Five things to watch at Bills minicamp


Staff member

It’s safe to assume mandatory minicamp for the Buffalo Bills this week will lack the drama of a year ago.

Wide receiver Stefon Diggs was not on the field for the first practice, leading to head coach Sean McDermott saying he was “very concerned” about the absence. It turns out Diggs had been in the building before practice, and he was on the field the next day, but the absence created quite a buzz across the NFL landscape at an otherwise sleepy time on the league calendar.

Fast forward to this week, and the Bills will start their three-day minicamp Tuesday without Diggs. He was traded earlier this offseason to the Houston Texans. Here are five things to watch at minicamp before the Bills head on summer vacation.

1. Keon Coleman’s role​

Since we mentioned Diggs, we might as well start at receiver. Sending him to Houston opened up a big hole on the roster at No. 1 receiver. The Bills did not make a splashy move to fill that, but did use their first pick of the 2024 draft, No. 33 overall (the first pick of the second round), on Florida State wide receiver Coleman. His outgoing personality has already won him a good deal of fans. He’ll win over even more if he can show early in his career he can be counted on by quarterback Josh Allen. Right now, Coleman figures to be among the top three receivers with Khalil Shakir and Curtis Samuel. None of them figure to see the 160 targets Diggs annually averaged during his four years with the Bills. Instead, those targets will be split with the three aforementioned receivers and tight end Dalton Kincaid. Of that group, Coleman is a complete unknown as a rookie. He’ll have plenty of eyes on him every time he’s on the field throughout minicamp, training camp and the preseason as he looks to carve out a role.

2. Rasul Douglas watch​

With the release of Tre’Davious White this offseason, Douglas is the Bills’ new No. 1 cornerback. He’s heading into the final season of his contract, and was not present at any of the voluntary organized team activities that were open to the media. Those practices were voluntary, so it’s not worth losing much sleep over Douglas not being there. If, for some reason, he was not at a mandatory practice, however, the situation would change drastically. Douglas is a very important piece of the Bills’ defensive puzzle entering 2024. The team lacks depth behind Douglas and fellow projected starter Christian Benford, so it’s counting on both of them to stay healthy and be productive. Former first-round pick Kaiir Elam is the projected No. 3 cornerback, and his professional career thus far has been underwhelming, to put it kindly. Elam has benefitted from Douglas’ absence in that he’s been able to work with the starting defense throughout the spring.

Connor McGovern, shown during OTAs last week, will replace Mitch Morse as the Bills' center this season. How well will he adjust? Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News

3. Connor McGovern’s transition​

The trade of Diggs was such a stunner that it has overshadowed some of the other notable offseason departures. Among them is the loss of center Mitch Morse, who was released in a move to save money against the salary cap. Morse played at a high level last year and was a team captain. Just as important, he has been Allen’s center for basically the quarterback’s entire career (save his rookie year). In other words, Morse is not easy to replace. The job falls to McGovern, who had experience playing center in college, but hasn’t done it much at the NFL level. How quickly can McGovern and Allen work out the finer details of the quarterback-center exchange? How will his linemates adjust to McGovern calling out the blocking assignments? Will he adjust well to being at a new position? Those are all questions that have to be answered by McGovern. Not all of them will come in minicamp, but it’s a start to an important change for the Bills’ offensive line.

Bills defensive end Von Miller, second from right, has shed his knee brace as he comes back from surgery. Harry Scull Jr., Buffalo News

4. Von Miller’s progress​

Let’s call it like it is: Miller was a shell of himself last year. Coming off knee surgery to repair a torn ACL, the 35-year-old barely contributed. The Bills need that to change in 2024. Buffalo lost edge rusher Leonard Floyd in free agency to the 49ers. Floyd led the team with 10.5 sacks last year. It’s a necessity that Miller provides a good chunk of that lost production. The hope is that both Greg Rousseau and A.J. Epenesa continue to progress in their young careers, but Miller is the leader on the defensive line. He may never be the player he once was, but he at least needs to be someone opposing offenses have to account for. Miller has shed the knee brace, which is a good sign, but he’ll need to continue his positive momentum into training camp and the preseason.

5. Chase Claypool’s push​

It’s early, of course, but Claypool has made a strong initial impression since signing as a free agent after the draft. He had all the right things to say about his previous troubles in Pittsburgh, Chicago and Miami. Of course, at this point in his career, actions matter more than words. To that end, Claypool has put together strong practices when the media has been able to attend. He’s used his 6-foot-4, 238-pound frame to make contested catches. A former second-round draft pick, the talent is there. If the top three receivers are indeed set with Coleman, Shakir and Samuel (in some order), that leaves potentially three more jobs at the position. Claypool needs to separate himself from a group that includes Marques Valdez-Scantling, K.J. Hamler, Mack Collins, Andy Isabella and Justin Shorter, among others. Special teams could be the separator, and Claypool has said the right things about his willingness to take on that role.