With organized team activites underway and Chan Gailey's first training camp as head coach of the Buffalo Bills looming, first impressions are currently being made, and major roster decisions are soon coming to Orchard Park. Clearly, there are more than just five veteran Bills players on the fringe of making the roster; in that light, the comments section is open to your expansion on this discussion topic. For now, here are five veteran players that have an opportunity to earn their keep, but are decidedly on the bubble entering the pre-season.
QB Brian Brohm. I don't know where it's coming from, but I've read in some spots that Brohm is Buffalo's "quarterback of choice." Perhaps it's not a huge logical leap to believe that the Bills would like him to emerge, but I don't think that stems from a preference for Brohm; I think it stems from the need for a franchise quarterback to emerge from somewhere. There's a strange buzz surrounding Brohm; what most don't realize is that the buzz exists simply because he's more of an unknown commodity than Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick. I view Brohm as the third quarterback entering camp, and with Levi Brown assured of a roster spot, there's a much stronger chance that Brohm gets cut, as opposed to earning the starting gig. (And if that motivates Brohm to have a stellar pre-season, you're welcome.)
TE Derek Schouman. Schouman was on his way to a solid season in 2009. In a Week 2 win over Tampa Bay, Schouman grabbed 6 passes for 62 yards before leaving the game with a knee injury that ended his season on the spot. In roughly six quarters' worth of football, Schouman grabbed 9 receptions for 103 yards last year. He might not have been dominant, but he'd have put up solid numbers. That said, the Bills have a clear direction at tight end with Shawn Nelson representing the future of the position, and Schouman's lack of size could make better blocking options such as Michael Matthews and Jonathan Stupar better fits for the final roster. Schouman is a player that Chan Gailey could find useful as a pass catcher, but given Nelson's presence, it's entirely conceivable that Schouman's skill set doesn't match what the team is looking for from its reserve tight ends.
OLB Chris Ellis. I kind of look at Ellis the way I look at Brohm, save the minor fact that Ellis has not yet switched teams in his professional career. You should, too. The Bills picked Ellis just 16 slots after Green Bay selected Brohm in 2008, and the two have produced on about equal footing since entering the league. The 6'4", 261-pound Ellis is transitioning to OLB in the Bills' 3-4 scheme; from there, he'll compete for reserve spots with younger, more athletic players such as Danny Batten, Antonio Coleman and even Aaron Maybin (who might not "start," insofar as that word has meaning). Buffalo wanted to get bigger and faster at linebacker; Ellis only helps them in one of those two departments. He's got an uphill climb to make this team.
ILB Keith Ellison. We just talked about Ellison this morning, so I'll keep this brief: Ellison's a poor fit for the ILB position in the new defensive scheme. He has uses as a player, particularly his pass coverage and special teams abilities, and he's a great teammate. But Ellison finds himself directly in the middle of a numbers game, and I'm betting that he ends up on the wrong side of that competition. Buffalo needs depth more than it needs specialized depth.
CB Ashton Youboty. Everyone is aware of the fact that Youboty's biggest Achilles heel at this point has been his lack of durability. In those infrequent moments Youboty has actually seen field time, he's actually been quite productive, recording an interception, two sacks and a forced fumble in very limited action throughout his career. But Youboty fell out of favor with Buffalo's previous coaching staff thanks to a questionable work ethic; perhaps a change in coaching will light a fire under Youboty, but in a loaded defensive backfield, Youboty will need to work quickly in finding a niche for himself if he plans to stay with the team for a fifth season.