The 4th of July just passed and that means that football is almost back. The Buffalo Bills will be reporting earlier than other teams to training camp. They are playing the season opener this year against the reigning champion, LA Rams. The Bills’ rookies will report to camp on July 18th, while the rest of the team must report on July 23rd. With camp only a few weeks away, let’s take a look at what players on the roster are in need of a big training camp performance.
Back during the 2020 NFL draft, the Buffalo Bills used a second-round pick on defensive end, A.J. Epenesa. The 6’6” d-end out of Iowa has flashed at times but, he has been mostly underwhelming thus far. With the huge addition of Von Miller, he and Gregory Rousseau will be manning the starter spots. Epenesa is already reduced to a reserve role. Now throw in promising prospect Boogie Basham and the return of Shaq Lawson and the D-end position looks crowded on paper.
Epenesa in his rookie year took it slow as the Bills wanted him to lose weight and put it all back on in muscle. In two years in the league, he has only logged 28 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, and 13 quarterback hits. While he won’t be cut, Epenesa needs to have a big camp and prove he deserves playing time. Then with that earned time, he needs to prove why he was a second-round selection.
The Buffalo Bills took Marquez Stevenson in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL draft out of Houston. The team liked him enough to keep him around despite an early-season injury. They even activated him and handed him the main kick and punt returner duties after Isiah McKenzie had lost the trust of the coaching staff. Eventually, Stevenson would also lose the spot, and the sure-handed All-Pro safety, Micah Hyde, took over. Stevenson only has a couple of downs played at the actual wide receiver position. However, he did make some nice plays last preseason when he was playing. It’s going to be tough for Stevenson to make the roster. Especially, solely as a wide receiver in a crowded receiver room. If he can prove he should be the kick returner over guys like McKenzie and the recently acquired Tavon Austin, he can earn himself a spot.
Another former sixth-round wide receiver, Hodgins has been with the Bills for the past two years. Not many people remember but, before he injured his shoulder in pre-season his rookie year, Hodgins was standing out as much as Gabe Davis. A big thing he has going for him is his size at 6’3”. The Bills’ receiver room is made up primarily of smaller route runners and they don’t have a big physical presence at the position. Hodgins could give the Bills that big receiver that they need.
It will be an uphill battle for him as Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Jamison Crowder and even rookie Khalil Shakir are essentially locks to make the team. That leaves only one to two spots open at receiver. Hodgins will have to beat out Marquez Stevenson, Tavon Austin and fan favorite, Jake Kumerow. If Hodgins has a big camp, he could sneak onto the roster. If he can provide on special teams as well, that will definitely help.