In under two weeks the Buffalo Bills will be back at training camp and the annual battle for roster spots will commence once more. Leading up to the opening practice on Sunday, July 20 at St. John Fisher College, WGR will take a position by position look at the roster to handicap who to look for when fans go to see the practices over the course of a month.
First stop? Defensive end:
The Starters (2) Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes
- An open and shut case as long as both players are healthy enough to contribute, Williams and Hughes will get the majority of time on the field during game settings. Williams is coming off back-to-back seasons with a sack total in double digits, while Hughes reached that plateau for the first time in his career. Through offseason workouts Hughes was consistently in the backfield, a trend he first started since arriving in Buffalo last year. Both players have shown that they can have a big impact on the game, and both will be heavily depended on in a defense that is predicated by pressure from their defensive line.
The Depth (1) Manny Lawson
- During the offseason the Bills made the declaration that Manny Lawson, who they had signed to play linebacker in Mike Pettine’s defense in 2013, will instead play defensive end in Jim Schwartz’s scheme this season. With no other players on the roster that have nearly the same experience on defense, Lawson will be the third man in to this group. The only way this will change is if the injury to Kiko Alonso causes the Bills to re-evaluate Lawson’s role in the defense. However, since Alonso played weakside and Keith Rivers appears locked in as the strongside linebacker, Lawson will likely continue to work with the defensive ends.
The Bubble (3) Jarius Wynn, Ikponmwosa Igbinosun, Jacquies Smith
- The fourth defensive end on the roster will be up for grabs between these three, two of which that are very similarly built. In fact the only thing that separates them, according to the Bills’ official roster, is one pound. Wynn (6-foot-3, 285-pounds) and Igbinosun (6-foot-3, 286-pounds) each provide the role of a bigger run defender, with the edge going to the former at the moment due in part to actual NFL experience. Wynn, 27, is entering his sixth year in the league and was a free agent acquisition of the Bills. Igbinosun, 23, was an addition to the practice squad during the 2013 season. Smith is a bit of a lighter defensive end but had some quality reps during the offseason workouts when Mario Williams couldn't participate and Manny Lawson was away from the team. The job favors Wynn, but a strong camp from either Smith or Igbinosun could put them in position to steal a spot.
The Longshots (1) Bryan Johnson
- The lone undrafted free agent of the group, Johnson (6-foot-4, 250-pounds) is built more like Hughes and Lawson. He’ll likely get looks on the right side of the defensive line as more of a pass rushing specialist, but the odds of him making the roster aren’t great. Coming from a small school, Johnson will need a healthy and strong camp to even get into bubble territory. He lost some ground during offseason practices by not getting on the field due to an injury.