In his first practice since signing with the Buffalo Bills on Monday, safety Jim Leonhard was sprinkled into certain looks with the first-team defense, according to reporters on hand. Jairus Byrd, working through plantar fasciitis and new to the system, worked with the scout team defense while Leonhard took reps alongside Aaron Williams and Da'Norris Searcy.
If I'm to glean anything from his first practice, I'd expect Jim Leonhard to have more than just a special teams role Sunday. #Bills— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) September 4, 2013
I'd be surprised if Byrd played Sunday. Worked scout team today. I expect Jimmy Leonhard to be out there right away.— Mark Ludwiczak (@MarkLud12) September 4, 2013
Leonhard, who played in the Rex Ryan/Mike Pettine defense for four years between 2008-11 with the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets, is having little difficulty re-assimilating to the defense after a year in Denver and spending training camp with New Orleans. In fact, it's looking like Buffalo's coaches are so comfortable with Leonhard that they've slid him ahead of a rookie they like - fourth-rounder Duke Williams - on the depth chart.
That is, if Byrd doesn't play. Leonhard was at safety with Searcy in the box in some nickel situations. He's already ahead of Duke Williams— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) September 4, 2013
Buffalo will be without cornerback Stephon Gilmore (wrist) in their Week 1 matchup with the New England Patriots - and if Byrd can't play, the team will be without their top two defensive backs. Playing against Tom Brady, regardless of what his receiving corps looks like on Sunday, without Gilmore and Byrd would be a huge blow. Even in a situational role as a dime back, Leonhard brings a little veteran savvy to a safety group where the starters, Williams and Searcy, have never done so full-time at the NFL level.
Still, it's not the greatest sign that the Bills are relying on playing a safety signed Monday in Week 1. Things could have gone better for the Bills in the defensive backfield this summer, for certain.