Fact or Fiction: Bills offense

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
12:00
PM ET
With Buffalo Bills players set to report to training camp on Friday, let's play a rapid-fire version of fact or fiction, starting with the offense:

1. EJ Manuel will play in all 16 games this season.

Manuel
Our take: Fiction
Justify it: After Manuel had issues in both of his knees last season, it's harder to envision him lasting from the start of training camp on July 20 through potentially January without experiencing any problems. Manuel and the Bills referred to his October knee sprain as a "freak accident," yet he was sidelined again in December after another sprain. The less Manuel tucks the ball and runs, the better his chances of staying healthy. But as much as it will make the Bills' brass squirm in the press box, Manuel will need to run on occasion this season. It would hardly be shocking if, at some point this season, swelling recurred and Manuel had to miss one or two games.

2. Bryce Brown will receive at least 50 touches this season.

Brown
Our take: Fact
Justify it: After trading a fourth-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for Brown, there is an expectation that he will contribute to the Bills offense this season. With C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson still in the fold, what's a realistic expectation for Brown's role? He had 128 touches his rookie year (115 carries and 13 catches) and 83 last season (75 carries and eight catches). It would be surprising if he was used that much this season, but 50 touches seems like a more attainable number. That's more than Tashard Choice was used as the third running back in recent seasons, but it's reasonable to assume the Bills will try to cut down on Fred Jackson's touches as he progresses into his mid-30s.

3. Sammy Watkins will have 1,000 receiving yards this season.

Watkins
Our take: Fiction
Justify it: He'll come close, but there is too much uncertainty at quarterback to assume that Watkins will surpass the 1,000-yard mark. Even at the height of his career in Buffalo, Stevie Johnson was barely able to eclipse that figure. The two-headed attack of Spiller and Jackson could take some opportunities away from Watkins, as could a crowded depth chart at receiver that could see Robert Woods, Mike Williams, and others catching passes on Manuel. Ultimately, Watkins' final receiving total could depend on how many big plays he can make. Long catch-and-runs -- one of Watkins' specialties at Clemson -- will help drive up that number. Yet it's not the end of the world if Watkins doesn't crack 1,000 yards. A.J. Green checked in at 1,057 yards his rookie year, while Julio Jones finished with 959 yards in his first season. I don't think anyone would fault Watkins if he's in the neighborhood of 1,000 yards but not quite at that number.

4. Scott Chandler will lead the Bills in red zone touchdown catches this season.

Chandler
Our take: Fiction
Justify it: After leading the Bills with four red zone touchdown grabs in 2012, Chandler was held without one last season. In fact, he had only only one catch in the red zone at all, a significant red flag for a 6-foot-7 tight end. Overall, the Bills were awful in the red zone last season. They were one of just four teams to finish under 50 percent in red zone touchdown efficiency. The Bills need to improve in that area this season, although I'm not sure Chandler will be the catalyst. Ideally, receiver Mike Williams should shine in the red zone with his physicality. He's a candidate to lead the team in red zone touchdowns, as is Watkins.

5. Cyrus Kouandjio will win the starting right tackle job in training camp.

Our take: Fact
Kouandjio
Justify it: We saw Kouandjio line up with the first team early in organized team acitivities but he settled into a role with the second team by minicamp. That doesn't mean that the second-round pick has been disappointing or behind schedule, and we'd expect him to get more chances with the top unit once training camp begins. Given the choice between starting Kouandjio, who turns 21 this weekend, or Erik Pears, who is 32, I think the Bills would prefer to have Kouandjio on the field and developing. Pears will make it a battle, but I'd compare it to the Manuel-Kevin Kolb competition last season. There's a certain inevitability to Kouandjio taking over, just as there would have been with Manuel even if Kolb had stayed healthy.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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