Buffalo Bills: 5 Players with the Most on the Line Heading into Training Camp
The Buffalo Bills have their fair share of players who may have their jobs on the line this season. Ever since the influx of draft picks and free-agent acquisitions, players on the roster aren't as comfortable as they were just months ago.
Depending on how the defensive coaching staff uses the defensive line, coupled with the logjam in the secondary, there are some players who have a lot of on the line with training camp roughly a month away.
Let's take a look at a few players who may have their jobs on the line in 2012.
CB Leodis McKelvin
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Last year, the Bills brought in competition for former first-round draft pick cornerback Leodis McKelvin when they selected Aaron Williams in the second round.
Williams performed so well that he is expected to be the opening-day starter.
This year, the Bills used their No. 10 overall pick on another cornerback, South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore, further slimming McKelvin's chances as even a role player on the team.
Coupled with Terrence McGee and second-year man Justin Rogers, who played well down the stretch last year, McKelvin needs to prove his worth, as he is entering a contract year.
McKelvin was awful last year, starting just six games and being relegated to the bench for most of the year.
In OTAs, McKelvin has been seeing reps in the slot, along with rookie fourth-round draft pick Ron Brooks out of Louisiana State.
McKelvin had this to say to BuffaloBills.com
It’s just an opportunity for me to get inside. I’m getting an opportunity on the outside and an opportunity on the inside. We’ve got a lot of young guys coming around and just the competition level, if anything happens on the back end as far as me not winning a starting job on the outside I can also play on the inside.
For a former first-round pick to be relegated to nickel and dime sets, McKelvin may be a training camp casualty.
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The Buffalo Bills claimed Shawne Merriman off waivers after he was released by the San Diego Chargers, quickly signing him to a two-year, $10.5 million contract. However, he was injured in his first practice with the team, and was placed on injured reserve. Last season, he re-injured his Achilles, again relegating the former All-Pro to the injured reserve list.
Now, with the additions of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, coupled with the transition to the 4-3 defensive front, a scheme Merriman has never played in professionally, he could be an odd man out if he doesn't perform "lights out" at training camp.
Head Coach, Chan Gailey seems excited about Merriman's return, telling the Buffalo News,
I'm excited about where [Merriman] is physically—really physically and mentally because he's come out every day with an outlook that's just outstanding.He works hard. He looks quick. He looks healthy," Gailey continued. "That part of it has been refreshing for us, to see some what of I think we're going to see is the old Shawne Merriman this year.
Merriman recorded 39.5 sacks through his first three seasons with the San Diego Chargers, but has played in only 23 games and notched five sacks over the past four seasons because of recurring injuries. If he can stay healthy, there's no question that he will make the roster, but if his injuries return, the lights will literally and figuratively go off for Merriman.
QB Vince Young
The Buffalo Bills signed Vince Young, the third overall pick of the 2006 NFL draft to a one-year, $2 million contract on May 11, but he already may have a difficult time making the final 53-man roster.
While Coach Gailey has explained that Young has looked well, he told the Buffalo News he isn't too impressed with how the veteran has picked up the playbook. Gailey has been gradually adding plays to the offense ever since he took the reins from Dick Jauron.
He has done a very good job, considering the circumstances. He had to come in and try to learn all of that stuff. It is very difficult.
It would not have been as hard two years ago, but we are in so much more of an advanced stage now than we were two years ago. He is trying to learn what the base concepts are and how we have advanced to where we are today without the benefit of going through the baby steps.
With Tyler Thigpen familiar with Gailey's offensive scheme back from their days with the Kansas City Chiefs, he certainly has a leg up on Young in the backup quarterback battle. Another thorn in Young's side is that utility man Brad Smith is often listed as the third quarterback for wildcat situations.
Young better learn the playbook quickly, or he may be out of Buffalo as fast as he arrived.
LB Kirk Morrison
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The Bills re-signed veteran linebacker Kirk Morrison to a one-year deal this offseason, most likely to mentor the younger linebackers on the roster. He is currently penciled in as the starting strong side linebacker on the depth chart, but fourth-round rookie Nigel Bradham, out of Florida State, has already seen reps with the first team.
Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 had this to say after watching Bradham throughout the Bills' offseason training activities and minicamps:
Nigel Bradham has been very impressive in what he's been able to do with such a limited time in the playbook. He makes good reads to his assignments and gets there to break up some plays. We all know about his hitting prowess, but it's his speed and instincts that have stood out the most to me.
Bradham was a playmaker at Florida State, playing both outside and inside linebacker, and if his play continues to grow along with his knowledge of the playbook, he could quickly take over Morrison's starting role.
DT Dwan Edwards
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After spending five years as a three-technique defensive end in the Baltimore Ravens' 3-4 defense, the Buffalo Bills brought in Dwan Edwards to play that role in their transition to the 3-4 two seasons ago.
While he played decently last season, totaling 52 tackles and 2.5 sacks, he could become a training camp casualty simply due to depth. Edwards has only played in 3-4 fronts, and at 31 years of age, learning the intricacies of the defensive tackle position in a four-man front as opposed to the defensive end in a three-man front could prove difficult and take away valuable reps from younger players.
Mark Ludwidzak of CBSSports.com, tweeted:
Based on Wannstedt's comments about not wanting "situational players," I'm expecting Dwan Edwards to be cut. Doesn't fit 4-3 scheme.
Edwards is due $3.8 million in salary this year, and for a player that wont be starting, let alone getting significant reps, Edwards should be released fairly soon.