5 Buffalo Bills Sleepers to Watch in Training Camp and the Preseason
Most Buffalo Bills fans head to training camp to watch their favorite stars up close and personal.
Training camp gives fans a rare opportunity to interact and watch players such as Stevie Johnson, Fred Jackson, Mario Williams and Ryan Fitzpatrick up close. My favorite part of attending training camp, though, is watching the guys who are fighting for a roster spot. Every season there are a few sleepers on teams who win a spot on the final roster. Other players may get an opportunity elsewhere in the NFL and some secure a spot on the team's practice squad. Here are five players battling for a spot on the final 53 man roster for the Buffalo Bills.
The official Buffalo Bills website doesn't even have an available photo of him for his profile page! In all seriousness, Miller has been impressive in training camp at St. John Fisher. Prince Miller was a member of the Buffalo Bills practice squad in 2011 and the Bills came away impressed. He signed a future free agent contract in January so that he'd be a member of the Buffalo Bills roster heading into the 2012 season.
During training camp it's easy to see how far Prince Miller has developed. During August 1st's training camp practice Miller came away with two interceptions in the 11-on-11 drills. Ruvell Martin had a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass ripped out of his arms by Miller for his first interception. The second interception came on a poor throw by Tyler Thigpen. Miller also had a few pass deflections during practice.
Miller could be one of the final cuts. His only true shot of staying with the team is if the Bills part ways with veteran Terrence McGee. If Prince Miller is cut, he is almost a lock for a practice squad spot, unless another team offers him a spot on its 53 man roster.
Kamar Aiken has a chance to make the Bills final roster. The odds aren't necessarily in his favor, but Aiken is battling for the final WR spot. Five WR spots seem to be locked up between Stevie Johnson, Donald Jones, David Nelson, T.J. Graham and Derek Hagan. This leaves one more possible spot to be fought over between Marcus Easley, Kamar Aiken and Naaman Roosevelt.
Something tells me that Easley wins the final spot. Easley has had two fluke injuries in two years so the Bills probably want to give him one full season on the roster. Easley's size, speed and the fact that he too has been impressive in training camp also hurts Aiken's chances. That being said, Aiken has been getting recognition from the Bills. On their official website, Bills lead journalist Chris Brown listed Aiken as one of the team's sleepers. Brown had this to say:
"Though he was unable to follow the path of David Nelson and Donald Jones in 2011 as an undrafted rookie that made the roster, Aiken’s efforts last summer were good enough to earn him a practice squad spot. With good size (6’2” 213) and more polished route running Aiken could push for the last receiver spot."
If Aiken does not make the final 53 man roster, it's likely that another team will probably give him an opportunity.
Scott McKillop is currently listed as the Bills second-string middle linebacker. This doesn't guarantee McKillop a roster spot, but he has played well in training camp. Many Bills fans aren't familiar with McKillop, but he played very well the last time he took to the field in 2009.
McKillop was drafted by San Francisco in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL draft. After a solid rookie season, McKillop suffered a serious injury during the 49ers 2010 training camp when he tore his petallar tendon and his ACL in his left knee. McKillop tried to come back early and re-injured himself. Now he says he's healthy.
"I said 100 percent last year and sometimes players fib a little bit when it comes to that, but I'm 100 percent finally and it's a big hurdle that I finally cleared for myself," he said.
Another reason Scott McKillop has an excellent chance to make the final 53 man roster is his special teams ability. As a backup, it's crucial that you contribute on special teams and McKillop thrived as a special teams player for the 49ers. In 2009, McKillop led the team with 31 special-teams tackles. Keep an eye on Scott McKillop in the preseason, both as a MLB and on special teams.
When Mark Asper was drafted by the Bills, many assumed that he'd back up various players on the interior line, most notably Eric Wood. That being said, Asper is no sure thing to make the final roster for the Bills. Asper was a sixth round pick and it is not uncommon for late picks to be cut. The biggest reason Mark Asper's roster spot is in danger is due to the play of Colin Brown.
Colin Brown joined the Buffalo Bills in December of 2010. The Bills signed Brown off of the Baltimore Raven's practice squad and in 2011, he earned a spot on the 53 man roster, which surprised many fans. This season, if Brown makes the final roster fans should not be so surprised.
When Eric Wood was placed on the IR in 2011, Colin Brown was called into action. Truth be told, Brown had played in four games before Wood went down with an injury, but after Wood's injury Brown took a lot more snaps during games. He even started the 2011 season finale against the New England Patriots. Brown did his job adequately, and the interior offensive line did not miss a beat in run and pass support. Watch Brown in training camp and during the preseason games. He may not blow you away with his athleticism, but Brown will certainly do his job.
Derek Hagan may not be a sleeper much longer. The former third round pick of the 2006 draft did not catch on with the Dolphins, Giants or Raiders, but he's grown as a wide receiver over the last six seasons.When the Bills released their depth chart on August 4th, Hagan was listed behind Stevie Johnson as the team's 4th wide receiver.
In training camp, Hagan may currently be the most consistent wide receiver on the team after Stevie Johnson. Hagan has caught most everything that has come his way, including some spectacular catches. Coach Chan Gailey has been very impressed, saying:
"Derek Hagan is working his rear end off out there," Gailey said. "It is a great thing to see. He wants to make this football team and wants to be a big part of our offense. He has done a good job. He made some big plays out there today."
Now Hagan has a chance to not only make the Bills roster, but also be their second wide receiver. The official Bills website says that Donald Jones holds a slight lead over Derek Hagan for the second wide receiver role. If Jones in inconsistent during the preseason, it is likely that Hagan would get an opportunity to start a game in Jones' place. If Hagan outplays Jones in the preseason, he may be lined up against Antonio Cromartie in week one.