Which Buffalo Bills Have Most to Lose in Training Camp?
The Buffalo Bills have taken their hot start to 2011 as seriously as they've taken their ice cold finish. They believe they can be as good as they were when they were 5-2 and rolling the league with what was a top-10 offense. They also are serious about not finishing an abysmal 1-8 down the stretch as they did last year when injuries plagued their roster.
As a result of the reloading mentality on the Bills roster, they look primed to contend for a playoff spot. But it may come at the expense of some players who have contributed for them or who might have had promising futures with the team until recently.
With the competition heating up at several roster spots, nobody's job is fully safe, whether it's a starter who could be reduced to a backup role, a backup who could be reduced to the third or fourth string and so on.
Here is a list of some of the Bills players who have something to lose in training camp.
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
When the Bills drafted Leodis McKelvin in the first round in 2008, they were banking on finding a cornerstone at cornerback. Since then, they've signed multiple free agents and this year selected two corners in April's draft: Stephon Gilmore in the first round and Ron Brooks in the fourth.
McKelvin was phased out of the defense somewhat in 2011, playing just 514 snaps after playing 881 in 2010.
The Bills have a lot of question marks at cornerback, with rookies in Gilmore and Brooks, second-year cornerback Aaron Williams, veteran Terrence McGee and unheralded youths Justin Rogers and Prince Miller. It's up to McKelvin to step up and prove the Bills right for spending high on him four years ago.
Luc Leclerc-US PRESSWIRE
Edwards was brought in as part of the team's commitment to implement a 3-4 scheme. That commitment that lasted
longer than most of my relationships less than a full season before the Bills got cold feet and went back to the 4-3. They then went back to the 3-4—until now, as they're transitioning back to the 4-3.
In short, Edwards is being paid like a starting 3-4 defensive end when he'll be little more than a rotational 4-3 defensive tackle at best.
Edwards played the second-most snaps of any defensive linemen last year, behind only Marcell Dareus. But with the importance of his role diminishing with the implementation of the 4-3, it looks like Edwards could see the bench a bit more than he sees the field this year.
Not only might Edwards have to take a pay cut, but he'll also have to prove he can be a fit in the 4-3 defense. He has been primarily a defensive end in his NFL career, even playing the spot with the Ravens. With several younger defensive tackles available who might also be better fits in the scheme, Edwards is fighting an uphill battle in training camp.
Chris Hairston has a right to have the long face.
Jody Gomez-US PRESSWIRE
It wasn't long ago that Bills general manager Buddy Nix was heaping offensive tackle Chris Hairston with praise, saying, "We need tackles, but we think Chris Hairston can play left tackle for us and win," according to the team's official website.
That was before the draft, though—otherwise known as a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. It looked as though Hairston may get a true crack at the starting left tackle spot with the departure of Demetress Bell, but the Bills drafted Cordy Glenn in the second round and Zebrie Sanders in the fourth round.
And since the draft, all the Bills have done is give Glenn all the reps with the first team at OTAs and mini-camp. So, in that sense, Buddy Nix's confidence in Hairston was as well-placed as a Rex Ryan guarantee.
There's a spot for Hairston on the roster, just not as high on the depth chart as he might like.
Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE
Kelsay has been a jack of all trades for the Bills defense in his nine seasons with the team. He's played defensive end, outside linebacker in the 3-4 and Sam linebacker in the 4-3, among other spots. He started 12 games last year as a linebacker, and now that the Bills are switching back to the 4-3, he could be utilized as a defensive end.
Only one problem: The starting defensive ends spots are occupied by free-agent acquisitions Mark Anderson and Mario Williams.
There will still be a place on the roster for guys like Kelsay, who can come in as replacements to allow the starters to rest, but there are a handful of guys competing for spots in that role, including Shawne Merriman and a host of younger players. Kelsay might be a valuable rotational defensive end, but his contract pays him really well for such a limited role.