Bills offense front and center as camp opens Thursday

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Photo credit Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

If I asked you to come up with your list of questions about the 2019 Buffalo Bills as they prepare to open training camp on Thursday, my guess is most, if not all of your questions would involve the offensive side of the ball.

One year after drafting the player they hope will be their franchise quarterback in Josh Allen, the Bills' brain trust spent this past offseason trying to upgrade every other position on offense. That is why scrutinizing the offense will be the main task of media members and fans for the next month-plus.

It all starts with Allen, who, in theory, has been surrounded by better personnel as he embarks on Year 2 as a Bill. Allen will look to build on what he was able to do in the second half of last season after returning from an elbow injury. It remains to be seen if 11 starts, in addition to the free agent signings and draft picks, will all add up to a better looking Allen. Hopefully, the Bills will have a better running game beyond their quarterback, who ended up leading the team in rushing in 2018. Having the same offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll, back for a second season should be a boost.

Most Bills fans will probably put their eggs in the improved receiving corps basket.

The additions of John Brown and Cole Beasley give Allen two legitimate NFL targets to play with. Brown is envisioned as an ideal deep threat to go with Allen’s rocket arm. He averaged a career-high 17 yards per-catch in Baltimore last season and has never been below 13 yards per-catch in any of his five NFL campaigns. I think Beasley can be a huge help/security blanket for Allen, giving him a reliable target in the short-to-intermediate passing game. Beasley averaged 80 targets over his last four seasons in Dallas. He had 228 catches and 17 touchdowns and Beasley is fearless. He has no problem going over the middle and will take a big hit in order to make a catch. That fearlessness coupled with the fact that he isn’t the biggest player in the world (listed at 5’ 8” and 174 pounds) makes the fact that he’s missed only one game the last five years pretty amazing.

Bills fans seem to be really excited over Robert Foster. An undrafted free agent signing last year, Foster emerged as a big weapon over the final half of the season. After recording just two catches in his first six games, Foster had 25 catches for an eye-opening 511 yards over his last seven games. He and Brown give Allen two deep threats to choose from.

Zay Jones showed some good chemistry with Allen as the season went on as well. Jones improved in terms of his reliability as his catch percentage went from a shaky 35% in his rookie year to 54% last season. Jones also ended up with seven touchdown catches, which is an impressive number for, what was, one of the worst passing teams in the league.

The biggest questions for the offense going into camp come up along the line. Who will be the starting five come Week 1 against the New York Jets?

Your guess is as good as mine.

You can write down Mitch Morse at center in ink, but after that I’d advise you to use a pencil and make sure you have plenty of eraser.

Dion Dawkins has the inside track at left tackle, but that is far from a certainty since Dawkins is coming off a step back season last year. One of the free agent signings was Ty Nsehke, who also has starting left tackle experience.

I’m very interested to see how the Bills handle the line competition at camp and in the preseason games. It's great to say "let the best man win the job," but you’d also like to have a starting five-man unit in place as soon as possible so they can get as many practice reps and as much game time in preparation for the opener.

While many of the questions are on the offensive side of the ball, I don’t want to ignore the defense and special teams.

The defense looks to be in pretty good shape with all of the starters back except for Kyle Williams. Jordan Phillips and first round draft pick Ed Oliver will battle for that starting spot, but both men will get playing time as part of the defensive line rotation.

The biggest question on defense is who starts at cornerback opposite Tre'Davious White? Levi Wallace, an undrafted free agent signing out of Alabama last year, ended up starting the last half of the season, and it appears to be his job to lose. The Bills did bring in competition with the signings of Kevin Johnson and former Bills corner E.J. Gaines, but Wallace certainly showed promise after taking over in 2018.

There are actually a handful of questions on special teams and it isn’t just about the players.

Heath Farwell takes over as special teams coordinator and it's his first time in the top job after serving as an assistant special teams coach with the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks.

Stephen Hauschka wasn’t exactly "Hausch-Money" last season, although he spent part of the year kicking through an injury. Hauschka hit on just 78% of his field goal attempts, his lowest number since 2009. The previous three years had seen Hauschka have success rates of 87%, 89% and 93%.

There is a punting competition to track between Corey Bojorquez and Cory Carter, and we will see whether or not the free agent addition of Andre Roberts can put some life back in the Bills' return game. Roberts averaged over 29 yards on kick returns last season, good for second-best in the league. He had an 86-yard return that helped set up a touchdown in the Jets win over the Bills at New Era Field last December. Roberts also averaged 14 yards on punt returns last season and had one touchdown.

Let the fun begin!