Through nearly two weeks of training camp, much of the national talk surrounding the Buffalo Bills has been about the quarterback battle and the development of rookie EJ Manuel.
But with the team's first preseason game looming Sunday, buzz has picked up this week around a pair of players who flew under the radar entering training camp.
Let's dig deeper into each one:
WR Chris Hogan
The top of the Bills' depth chart at receiver is virtually set: Once Steve Johnson returns from a hamstring injury, he's the unquestioned leader of the group. Beyond that, T.J. Graham and rookies Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin are all locks to make the roster, although their exact roles have yet to come into focus. While Brad Smith could earn the No. 5 receiver job based on special-teams contributions, the back end of the receiver picture is blurry.
Now with his fourth NFL team in three seasons, Hogan is beginning to emerge as a serious candidate for the 53-man roster. He has yet to play in an NFL game, played at a small college (Monmouth University) and doesn't possess freakish size or athleticism. Other than an appearance on HBO's "Hard Knocks" series with the Dolphins last season, when running back Reggie Bush dubbed him "7-Eleven" because he's "always open," Hogan is just another name on the roster.
Yet Thursday's practice was another positive step for Hogan in making the team, with Manuel connecting with Hogan on several passes during the session, according to the Buffalo News' Mark Gaughan. Moreover, WGR 550's Joe Buscaglia named Hogan his MVP of Thursday's practice, saying that Hogan has looked the best among the handful of receivers who are fighting for jobs.
The key for Hogan will be sustaining that success through the preseason. His competition at wide receiver includes Da'Rick Rogers, an undrafted free agent who likely would have been selected in April had it not been for failed drug tests and other issues in college. The Bills could decide that they want to keep Rogers on their 53-man roster and try to get Hogan onto their practice squad, but a solid preseason from Hogan would make that decision more difficult.
A third-round pick in 2010 by Buddy Nix, Carrington has arguably underperformed through his first three seasons. Drafted as a 3-4 defensive end, the Bills tweaked their defensive scheme last season, transitioning into a 4-3 look in which Carrington lined up inside. He went from starting six games in 2011 to none in 2012, although he was more productive, recording two sacks and forcing a fumble. He also blocked three field goals, but expectations for a third-round selection are higher than just making plays on special teams.
This season, Carrington has been one player who has benefited from defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's new scheme. While Pro Bowl defensive linemen Kyle Williams and Mario Williams have been limited by injuries so far in camp, Carrington is setting himself up to earn a role alongside both those players once they fully return.
"He’s probably been our most consistent player on the grade sheets, very rarely gets a minus," Pettine said Thursday. "He’s probably our most technically sound guy up front, plays at great pad level."
According to Buscaglia, Carrington had two sacks in Monday night's scrimmage.
"As you saw in the scrimmage, he’s a guy that usually quiet. But when it’s a live situation like that, he gets pretty fired up," Pettine said. "Our guys fed of his energy a little bit and made some plays. It was fun to watch."