John McCargo's story isn't exactly long, but it's absolutely soaked in strange. A surprising first-round pick by the Buffalo Bills in 2006, McCargo has been an enigma through four professional seasons. His rookie season was cut short with a foot injury, and after showing flashes of promise in his second season in a rotational role (29 tackles, 2.5 sacks), he barely played in 2008, and only a failed physical prevented an agreed-upon trade to the Indianapolis Colts. A deep reserve in 2009, McCargo was not expected to last long in Buffalo's new 3-4 defense.
But McCargo has had surprising results to this point in the pre-season. The only thing that's gone wrong to this point, and that's being listed third on the team's unofficial depth chart at defensive end behind rookie Alex Carrington. Otherwise, the dominoes have fallen well for McCargo; he has received consistent reps with the second-team defense thanks to injuries to both Spencer Johnson and now Carrington, and has been getting consistent push and pressure in the camp setting. He was impressive in the team's 42-17 loss to Washington, recording three tackles and a sack in extended playing time.
In theory, McCargo would be most useful to the Bills as a sub-package player; the Bills use four down linemen frequently in their nickel and dime packages, and the fifth-year pro is a much better fit in those looks than he is as a traditional 3-4 end. The trick there, however, is that the Bills already employ several players - Marcus Stroud, Dwan Edwards, Carrington, Johnson and Kyle Williams chief among them - that are capable of playing tackle in those packages. Buffalo has a lot of versatility along their defensive line, which doesn't help McCargo's cause.
Entering the final year of the five-year deal he signed in July of 2006, McCargo's best chance at cracking Buffalo's final roster is by beating out Johnson, a similar player type that has three years remaining on a five-year deal he signed in March of 2008. McCargo's gotten more opportunity this summer thanks to Johnson's injury, but Johnson's remaining fiscal numbers could sway the vote regardless. Either way, McCargo has been a pleasant surprise this year, and even if he doesn't make the team in Buffalo, he's done enough this year to get a look from other teams should he be released.