As we get closer and closer to training camp, position battles are starting to heat up.
Some positional competitions to keep your eye on as the Bills head to St. John Fisher this summer will be at the linebacker spots; not only for starting gigs, but primary backup jobs as well.
With the installation of the new 3-4 defense, the look of Buffalo's linebacking corps has changed drastically, and how it will play out still remains to be seen.
Aaron Schobel (94), one of the Bills all-time most productive players, may never even see a snap in it while Aaron Maybin (58), coming off a disappointing rookie season to say the least, looks poised to breakout in a starting gig.
So how will the depth chart shake out when the dust settles? I'll give you a look at how I think everything will go down.
If the Bills keep 8 linebackers on their roster (and it is entirely possible that they keep 9 or 10), then five will need to be cut to make space.
Antonio Coleman I see ticketed for the practice squad this year. The undrafted rookie has plenty of athleticism and upside, but just isn't quite good enough to make the final roster.
Chris Ellis hasn't been impressing coaches in OTAs, running consistently with the third team at outside linebacker, and the former third-round pick looks to be on his way out.
Keith Ellison is vastly undersized to play any linebacking spot in the 3-4, and simply doesn't fit the new defensive scheme. Ditto for Nic Harris.
Ryan Manalac, and undrafted rookie out of Cincinnati, is probably in line for practice squad detail as well in his first year, if the Bills even decide to keep him there.
Chris Kelsay, learning a new position this year after spending his entire career at defensive end, is the front-runner to start on the left side of this linebacking crew on Opening Day.
The left outside linebacker spot in the 3-4, much like the left defensive end spot in the 4-3, is required to do less pass-rushing than on the opposite side.
Kelsay will be dropping back into coverage more than he ever has this season, and how he holds up will be interesting to monitor. Free agent acquisition Reggie Torbor, who has loads of experience in the 3-4, might keep Kelsay on a short leash this year.
The reason I have Posluszny listed as the first starting inside linebacker is because I believe he will be on the field more than his fellow starter, whom I will reveal in the next slide.
Posluszny's superior coverage skills lead me to believe he will be the inside linebacker who stays on the field in the nickel package, leading to more snaps.
While some people view Posluszny's transition to the new defense as easier because he played in a similar scheme at Penn State his senior year, Posluszny himself noted in an interview on Buffalobills.com that the defense run with the Nittany Lions his senior year is entirely different than the one being installed with the Bills right now.
Posluszny, however, should have minimal issues in racking up the hits this season as the team's likely leading tackler once again.
Andra Davis, a free agent pickup from the Denver Broncos, is a welcome addition to the Bills defense that was looking for players versed in their new 3-4 system. Davis, entering his ninth NFL season, has spent his entire career in the 3-4.
Known as a stout run defender, Davis will bring experience and a savvy veteran presence to a young Buffalo defense.
Aaron Maybin, a pass-rushing specialist during his one-year wonder season at Penn State, came into the NFL and recorded zero sacks as a rookie. Not exactly what Buffalo was looking for from the No. 11 overall pick.
This year, however, Maybin has people buzzing about his potential breakout as he enters the season learning a defense that many draft experts felt was his best fit.
Undersized for a 4-3 defensive end at barely 250 pounds, Maybin was viewed as an ideal 3-4 outside linebacker, which is what he'll be playing this season.
Playing on the right side, Maybin will get the chance to showcase his pass-rushing prowess and athletic ability, and has a very good chance to lead the team in sacks.
Reggie Torbor, like Andra Davis, is a free agent acquisition who has experience in the 3-4 defense.
Torbor has played both inside and outside linebacker over his time with the Dolphins and Giants, and has seen time at both positions in minicamps, but primarily on the outside.
Torbor has been sprinkled in with the first team from time to time, and may push for a starting gig in camp, but ultimately should provide valuable veteran insurance at both outside spots should either of the starters go down with an injury.
Kawika Mitchell, coming off of a knee injury in 2009, is poised to be the primary backup on the inside of Buffalo's linebacking corps.
Mitchell worked as a starter each of the past two seasons in the team's 4-3, and looked to be in line for a starting gig inside in the new 3-4 up until the signing of Andra Davis.
While making the transition from 4-3 outside linebacker to 3-4 inside linebacker certainly won't be a cake walk for Mitchell, he shouldn't have much trouble with it, and should be first in line for snaps if either Paul Posluszny or Davis goes down with an injury.
Danny Batten, a rookie from South Dakota State, is making the transition from college defensive end to professional outside linebacker.
The coaching staff has been impressed with his play enough that he is getting consistent run with the second team defense in minicamps, and should be the favorite for the secondary backup outside linebacker job.
Batten will likely be limited to extensive action on special teams as a rookie, but could develop into a solid primary backup or potential starter down the road.
The transition from college defensive end to professional 3-4 linebacker is a fairly common one.
However, typically those ends are converting to outside linebacker. Arthur Moats is making the jump from defensive end to inside linebacker with the Bills, and that transition is nowhere near as easy.
While a 3-4 outside linebacker shares many similarities with a 4-3 defensive end, an inside linebacker shares virtually none.
However, this hurdle has not stopped Moats from being the inside linebacker next to Kawika Mitchell on the team's second unit in practices this spring and summer.
Moats, like fellow rookie Danny Batten, will likely be limited to special teams duty this year, but may have a good future as a backup inside linebacker for the Bills.