In the race to replace Kiko Alonso in the Buffalo Bills' defense, third-year pro Nigel Bradham got the first crack at claiming a large role - even on passing downs.
When the Bills hit the field on Sunday evening for their first training camp practice of the 2014 season, the team's starting linebacker trio was comprised of Brandon Spikes in the middle, with Bradham and veteran Keith Rivers on the outside. In passing sub-packages, Bradham and rookie third-round pick Preston Brown ran with the ones, per Mark Gaughan of The Buffalo News.
At least for one practice, then, Bradham was the Bills' top three-down linebacker. It seems more likely than not at this point that the Bills will rotate Bradham, Brown, and veteran Keith Rivers through the starting lineup in both base and nickel packages this summer in an effort to cross-train everyone, but for the former fourth-round pick out of Florida State, it's a step in the right direction after Brown was the buzzworthy name following Alonso's injury in early July.
Bradham, 24, has been a part-time starter in each of his first two seasons in the NFL, but had not been able to lock down a permanent starting job through a scheme change between 2012 and 2013. Now back in a 4-3 that better suits his speed-based game, Bradham will attempt to finally break through - and the longer he can stay on the field ahead of Rivers in nickel packages, the better his odds at claiming a huge role.
It's also noteworthy that Brown, the rookie out of Louisville, continues to take first-team work in the nickel defense. Even if he can't beat out Rivers and Bradham for a starting role in the base defense, he seems destined to play on passing downs, as the team has been working him in with the ones in nickel looks since spring practices.
The Bills will be back on the practice field at 2:10 p.m. this afternoon, and at that point we'll know how the linebacker rotation looks on Day 2.