After rare playoff berth, Bills may be facing quiet rebuild

The Buffalo Bills open training camp on July 26 at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, New York. Here’s a closer look at the Bills' camp:

Top storyline: Are the Bills good enough to make the playoffs again after snapping their 17-year postseason drought? A strong final month of the season and help from AFC friends propelled a flawed Bills team into the playoffs in 2017. Since then, the Bills have changed offensive coordinators, traded their starting quarterback, lost two starting offensive linemen to retirement and allowed two defensive starters to sign elsewhere in free agency. Will their replacements make an immediate impact, or should the Bills be considered a team in the process of a quiet rebuild?

QB depth chart: AJ McCarron/Nathan Peterman, Josh Allen. There is no clear-cut No. 1 on the depth chart. McCarron and Peterman evenly split first-team reps during the spring, with Allen receiving some limited work with that group by minicamp in June. Coach Sean McDermott said at the conclusion of minicamp that the breakdown of practice time between the three should stay the same at the start of training camp. McDermott wants some clarity at the spot by the third or fourth week of training camp in order to build continuity within the offense. It will likely come down to McCarron or Peterman, but Allen's trajectory as the No. 7 overall pick should eventually put him in position to start.

Bubble watch: DE Shaq Lawson. The Bills' first-round pick in 2016 has thus far failed to emerge in the defensive schemes of either former coach Rex Ryan or current coach Sean McDermott. Comments from both Lawson and his coaches this offseason have made it clear he is at a crossroads with the team, which has prompted Lawson to shed extra weight and take a more disciplined approach to his game. The problem for Lawson is the Bills stocked up on defensive ends this offseason, signing former Redskins pass-rusher Trent Murphy to a three-year, $22.5 million deal while also bringing aboard Terrence Fede and Owa Odighizuwa. Once Murphy fully returns from a knee injury that kept him limited in the spring, Lawson will be competing for a rotational role, if not for his 53-man roster spot entirely. It also seems possible the Bills could trade Lawson after they dealt several draft choices by the Bills' former management -- including Marcell Dareus, Sammy Watkins and Reggie Ragland -- last year.

This rookie could start: MLB Tremaine Edmunds. The Bills allowed middle linebacker Preston Brown to sign with the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency, leaving a hole at a spot where Brown had played almost every snap since being drafted in 2014. To the surprise of general manager Brandon Beane, Edmunds was available at No. 16 overall in the April draft, and the Bills were able to trade up to land an athletic prospect who they hope can develop into the centerpiece of their defensive front seven. Edmunds, 20, will have huge responsibilities as a rookie in receiving play calls from the sideline and aligning the defense.

Monitoring LeSean McCoy: The NFL said Monday that it continues to review a July 10 home invasion in which McCoy’s ex-girlfriend reportedly was robbed of jewelry and beaten in an Atlanta-area house owned by the star running back. An attorney for the victim, Delicia Cordon, told ESPN that her client suspects McCoy played a role in the attack, but neither the Fulton County (Georgia) district attorney’s office, nor McCoy’s attorney, has commented on the case. Absent a last-minute decision by the NFL to place McCoy on the commissioner’s exempt list, it should be business as usual for McCoy when training camp begins. McCoy turned 30 on July 12, making him one of seven NFL running backs who enter training camp 30 or older. His age and mileage -- McCoy has the third-most career rushing attempts of any active player -- have naturally generated discussion about when he will decline. McCoy believes he can continue to be effective because his elusive playing style has allowed him to avoid taking many big hits. He showed little signs of wear and tear when on the field this spring. The question with McCoy this season seems to be less about whether he will still be effective and more about whether Chris Ivory, also 30, will be able to take more of the load off McCoy than Mike Tolbert did last season.

Position battles at wide receiver, offensive line: The tightest competition this training camp appears to be at wide receiver and offensive line under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Top receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones have injury and production questions they must answer, and beyond that, the position is a jumble of veterans (Jeremy Kerley, Andre Holmes, Rod Streater, Kaelin Clay, Quan Bray) and unproven prospects (Brandon Reilly, Austin Proehl, Ray-Ray McCloud, Malachi Dupre, Robert Foster and Cam Phillips) with little indication so far as to potential roles. The offensive line could also feature battles for starting jobs at every position except left tackle -- where 2017 second-round pick Dion Dawkins should be secure -- after the retirements of Eric Wood and Richie Incognito this offseason.