additions in this weekend’s rookie minicamp

But most of the improvement involved veterans — trading for quarterback Matt Cassel (Vikings), running back LeSean McCoy (Eagles) and signing free agent wide receivers Torrey Smith (49ers), Percy Harvins (Jets), tight end Charles Clay (Dolphins) and controversial offensive lineman Richie Incognito, formerly the central figure in the Dolphins bully-gate.

The Bills did add six rookies from the draft, starting with Florida State cornerback Ronald Darby with their intitial pick, in the second round, and his college teammate, tight end Nick O’Leary, the grandson of golfing great Jack Nicklaus.

Fresh from quarterback woes with the New York Jets, Ryan’s first — or most important — task is to figure out who will start at that key position for the Bills.

Supposedly, an open quarterback competition is in full swing with the combatants being Cassel, a logical favorite, EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor.

Ryan said he was pleased with what he saw from the quarterbacks during the recent voluntary minicamp. Ryan reiterated that everyone starts from zero, and there will be no bias in the ultimate decision. The guy who plays the best will start opening day against Indianapolis.

“I’d rather have, in a perfect world, ‘this is our guy,’ but I’m excited about the competition,” said Ryan. “You don’t know how it’s going to shake out. There’s not anybody who knows how it’s going to shake out. We’re going to give them a platform that will showcase what they can all do, and let’s see what happens. Is it a perfect situation? No, I’m not saying it is, but when we end it, it’ll be a clear guy who will be No. 1. There are three guys in my opinion, who can be NFL quarterbacks.”

Here is an early look at Ryan’s overhauled Bills for 2015:

2014 RECORD: 9-7, 2nd in AFC East

COACH: Rex Ryan

1st season with Bills

7th season as NFL head coach

50-52 overall; 4-2 postseason

2015 CAMP SCHEDULE

Rookie minicamp: May 8-10

OTA dates: May 26-27, May 29, June 1, June 3-4, June 8-11

Mandatory Minicamp: June 16-18

PROJECTED DEPTH CHART

(Rookies in capitals)

Offense:

WR: R. Woods, C. Hogan, D. Thompson, J. Brown, T. Palmer

Slot: P. Harvin

LT: C. Glenn

LG: C. Williams, C. Richardson, D. Johnson, A. Kupper

C: E. Wood, K. Urbik

RG: R. Incognito, J. MILLER, W. Campbell, D. Morrell

RT: S. Henderson, C. Kouandjio

TE: C. Clay, C. Gragg, N. O’LEARY, C. Manhertz

WR: S. Watkins, M. Goodwin, M. Easley, M. Thigpen, C. Holley, D. LEWIS

QB: M. Cassel, E. Manuel, T. Taylor, J. Tuel

FB: J. Felton, M. Gray

RB: L. Mccoy, F. Jackson, A. Dixon, B. Brown, K. WILLIAMS, C. Knox

Defense:

LDE: M. Williams, J. Wynn, A. Carrington

NT: M. Dareus, C. Bryant

DT: K. Williams, S. Charles, J. Towns

RDE: J. Hughes, M. Lawson, B. Johnson

SLB: N. Bradham

MLB: P. Brown, T. Powell, J. Gaines

WLB: R. Johnson, T. STEWARD

LCB: L. Mckelvin, C. Graham, R. Cockrell, M. Butler

SS: A. Williams, B. Rambo, J. Meeks, D. Broomfield

FS: D. Williams, K. Ladler

RCB: S. Gilmore, R. Brooks, R. DARBY, R. Sweeting

N-CB: N. Robey

Special Teams:

P: C. Schmidt, J. Gay

PK: D. Carpenter, J. Gay

LS: G. Sanborn

H: C. Schmidt, J. Gay

PR: L. Mckelvin, F. Jackson, N. Robey

KR: M. Goodwin, S. Watkins

GRADING THE DRAFT — C-

Per Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com

When he didn’t have Darrelle Revis starring for him in New York, coach Rex Ryan struggled to find cornerbacks to fit his aggressive scheme. As such, it wasn’t surprising to see the Bills make Florida State speedster Ronald Darby the first draft pick of the Ryan era in Buffalo. Darby has great tools but isn’t polished. Guard John Miller is a tough guy who fits in with Ryan’s preference for strength at the point of attack and Karlos Williams certainly offers tools, as well, but this wasn’t the type of draft that will significantly close the gap between Buffalo and division-leading New England.

SCOUTING ALL DRAFT PICKS

–Round 2/50 — Ronald Darby, CB, 5-11, 195, Florida State

In Rex Ryan’s aggressive defense, it’s imperative that he have lots of physical corners who can cover one-on-one and Darby has the size and speed to do that. General manager Doug Whaley acknowledged that Darby’s production wasn’t great in 2014, but he pointed out that he didn’t get challenged much. The year before, he was part of a national championship defense that led the country in fewest passing yards allowed per game.

–Round 3/81 — John Miller, G, 6-2, 303, Louisville

Whaley called him a mauler, which is exactly the kind of blocker offensive coordinator Greg Roman likes for his ground-and-pound running game. Miller is a bit short for the position, and he will have to improve his technique as a pass protector. He was a four-year starter at Louisville who should be able to come in and instantly compete for the vacant left guard spot in Buffalo.

–Round 5/155 — Karlos Williams, RB, 6-1, 225, Florida State

This pick didn’t make a lot of sense. Running back is a deep position for the Bills, even if Ryan ends up cutting Bryce Brown, who he doesn’t seem enamored with. With LeSean McCoy, Fred Jackson, and Boobie Dixon on the roster, adding even more depth to a position where you rarely would have more than three active on game day was perplexing. Williams did have a knack for finding the end zone (22 touchdowns in two years), and he could contribute to special teams.

–Round 6/188 — Tony Steward, LB, 6-0, 235, Clemson

Many evaluators didn’t even project Steward to get drafted, mainly because he battled injuries his entire career. He suffered two serious knee injuries, and also struggled with hamstring issues. The Bills lack depth at inside linebacker, but it would seem Steward is a long-shot to make the team unless he proves to be a special teams stud, which he was in college.

–Round 6/194 — Nick O’Leary, TE, 6-3, 247, Florida State

The grandson of golf legend Jack Nicklaus will have a chance to make the Bills because their tight end depth chart is thin behind free-agent signee Charles Clay. O’Leary was the 2014 John Mackey Award winner as the nation’s best tight end. He set FSU tight end records for receptions (114), yards (1,591), and touchdowns (18). He has excellent hands, but his lack of speed will curtail some of that big-play ability.

–Round 7/234 — Dezmin Lewis, WR, 6-4, 212, Central Arkansas

An experienced player who saw action in 48 games with 36 starts. He will be the tallest receiver on Buffalo’s depth chart, an attribute the Bills have lacked in their passing game. He made 197 receptions for 2,618 yards and 24 touchdowns at a lower level of competition, and he’ll have to make the transition to the NFL. Given the Bills’ depth, it seems unlikely Lewis can make the team.

NOTABLE VETERANS ACQUIRED:

–DE Alex Carrington: UFA Rams; terms unknown.

–QB Matt Cassel (trade Vikings).

–TE Charles Clay: Transition FA Dolphins; $38M/5 yrs, $10M SB/$24.5M guaranteed.

–FB Jerome Felton: UFA Vikings; $9.2M/4 yrs, $2.6M SB/$4M guaranteed.

–WR Percy Harvin: FA Jets; $24M/3 yrs (voids to $6M/1 yr); $3M SB.

–G Richie Incognito: FA; $1M/1 yr, $100,000 SB.

–WR Torrey Smith: UFA 49ers; $40M/5 yrs, $8M SB/$22M guaranteed.

–QB Tyrod Taylor: UFA Ravens; $3.35M/3 yrs, $400,000 SB/$1.15M guaranteed.

NOTABLE PLAYERS LOST:

–TE Scott Chandler (released).

–LB Larry Dean: UFA Buccaneers; $745,000/1 yr.

–T Chris Hairston: Not tendered as RFA/Chargers; $685,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB.

–QB Kyle Orton (retired).

–G Erik Pears: UFA 49ers; $4.7M/2 yrs, $500 SB/$1M guaranteed.

–LB Keith Rivers (released).

–S Da’Norris Searcy: UFA Titans; $23.75M/4 yrs, $4.5M SB/$10.5M guaranteed.

–TE Lee Smith: UFA Raiders; $9.1M/3 yrs, $1.6M SB/$3.1M guaranteed.

–RB C.J. Spiller: UFA Saints; $18M/4 yrs, $5M SB/$9M guaranteed.

PRESEASON PEEK — Mark that calendar

All times Eastern

Aug. 14: CAROLINA (Fri.), 7:00

Aug. 20: at Cleveland (Thu.), 8:00

Aug. 29: PITTSBURGH (Sat.), 4:00

Sept. 3: at Detroit (Thu.), 7:30


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