Of the many questions asked of me on a daily basis, one of the most frequent endeavors to find out which Buffalo Bills player may end up being a "surprise starter" - and that question has picked up of late thanks to Marcus Easley's exploits this past Saturday.
It's just my opinion, but if you're asking me to pinpoint one surprise starter for the Bills, I'm going to go with Spencer Johnson.
Ever since the Bills drafted Marcell Dareus with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Buffalo's starting defensive line has been penciled in - and it didn't include Johnson, an eighth-year defender entering his fourth year with the Bills. The starting end spot opposite Dareus was always supposed to belong to Dwan Edwards, a 2010 free agent signing hand-picked to play defense by the current regime.
Johnson, however, has had a better pre-season to this point than Edwards has. That's not to say that Edwards has played poorly, because that's not true. Johnson has simply made a bigger on-field impact playing next to the team's two defensive stars, Dareus and Kyle Williams.
Fans have noticed Johnson making more plays in the pre-season (though statistically, he and Edwards are even, save Johnson's sack). Members of the media have noticed him playing at a high level in practices. Even Bills head coach Chan Gailey has gone out of his way to praise the way Johnson has been playing this summer. Edwards, meanwhile, has been seen taking early second-team reps in the last two pre-season games, while both have shared reps with the top unit.
Both Johnson and Edwards are locks to make the team, even with rhetoric to the contrary regarding Johnson. With the Bills emphasizing versatility in their hybrid front, however, Johnson may have as much - if not more - value to the defense, and has certainly earned a chance to start.