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Second Mini Camp Prepares Players For Training Camp
With all the young players on the roster, camp was necessary.
by Steve Saslow
Friday June 16, 2000

Flutie and Johnson

The club wrapped up its two week mini camp yesterday and it was deemed successful. The Bills had one of the longest and most extensive off season practice programs of any team in the league. It was imperative with all the young players on the team. They needed time to learn the playbook and get used to the veterans. They will hopefully be able to come to training camp on an even par with veteran teams around the league. In this analysis we will breakdown the camp position by position and tell you who helped themselves and who didn't. We will also tell you where the position battles now stand after camp. No jobs were won or lost in mini camp, that is what training camp is for. Some players definitely turned the coaches heads though and we will tell you who has the inside track to certain jobs.


If there was a quarterback controversy going into this camp there isn't one coming out of it. Rob Johnson was one of the stars of mini-camp. He threw tight spirals that were on target most of the time. He came into camp with more muscle on his lower body to hopefully increase his mobility and keep him healthy. Doug Flutie was average during camp and it only proved that he is the backup to Johnson. The real battle is for the third quarterback job between Mike Cawley, who was in last year's camp, and rookie free agent Phil Stambaugh. Neither got much work in until the final days of camp. Cawley struggled in his few chances but probably still has the inside track to carry the clipboard in September because of his previous camp experience and NFL Europe stint. Stambaugh is a pure pocket passer that will have a chance to open some eyes early in the exhibition season.

Helped Themselves: Rob Johnson - re-established number one role
Hurt Themselves: Mike Cawley - may have hurt his chances of sticking


This is an interesting position that we talked about in depth when breaking down all the possibilities here. Antowain Smith will be the feature back when the season starts and he did nothing in mini-camp to hamper this. He did fumble once but showed fire and competitiveness with his reaction to that fumble that may show he is ready to take control of the backfield. The wildcard here is Shawn Bryson who has seemed to make a full recovery from his torn ACL last summer. We won't know for sure until he takes some hits to it in training camp and the preseason games. Bryson can either backup Smith or play fullback. He saw time in all offensive formations in camp like Smith did. Bryson also feels he can replace Thurman Thomas as the third down back. That job currently belongs to Jonathan Linton, in camp he showed his tendency to fumble again, which he showed last summer but it did not transfer over when the games were played for real. Linton may be moved back to fullback this year or be used as a third down back. This situation will likely shake out in training camp and as the season progresses. Bryson and Linton are similar and the coaches have many options on how to use these two talented players behind Smith. Bryson saw more action in camp which suggested he is ahead of Linton on the depth chart but don't read too much into that since they probably were trying to get as much work for Bryson as they could since he is coming off the serious injury. Rookie Sammy Morris will probably stick with the team as a fourth back, he also can play both halfback and fullback but saw more time in training camp at fullback and that is where he will probably be. The club may not use a fullback often but when they do it looks like tight end Sheldon Jackson will be the guy. He seems to be the most versatile of any player on the offense. He will see time at tight end, fullback, and the H-back position that the club plans to use as a new wrinkle to the offense. Jackson may even see a few carries this season as he rumbled 60 yards with his first carry of mini camp. The backfield is too complicated to really figure out what is going to happen until the ball gets kicked off for real in September.

Helped Themselves: Shawn Bryson - seems to be past his knee injury
Hurt Themselves: Jonathan Linton - return of fumbling problem

Tight Ends

With Jackson seeing more time on the field in the backfield there may be situations that all three tight ends will be on the field at the same time. The Bills experimented with three tight end sets in their third down offense. Jay Riemersma only practiced part time during camp as he is still recovering from off season groin surgery. He should be rearing to go when training camp rolls around. Bobby Collins was a star during mini camp and showed he can get downfield like a wide receiver can. The other two tight ends in camp are John Jennings and Ivan Gustafson. Jennings was in camp last year and was up and down during the past two weeks. He dropped some passes but made some nice ones this week. Gustafson struggled and won't have a chance at making the team. With all this talent at tight end and question marks surrounding the depth at wide receiver, all three tight ends may get a lot of playing time. This will be decided more on how the young wide receivers and receiving running backs fair in training camp.

Helped Themselves: Bobby Collins - definitely a downfield threat
Hurt Themselves: Ivan Gustafson - didn't establish himself

Wide Receivers

The only thing certain with this unit is that Eric Moulds and Peerless Price are the two starting receivers. Who will be number three still needs to be decided. Jeremy McDaniel was the early favorite since he spent most of last season on the practice squad. While there he caught a lot of passes in practice from Johnson. The new starting QB seems comfortable with McDaniel. The fast riser in the battle for number three isn't one of the two rookies drafted but free agent Kwame Cavil. He may have been the number one star of both the April mini-camp and the just completed June camp. McDaniel also played well most of camp, so this battle for the number three spot should continue deep into training camp. If neither fits the Bill a second tight end or third running back will probably see most of the action in spread and third down formations. The draft picks, Avion Black and Drew Haddad will probably help out mostly on special teams this year. Black is penciled in as the kick and possibly punt return man. He showed in camp that he can catch the ball however, and may be a deep threat in certain situations this season. Haddad struggled mightily week one of the June camp but came on this week and showed why he was the only offensive threat UB had last year. None of the other rookie free agent receivers showed much in mini-camp and will have to battle hard in training camp to make the roster. One intriguing player was signed this week, Scott Pingel broke all of Jerry Rice's division III records. He is behind in the game now and will need to study a lot over the next five weeks so he can compete for a job in training camp.

Helped Themselves: Kwame Cavil - number one star of camp
Hurt Themselves: Corey Jones - didn't show up

Offensive Line

This is the most stable unit on the field. John Fina, Ruben Brown, Jerry Ostroski, Joe Panos, and Robert Hicks are the starters with valuable backups in Jamie Nails and Marcus Spriggs. The only question mark is if Panos can make it back from his serious neck surgery. He showed no ill effects from the injury in mini-camp and pronounced himself ready to go. Nails is the only player not to come in to camp in shape and missed some time because of his wedding. He will be counted on to fill in if Panos can't make it back.

Helped Themselves: Jerry Ostroski - showed leadership abilities in camp
Hurt Themselves: Jamie Nails - still not in shape

Defensive Line

Marcellus Wiley seems primed and ready to step in for the departed Bruce Smith at right end. He will be backed up by first round pick Erik Flowers. Flowers showed in camp that he is the real deal as he spent much of camp running around offensive linemen to get to the quarterback or ball carrier. He will also be at left end with the first team dime defense. Ted Washington has lost 15-20 pounds and is ready to return to the top of his game at nose tackle. He will be backup in the second wave of linemen by Pat Williams again. Phil Hansen returns at left end and will move inside on the dime defense. He is now the senior member of the club, along with Henry Jones, and needs to become the leader on and off the field. The Bills feel they still have the talent to play in waves like they did last year. Shawn Price returns with the second wave and in the dime defense. Other than Flowers, no rookies established themselves. Draft pick Leif Larsen showed his strength but unfortunately also showed his lack of football experience.

Helped Themselves: Erik Flowers - showed why he was picked first
Hurt Themselves: Leif Larsen - destined for practice squad


The big news for this group from camp, is the experimenting of swapping positions for both starting outside linebackers, Sam Rogers and Keith Newman. Rogers wants to rush the quarterback more so he practiced half the time at the weakside linebacker position so he can rush the passer more. Newman needs to improve his pass coverage skills if he is going to be able to play the strong side. If not, expect the experiment not to last into the season. Sam Cowart and John Holecek continues to dominate the middle. Two rookie free agents stood out at mini camp with solid play, Kenyatta Wright and Fred Jones showed good instincts and may make the team as special teams players. Last year's other rookie pick, Jay Foreman will be the versatile backer who will backup in the dime defense as well as backup three linebacker positions.

Helped Themselves: Jay Foreman - will become important if injuries occur
Hurt Themselves: Dustin Cohen and Keith Kelsey - training camp fodder.


The secondary started off camp and looked like they didn't miss a step from last season despite losing two starters. As camp wore on the shortcomings began to show. One move was made during this camp. Antoine Winfield was moved to the starting left corner position that he held late last year when Ken Irvin was injured. Irvin will now play at right corner where he will face bigger receivers. At corner Donovan Greer will be the third guy and will play in Winfield's position during the nickel defense with Winfield moving back to his nickel back spot from last season. There is a real battle for the fourth corner spot. With Daryl Porter moved to free safety this spot is wide open. Rookie free agent Reggie Durden and Jay Hill turned heads and appear to be the early favorites for the spot. Durden is very small at 5' 8" but showed great timing and leaping ability in camp breaking up more passes than anybody else. Hill also showed good coverage skills. Courtney Jackson tore his ACL and is now out of the picture. A player that received a lot of press was David Byrd . He struggled in camp however and will need a good training camp to make the team.

Helped Themselves: Reggie Durden - if he can return punts he can win a job
Hurt Themselves: David Byrd - continues to be hampered by hamstring injury


The free safety opening has a three-way battle between Porter, Keion Carpenter and draft pick Travares Tillman. Porter is the favorite for the job and he didn't hurt himself in camp. He knows all the defensive calls which is important at free safety and he played very well in camp. Carpenter spent most of last year on the practice squad and also played very well, but Porter's on the field experience gives him an edge. Tillman struggled for the second straight camp and still needs to do a lot of work to learn the calls and the defense before his talent can take over. Henry Jones will need to take on more of the play calling capabilities from his strong safety position. Raion Hill had an outstanding camp and will be Jones' backup.

Helped Themselves: Darryl Porter - will probably win starting job
Hurt Themselves: Travares Tillman - struggling to learn everything he needs to

Special Teams

The kicking games don't have much of a role at this camp so Steve Christie didn't show up. His competition Dan Giancola, probably shouldn't have come as he struggled reaching the end zone on kickoffs. Chris Mohr seems to be facing real competition also, from rookie Jason Van Dyke who received a substantial signing bonus for a free agent. Van Dyke showed he may have what it takes to wrestle the punting job from Mohr. The return game didn't get much work in mini-camp either. Black, Durden, Price, and Haddad all took turns receiving punts in the windy conditions of the stadium and struggled. Special teams will get serious work in training camp.

Helped Themselves: Jason Van Dyke - may be the club's next punter
Hurt Themselves: Dan Giancola- if he can't reach the endzone, he won't be here

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