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Carucci Take2: Bills training camp Q&A, part two

WGRZ Bills/NFL Insider Vic Carucci answers a few questions before the Bills open training camp.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Here’s the second in a series of pressing questions facing the Buffalo Bills before they open training camp on July 23 at St. John Fisher College.

Question: Who wins the job at slot receiver?

Answer: Jamison Crowder. The free-agent acquisition from the New York Jets brings solid skills that make him a natural fit for the position.

At 5-foot-9 and 177 pounds, Crowder is a relatively small target with a limited catch radius. However, he has the most vital trait for a slot receiver: short-area quickness/explosiveness. That was something that caught the attention of NFL scouts while he was at Duke.

In seven NFL seasons (the last three with the Jets after four with Washington), Crowder continued to develop the necessary savvy and instincts to consistently find openings in coverage on short and intermediate routes. He also can utilize sufficient speed to gain substantial yards after the catch, which will be a major point of emphasis for Josh Allen and the rest of the Bills’ passing game under new offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey. That offers great potential to make him noticeable upgrade over former slot receiver Cole Beasley.

The Bills added Tavon Austin, a veteran who should also contribute as a slot receiver, though I don’t see him being more effective than Crowder. The same goes for Isaiah McKenzie, whose tremendous speed and elusiveness make him a valuable weapon in the offense, but I envision him continuing to have more of a specialty role in the offense.

Question: Who will win the punting job?

Answer: Matt Araiza. The rookie has the table set for him to unseat Matt Hauck, who held the job in 2021.

First, the Bills made the former San Diego State standout a sixth-round draft pick. Though that isn’t a premium choice, any draft investment in a punter or kicker (i.e. Tyler Bass) is significant and generally gives him a leg up (pun intended) in the competition.

Second, Araiza has an exceptionally powerful leg. For the most part, that should serve him well when dealing with blustery weather conditions at Highmark Stadium and other outdoor stadiums. A potential drawback, though, is the tendency to outkick his coverage and have too many touchbacks, a problem Araiza had in college.

Third, he’s known as “The Punt God.” Need we say more?

OK, we’ll say one more thing: Hauck was asked to accept a pay cut after more than a few shaky moments last season. He also has issues with taking too much time to get punts off, making him more susceptible to blocks or hurried kicks because of pressure.

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