- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:
One thing I'm certain of: We will see a big improvement in talent, the most coach Chan Gailey has had in his three seasons in Buffalo. It’s not even close, especially after a series of solid offseason acquisitions.
It started with the $100 million signing of former Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams. It continued with the signing of fellow defensive end Mark Anderson, the selections of cornerback Stephon Gilmore and left tackle Cordy Glenn in the draft, and the extensions given to No. 1 receiver Steve Johnson and starting tailback Fred Jackson. Expectations are running high in Buffalo.
One thing that might happen: We might finally see a healthy Shawne Merriman. It’s been awhile since "Lights Out" has been 100 percent. But offseason Achilles surgery has Merriman feeling good about his chances to be healthy and productive again in 2012.
Merriman is a role player at this point of his career. But Buffalo definitely can use him in the rotation at defensive end in its new 4-3 defense. The Bills could have a formidable and deep pass rush at defensive end with Williams, Anderson, Chris Kelsay and a healthy Merriman. The Bills have enough depth this season that they might not have to rely on Merriman, but it would be a nice bonus if Merriman returns close to his old form.
One thing we won't see: We will not see a quarterback controversy. Some initially thought backup Vince Young, because of his big name, was signed to push starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Instead, Young will be in a battle with incumbent Tyler Thigpen for the No. 2 job.
The Bills are behind Fitzpatrick, especially after paying him $59 million. But they also realize the importance of quarterback depth after Fitzpatrick struggled in the second half of last season playing with injured ribs. Young has 30 career wins and can fill in for Fitzpatrick if he is injured. But Young must get by Thigpen first, and I think that’s going to be a tougher battle than people think.
3dField Yates and Rich Cimini