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Carucci Take2: 5 Bills defensive takeaways entering training camp

WGRZ Bills/NFL Insider Vic Carucci discusses potential contract extensions, the addition of Von Miller and more before the team opens training camp.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Here are my five takeaways on what to watch from the Buffalo Bills’ defense as the team enters training camp this weekend at St. John Fisher College:

1. Let’s begin by addressing the elephant in the room: What’s going to happen with Jordan Poyer’s pursuit of a contract extension?

I maintain confidence something will get done during camp or the preseason. In the meantime, expect Poyer to report with the rest of the veteran players because he doesn’t have any desire to face a daily fine of $50,000 for staying away from camp while under contract.

It's possible, as a precaution, the All-Pro safety won’t be on the field for drills as his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and Bills GM Brandon Beane work to reach an agreement.

The bottom line is the Bills know they are better with Poyer. They also know a happy, undistracted Poyer is the best version to have in the lineup as they look to meet arguably the loftiest expectations in franchise history.

2. As he continues to familiarize himself with his new team, Von Miller will also continue to acclimate himself with a scheme that calls for frequent rotation of linemen.

Despite the massive investment the Bills made to sign Miller as a free agent, they’ll stay true to their core philosophy and periodically have him on the sideline to allow him to be as fresh as possible at the end of games. That’s the best way of maximizing the immense pass-rushing skills he brings to the team, especially at an age (33) that puts him at/near the twilight of his NFL career.

The Bills will rotate at least seven defensive linemen in each game. They want Miller to be their best “closer,” capable of generating sacks and/or mistake-forcing hurries when the game is on the line.

3. The true quality of the Bills’ depth at cornerback is something that will show itself over time and probably won’t be fully realized until after the fourth or sixth game of the season. Still, camp practices and preseason games will provide some early clues.

Presuming Tre’Davious White isn’t ready to participate in the early going as he continues to work his way back from the season-ending knee injury he suffered Thanksgiving night, Dane Jackson and rookie Kaiir Elam will get plenty of repetitions. Seeing how they hold up against one of the better receiving groups in the NFL will be as good a test as any they’ll get.

Jackson has a chance to demonstrate his edge in experience and what he gained while replacing White through the second half of last season should make him the better immediate choice to start opposite White.

At the same time, Elam gets to show why the Bills made him their first-round pick. His raw skill will likely shine through, but there are going to be some welcome-to-the-NFL moments he’ll have to overcome.

4. Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham will show just how far they’ve come since they were rookies in 2021. Their progress should be enhanced by a surrounding cast that includes Von Miller, Ed Oliver, Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson.

Rousseau and Basham should be looking ready to be mainstays in a defense that’s expected to intensify its pass rush. The same goes for A.J. Epenesa, who also is expected to benefit greatly from the mentoring Miller brings to the entire defensive line room.

5. Another elephant in the room: Tremaine Edmunds proving he merits a contract extension. This is a process that will have to play out through the entire season, but there’s no avoiding the fact the foundation of the linebacker’s case will be formed in camp.

Edmunds can do far more than he has shown through his first four NFL seasons. Though he has insisted he isn’t preoccupied with his future beyond this season, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be pushing himself as hard as possible to reach and consistently stay at a higher level.

Edmunds needs to strike a balance between using the desire to convince the Bills he’s worth the long-term investment as motivation while not trying so hard to make every play that he misses assignments.

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