It was something of a surprise when, back in March, Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott seemingly anointed veteran linebacker Ramon Humber as a starter with the defense.
That’s not to say Humber is a stranger to starting, because he isn’t. He’s started a game in six of his eight NFL seasons, including one for the Bills last year and topping out at six with the New Orleans Saints in 2014.
That said, 19 NFL starts isn’t a lot when you realize he’s played in 108 games. The fact that his career high in tackles is 50 (in 2014) drives home the point that he was never a major contributor in a defensive scheme. Last season, he played in only 60 snaps with the defense; there were seven games where he didn’t play in any compared to only two where he played in more than ten, with a max of 19 in the Week 16 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
That brings us to the present. The Bills opened their preseason slate with a 17-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday, and Humber was part of the starting lineup along with Lorenzo Alexander and Preston Brown. Humber even finished tops among the defensive starters with four tackles, including one on each of the first three plays.
He wasn’t on the field for every play during the starting defense’s two series of action, but he did see a variety of responsibilities and served as the second linebacker alongside Brown when the Bills moved to their nickel package. He played well and avoided doing anything to invalidate his presumed role as a starter in the defense.
That seems to be the key for Humber at this point: he’s the starter at this point. If everything remains where it stands, what seemed like a joke back in March will play out in September. Something has to happen for Humber to lose that role, whether it be a very bad game on his part or an amazing game from a reserve. We didn’t really see that from anybody against the Vikings.
A quarter of the preseason is done, and Ramon Humber is still a starter. It’s time to start expecting he’ll stay there once the games start counting.