The Buffalo Bills are in a year of transition. In changing up the front office, the coaching staff, schemes and terminology, and the atmosphere of the preseason, we've seen a radical shift in how the team's gone about doing things this summer. While we wait to see if those changes lead to better results on the field of play, we can talk about some players that have responded favorably to those changes, and some that haven't.
Relevant data such as draft status and salary often go out the window when a new regime inherits an old regime's players. In many cases, those two criteria are the exact reason a well-known player emerges on the fringe of an NFL roster after a coaching change. These five players - all relatively household names in Buffalo, but not all incumbent - are the biggest-name "on the bubble" players with final cuts looming in just over two weeks.
5. Kyle Calloway, offensive lineman: Calloway's is the only name on this list of a player brought in by GM Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey. A seventh-round pick out of Iowa, Bills fans instantly fell in love with Calloway's grit and toughness, proclaiming big things for his future. A projected move to guard, however, hasn't happened, as Calloway has played mostly right tackle with the third team in camp. He has been unspectacular, outperformed by undrafted rookie Cordaro Howard, and stands a very good chance at being cut. That isn't surprising, but for a draft pick that generated so much springtime buzz, it's noteworthy nonetheless.
4. John McCargo, defensive lineman: He's been on the bubble for well over two years now - ever since the Bills tried, unsuccessfully, to trade him to Indianapolis in October of 2008. McCargo remains squarely on the bubble despite a relatively strong camp and preseason to date; he's not a great fit for the team's new 3-4 defense, and only has value as a sub-package player used in 4-3 looks. At best, he's a deep reserve, and he'll only make the team if the Bills keep seven defensive linemen. It still seems more likely that the Bills will choose to add deep depth elsewhere (like linebacker), but at least McCargo has shown signs of life.
3. Keith Ellison, linebacker: Overrated by some, under-appreciated by others, Ellison has been a de facto starter for the Bills since his rookie season in 2006. He missed 14 games in the past three seasons, including eight in 2009, but also put up respectable tackle numbers (245 in four years) in the process. That was before the team moved to the 3-4, however, and any chance Ellison had at earning a nickel linebacker role were severely dented when he missed a huge chunk of practice time and the first preseason game. Bryan Scott continues to man the nickel linebacker position, and Ellison has an uphill climb to make the back end of Buffalo's roster as a specialist.
2. Ryan Fitzpatrick, quarterback: Fitzpatrick is the ideal backup quarterback, not talented enough to be a full-time starter, but intelligent and enough of a gamer to get you by in the film room and when he's on the field of play. Teammates respect him. In an open competition at quarterback, however, Fitzpatrick hasn't made waves, and has done little to separate himself from third-year unknown Brian Brohm. The latter has been impressive enough where it's entirely conceivable that Fitzpatrick - signed to a three-year deal last March - doesn't get to year two of that contract.
1. James Hardy, wide receiver: No player has been a bigger disappointment this summer than Hardy, the team's second-round pick in 2008. He hasn't exactly been a disappointment on the field, but in the small amount of time he's spent there, he hasn't come close to separating himself from the competition, either. The fact that he's missed both preseason games and several weeks of practice with a foot injury doesn't help his cause, either. Many believed that Hardy would emerge as the team's No. 2 receiver, but he's much closer to updating his résumé than he is to making any on-field impact.