Can Wilson challenge for starting FS role again? (Photo Source)
Prior to the 2008 NFL Draft - in fact, prior to the free agent signing period of this past March - we took a look at the Buffalo Bills' roster position by position, breaking down then-current personnel, finding holes, and building our community needs list.
Now that free agency and the Draft have been completed, and the Bills have infused their roster with new talent, it's time to repeat our process. Where has Buffalo gotten better? Where have they gotten worse? How will additions impact which Bills veterans remain on the roster? These are questions that we've been attempting to answer for the past week or so, and will continue to do so.
We continue those discussions today with an examination of Buffalo's free safeties. To view our previous discussions on Buffalo's FS situation (pre-off-season), bang it here.
Ko Simpson: As it stands right now, Simpson is clearly the biggest question mark in Buffalo's entire secondary. The third-year pro started 15 of 16 games in his rookie season and played fairly well; his second season, however, ended rather abruptly with a season-ending ankle injury in the opening day loss to Denver. During this past week's OTAs, Simpson has been one of the more prominent playmakers, routinely intercepting tipped balls. He looks healthy, acts healthy, and seems to be playing healthy. If that's the case - and it continues to be the case through training camp - Simpson should be the opening day starter once again at free safety.
George Wilson: Clearly, Simpson is not a lock to be the starter at this point, which makes Wilson - the converted wide receiver who himself made a few plays in '07 before landing on IR - Simpson's main competition. Wilson's experience as a receiver give him ball skills that are superior to Simpson's, but that's about all he has in terms of advantages. Simpson is more experienced at the position, is a much more sound tackler, and is more talented. Don't ever count Wilson out, however - he's just a straight up good football player, and he'll push Simpson hard throughout training camp and the pre-season.
Jon Corto: Corto, a native of Orchard Park, stuck with his home-town pro team on the practice squad for much of last season. With no significant additions being brought in at the safety position (the team actually has one less safety on the roster than they did in January), Corto has a very good chance at sticking on the practice squad once again.
The Additions: None.
The Subtractions: Jim Leonhard
I was a bit surprised when the team neglected to re-sign Leonhard, a former undrafted free agent that had played admirably - if ineffectively - in his short Bills career. He was also a solid contributor on special teams. What makes it more surprising is the fact that the team has not yet replaced Leonhard in terms of depth - unless you're willing to count Corto in that capacity. Leonhard was signed by the Baltimore Ravens.
Pre-Season Outlook: The free safety position is shaping up to be one of the more intriguing positional battles heading into training camp - it is one of very few (in fact, it may be the only) battles in which a starter will be decided. What's important to realize here is that while both Simpson and Wilson have proven that they can make plays and limit mistakes, both are injury-prone and inexperienced at the NFL level. Whoever the winner of this battle is, their play is going to need to elevate far beyond anything either of them has provided on Sundays. I've said it many times before, and I'll say it again - Donte Whitner should be playing this position.
As always, your thoughts and opinions are welcome and encouraged in the comments section. We'll wrap up our State of the Roster series very soon, with only looks at the strong safeties and the specialists remaining.