Buffalo Bills: 5 Backups Who Will Have a Major Role in 2012
While the Buffalo Bills have pretty much the same corps of players on the offensive side of the ball returning from the 2011 season, the defensive side of the ball is vastly improved. There have been some new draftees, free-agent signings and those returning from injury will assume a starting role heading into the 2012 campaign.
General manager Buddy Nix orchestrated one of the most successful offseasons in recent memory, putting the Bills in a great position to recapture the AFC East title they had often dominated in the early '90s.
However, if the injury bug strikes again or players just aren't performing up to standard, there are certain guys who will need to step up in order for the Bills to have a successful season.
Here are five backups who will play key roles in 2012.
TE/H-Back Dorin Dickerson
Dorin Dickerson, a former seventh-round draft pick of the Houston Texans in 2010 out of Pittsburgh, was signed by the Buffalo Bills after a tryout. Dickerson played a tight end/H-back role in college, where he recorded 63 receptions for 708 yards and 12 scores as a Panther.
The Bills plan to utilize their new acquisition the in the same way, as Dickerson has been receiving a majority of the first-team reps.
Joe Buscaglia of Buffalo's WGR 550 network had this to say about Dickerson's minicamp:
I'm fairly intrigued by the prospects of one of the Bills' newest signees, H-back Dorin Dickerson. With the type of unique skill-set he has, I wouldn't be surprised at all if he were to make the team outright. He's been getting first team reps each day at practice, and gives Chan Gailey another viable receiving option to play with that could stretch a defense. He just seems to be the type Gailey would like to keep around.
Head coach Chan Gailey added
He’s more of an H-back type player than an on the line player. He’s good enough to block on the line some, but to say down in and down out that you would ask him to go line up against big defensive ends we wouldn’t do that. So we’re going to try to take his abilities and work things around to let him be successful.
Listed on the Buffalo Bills' official depth chart behind incumbent fullback Corey McIntyre, Dickerson will definitely provide versatility in Coach Gailey's spread offense.
RB C.J. Spiller
While both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson will be splitting carries this year according to Coach Gailey, Spiller is still listed as a backup on the Buffalo Bills' depth chart.
The Bills tried utilizing Spiller to the best of their abilities last year, giving him reps at wide receiver and return duties in addition to his running back role.
Chan Gailey admitted that he needs to work on splitting the carries, telling ESPN’s AFC East Blogger, James Walker:
There is only one football, and you got several guys who can make plays...Everybody is not going to be happy. That’s part of it. So, you do the best you can to try to use C.J. and Fred in different ways to get them the ball, because they’re capable of making big plays when they have the ball in their hands.If every guy I have on the team doesn't want to be a starter, I've got the wrong guys...I want everybody to want to be a starter. But everybody's not. There's 11 of 'em. You have to learn to handle that. Whoever it is. You have to learn to handle it.
Gailey also stated that Spiller could be an every-down back.
He could be an every-down back. I don't see any reason he couldn't carry 20-25 if he needed to...But he’s a valuable, versatile player. He can play wideout. We’re fortunate to have two very good backs. I’m going to try to make sure we keep them fresh and wear ‘em out at the same time. Does that make sense? But you want them to be on the field doing something, running routes, creating a threat for the defense.
DE Mark Anderson
The Buffalo Bills brought in another defensive end after signing Mario Williams. That man was Mark Anderson, who recorded 10 sacks last year for AFC East foe New England Patriots.
The Bills signed Anderson to a four-year, $27.5 million contract, with the hopes of further bolstering their pass rush.
While Anderson could see significant snaps at defensive end, he is listed behind Chris Kelsay on the depth chart. Anderson is a proven player, recording 163 tackles, 35.5 sacks and forcing seven fumbles in his career.
Anderson and Williams played together on the Houston Texans in 2010, and they have a friendly bet as to who will get the most sacks this season.
Defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt also had high praise for the defensive end, telling BuffaloBills.com
He’s got the quickest feet of any defensive linemen we’ve got. The guy’s got extremely quick feet. I think as an edge rusher we’ll see how it unfolds. He’s had a good first week. He’s really been interesting. I didn’t realize he has as good a first step which you’ve got to have to be a really good pass rusher. And he’s working to get better. He was out here hanging around with Kyle and they were talking about techniques so I think his mindset’s right to have a big year and help us win.
While the Bills' defensive ends will be rotating very often, expect Anderson to split reps with Chris Kelsay before establishing a clear-cut role.
LB/ST Nigel Bradham
While there isn't a competition for any of the linebacker jobs on the Bills defense, Nigel Bradham earned some first-team reps during OTAs in place of starting outside linebacker Kirk Morrison.
Bradham is a hard-hitting 'backer that is familiar with all three positions, playing outside for his first three years at Florida State before switching to middle linebacker for his senior season. As of now, he will serve as a backup and special teams player, but he has high upside.
Bradham prides himself on his special teams play, according to an interview with BuffaloBills.com.
"I always took it as being the first play of defense, usually from punt or kickoff. Pretty much I just felt like that was important, that was my first play on the field. I took it as that’s the first play that I am going to play and I got to go out there and set a demeanor, set the tone,” said Bradham.
However, Chan Gailey has reiterated that Bradham has a lot to learn, but he is progressing. Look for him to be a force on special teams, and with his recent improvement, he could establish himself as a No. 4 linebacker on the roster should a starter go down with injury.
S/LB Bryan Scott
Bryan Scott has made his money in the National Football League and for the Buffalo Bills with his versatility. He plays both strong safety and nickel linebacker, and has even recently seen time at the "Mike" linebacker position in dime situations.
At 31 years old, Scott is still a physical player who racked up 66 tackles with two interceptions and a sack last year.
Scott wont be starting, barring injury, but he will see his fair share of snaps this season as teams are moving further and further towards pass-happy offenses, where he has the ability to make plays in any situation.