The Buffalo Bills open training camp on July 30 at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, New York. Here’s a closer look at the Bills' camp, which wraps up on Aug. 22:
Top storyline: If top cornerback Stephon Gilmore doesn't report to the start of camp, it will be one of the biggest contract-related headlines across the NFL. If Gilmore reports to camp, it will essentially be a non-story. The 10th-overall pick in the 2012 draft, who is entering the final season of his rookie contract, said simply, "We'll see," last month when asked if he'll be with the team to start camp. If Gilmore chooses to hold out in hopes of securing a long-term contract extension, he will be subject to a fine of $30,000 per day plus one regular-season game check for every preseason game missed. In Gilmore's case, that would mean losing about $652,000 for every preseason game he held out. Given that steep cost, the odds are that Gilmore shows up to camp and continues to negotiate with the team.
If Tyrod Taylor has a strong training camp …: It could put some heat on the Bills to get an extension done with Taylor before the start of the regular season, but a new deal would still be far from certain. Even if Taylor continues to look the part of a franchise quarterback during training camp and the preseason, the Bills hold the trump card in this game: the franchise tag. The Bills' wisest strategy could be to wait and see how Taylor performs in the regular season; if his arrow continues to point up, then the Bills should have the cap space next spring to tag Taylor for the yet-to-be-determined amount that should surpass $20 million.
Player who will have fans buzzing: Wide receiver Dezmin Lewis. With Sammy Watkins saying Tuesday that he is still unsure when he will return to the field following offseason foot surgery, and the Bills searching for a No. 3 receiver after losing Chris Hogan in free agency, Lewis’ name has risen up the depth chart this spring. Lewis, the Bills’ 2015 seventh-round draft pick who spent most of last season on the practice squad, will get plenty of looks this August in front of the training-camp crowds and would also creep onto the fantasy-football radar by having a strong preseason.
Position battle worth watching: It wouldn't be a stretch to say the Bills have the best group of running backs in the NFL, and how the depth chart sorts out is still uncertain. Running backs coach Anthony Lynn said last month that starter LeSean McCoy's reps will be limited in both training camp and preseason games, which will give 2015 fifth-round pick Karlos Williams, 2016 fifth-round pick Jonathan Williams and veteran Mike Gillislee plenty of touches. Karlos Williams will miss the first four games of the regular season because of a substance abuse suspension, which should give Gillislee and Jonathan Williams a chance to make their mark. Jonathan Williams isn't likely to be suspended until there is a resolution in his legal case for a DWI arrest earlier this month. That could take months or even until the 2017 season.
That rookie should start: General manager Doug Whaley answered this question for everyone in May, saying his first three draft picks this spring -- first-round outside linebacker Shaq Lawson, second-round inside linebacker Reggie Ragland and third-round defensive end Adolphus Washington -- would all start "off the bus." Of course, Lawson won't be starting immediately because he had shoulder surgery shortly after Whaley's comments and is expected to miss the first several games of the regular season. But all signs point toward Ragland replacing Nigel Bradham (who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason) and Washington replacing Mario Williams (who was released and signed with the Miami Dolphins) in the starting lineup.
Veteran whose job is in jeopardy: The Bills cut ties this spring with some of their higher-priced older players -- Williams, cornerback Leodis McKelvin, guard Kraig Urbik, defensive end Jarius Wynn and running back Boobie Dixon -- which left fewer veterans who will be sweating out the summer. However, kicker Dan Carpenter's roster spot is still far from secure. After missing six extra points last season, Carpenter agreed to a restructured contract in March that will require him to make the 53-man roster to earn back his lost cash. Undrafted rookie Marshall Morgan will give Carpenter a run for his money.
Final hurdle for Aaron Williams: Safety Aaron Williams' career looked to be in jeopardy last October when he was placed on injured reserve following a neck injury. Williams, who later underwent surgery to "shave" two vertebra in his neck, was back at practice this spring during non-contact organized team activities and has been encouraged with his progress in coming back from the injury. However, he has stated that the true test of whether he can return to play will come during training camp, when contact is allowed during padded practices. How Williams' body reacts -- and if he experiences further numbness -- will be something to watch as players don pads in early August.
Health check: Who should fans not expect to see suited up when the Bills begin camp July 30? The best bets to be sidelined are Watkins (foot) and Lawson (shoulder). The recovery timetables of defensive tackle Kyle Williams (knee), wide receivers Kolby Listenbee (hernia) and Marcus Easley (knee), offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson (Crohn's disease) and Gilmore (shoulder) could also limit those players' availabilities to start camp. There could also be other players with more minor ailments, or who fail a conditioning test, who start camp on the active/non-football injury or active/physically unable to perform lists. Such players remain on the 90-man roster and can come off those lists at any time.
What fans will be saying after camp: "Just stay healthy." I think Bills fans will understand if they don't see much of their two offensive stars, McCoy and Watkins, during camp and preseason games this August. Injuries during last regular season set back the offense and, along with the Bills' defensive struggles, derailed what was a promising season. Having McCoy -- and especially Watkins and Taylor -- healthy consistently during this upcoming season will be one major key to winning. If the Bills can keep their offensive triplets on the field then fans will be quoting Al Davis: "Just win, baby." It's been 16 years since the Bills have made the postseason, and with each passing year fans grow more restless to watch a team that doesn't drop the ball before January.
For daily updates at camp, check out the Buffalo Bills clubhouse page.