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Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Bills Camp Watch

By James Walker

Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:

One thing I'm certain of: We will see a big improvement in talent at Bills training camp. This is the most talented team head coach Chan Gailey has had in his three seasons in Buffalo. It’s not even close, especially after a series of solid acquisitions this offseason.

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. The pressure begins this week in training camp.

One thing that might happen: We might finally see a healthy Shawne Merriman in training camp. 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 can definitely 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 are not relying 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 at Bills camp. 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 No. 2 quarterback Tyler Thigpen for the backup job.

The Bills are behind Fitzpatrick, especially after paying him $59 million. But they also realize the importance of quarterback depth, after Fitzpatrick played the second half of the season with injured ribs and struggled. 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.