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Buffalo Bills linebacker battle opening up at training camp

Nigel Bradham has seen the most first-team work at weak-side linebacker in training camp, but the Bills are experimenting with - and talking up - several prominent reserves, as well.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills have several prominent position battles that are open for competition, but after a week's worth of practices, none of them are as wide open as what has been transpiring at the linebacker position.

For the first four practices of training camp, third-year pro Nigel Bradham lined up as the weak-side linebacker with the first-team defense. Lined up beside middle linebacker Brandon Spikes and strong-side linebacker Keith Rivers, the Bills did little to no rotating at the position for most of last week, and coaches spent time speaking highly of Bradham with reporters.

In practices on Friday and Saturday evening, Bradham did not work exclusively with the first-team defense. Rivers and Spikes remain entrenched with the top unit, but on the weak side, Stevenson Sylvester - who has only been with the team for 11 days - snuck in some reps on Friday, and undrafted rookie Jimmy Gaines did the same on Saturday evening.

The Bills are still speaking highly of rookie third-round pick Preston Brown and special teams staple Ty Powell when afforded those opportunities publicly, and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz even talked up seventh-round pick Randell Johnson in this interview with SI's Don Banks last week, as well.

In nickel packages, Brown has seen first-team work along with Rivers and Bradham, and the team has even experimented with the athletically limited Spikes in that capacity, as well.

At this point, then, the Bills have thrown their support behind virtually every linebacker on the roster, and most of them have worked with the first-team defense in either the base look or passing game sub-packages. With the possible exception of Rivers, who appears to have a firm grip on a fairly sizable role for the moment, and Spikes, who will be a mainstay on run downs, the rest of this position group looks wide open to the point that it would not be terribly surprising if up to five players contended for a starting job.