Any time a new front office and coaching regime takes control of an NFL franchise, that particular team's incumbent players get a fresh start, of sorts. The mantra is simple - what was accomplished under the previous regime no longer carries much meaning. You're in full-out prove-it mode to the new regime.
This young Buffalo Bills team has dozens upon dozens of players in that situation. Four, however, find themselves in unique situations - they're poised to make a run at significant playing time without having done, well, anything at the NFL level. Ironically for those players, what they've done previously still means very little, as the new coaching staff is allowing for even-playing-field competitions at each position - and that's lucky for them, as their production has been minimal to non-existent.
QB Brian Brohm. He's been in the league for two years, played for two teams, and journeyed from highly-touted second-round pick to practice squad fodder to released third quarterback to pinch-hit starter. Entering his third professional season, he'll be dealing with his third coaching staff. Despite only appearing in one game (17/29, 146 yards, 2 INT, 43.2 QB rating in a 31-3 loss), he's got as good a chance as any quarterback currently on the roster to emerge as Buffalo's starting quarterback next season.
WR James Hardy. A second-round pick in 2008, Hardy has accumulated the following stat line in his first two professional seasons: 16 games played, 10 receptions, 96 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 very serious knee injury. He had one reception for nine yards in 2009. With and leaving the club, Hardy is at the forefront of a youth movement at the receiver position, where he'll compete with (who could technically also make this list, though he doesn't have the same high-round investment as the rest of his cohorts), and rookie for the starting job opposite .
OLB Aaron Maybin. Often times he's everyone's favorite punching bag; 18 tackles and one forced fumble as the No. 11 overall pick in the NFL Draft will do that for you. He's no longer being asked to play defensive end, as he'll now move to rush linebacker in the team's new 3-4 defensive alignment. His exposure to the responsibilities of his new job description has been minimal, even at a collegiate level, and on the rare circumstance that he was asked to stand up in 2009, he looked rather uncomfortable doing so. Still, with a bleak depth chart at OLB, Maybin's a virtual lock to start, even if decides to play another season.
OLB Chris Ellis. Speaking of Schobel, his retirement indecision provisionally allows us to include Ellis on this list. The team's third-round pick in 2008, Ellis has been Maybin 1.0, accumulating a whopping 8 tackles in 10 appearances throughout his first two pro seasons. If Schobel retires, Maybin and are the likely starters at outside linebacker, with Kelsay again likely to come off the field in passing situations at that position. That would leave Ellis to duke it out for passing-down OLB reps with rookie . Ellis is a pretty massive unknown athletically, but he'll at least be given a shot to earn a rotational spot despite his two-year NFL anonymity.