Buffalo Bills defensive end competition, depth chart update

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

One of the Bills' biggest areas of concern depth-wise following the 2014 NFL Draft is defensive end. Spring practices have given us a (slightly) clearer picture of which players are competing for reserve roles at that position.

The Buffalo Bills began a three-day mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, their final three of a scheduled 12 offseason workouts this summer. 10 of those practices are now complete (nine of them OTA sessions that finished up last week), and we're still attempting to piece together the team's player rotation at one position in particular: defensive end.

Before practices started, we only knew of three players that would, for certain, be playing end in the 4-3 defense being installed by Jim Schwartz: Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes and Manny Lawson (and for Lawson, that's only because the team had already confirmed it). There were educated guesses about which other players would take reps at end, but we seem destined to not get a full read on that battle until training camp begins on July 20.

For now, we know that aside from those three veteran players, four more have taken end reps for the Bills this spring: free agent signee Jarius Wynn (who many had guessed would be playing end), Ikponmwosa Igbinosun, converted 2013 outside linebacker Jacquies Smith (a college end at Missouri), and undrafted rookie free agent Bryan Johnson. More players may have taken reps there than we are aware of, but for now, we have re-tooled our unofficial Bills depth chart to split up the Bills' 14 defensive linemen into two even groups.

Pos. Starter Backup Reserve Reserve
RE Jerry Hughes Manny Lawson Jacquies Smith Bryan Johnson
UT Kyle Williams Corbin Bryant Damien Jacobs Colby Way
NT Marcell Dareus Alan Branch Stefan Charles
LE Mario Williams Jarius Wynn Ikponmwosa Igbinosun

Wynn (6'3", 285) and Igbinosun (6'4", 286) are in the same wheelhouse size-wise, and are end-tackle 'tweeners that would be best served as depth options as base, run down ends. Smith (6'3", 260) is a smaller rusher with 4.75 speed that offers more upside as a pass rusher; Johnson (6'3", 250) is a slightly less athletic, but more versatile version of the same player type.

The defensive end position is still one that very much remains in flux for the Bills entering training camp, but OTA and minicamp practices have given us a much clearer indication of which players will be competing for, in all likelihood, at least one roster spot up front. This picture will likely only continue to become clearer when the pads come on starting July 20 at St. John Fisher College.

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