Kevon Seymour entered the NFL as a sixth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in the 2016 NFL Draft. Leonard Johnson signed with the Bills on a one-year contract worth $855,000. Both men were expected to compete for the nickel corner job, and both men have had the opportunity to impress head coach Sean McDermott. It appears as if Seymour has pulled ahead with his recent play.
On Tuesday, Vic Carucci ran a story in The Buffalo News discussing the impression Seymour has made thus far on McDermott.
“He’s got strength, he’s got speed, he does a nice job,” McDermott said. In the same interview, the head coach also lauded Seymour’s ability to play both inside and outside at the corner position, something that is definitely much more difficult than it appears. “Versatility, I would say, is probably the key,” McDermott said. “He plays inside and he plays outside. There’s not a lot of corners in this league that bring that to the table.”
Johnson came to the Bills after playing under McDermott as a member of the Carolina Panthers last season. That familiarity with the head coach and his defense seemed to give him an early edge in the competition. Chris Brown noted that Johnson had been seeing the bulk of the reps as the first-team nickel corner until recently. While Brown was careful to note that Johnson is still receiving first-team reps in the slot, Seymour’s uptick in snaps signals a shift in the tide regarding the competition.
When Ronald Darby injured his ankle early last week, it was Seymour who stepped in for him, not Johnson. While his versatility certainly may play a greater role in that, it is also possible that his ascension to “starter” reps indicates that he has passed Johnson on the depth chart entirely. Johnson had a pretty poor practice on August 1, the day Carucci’s story ran, but then rebounded nicely with multiple interceptions, one off T.J. Yates and another off Nathan Peterman, at practice the following day. Johnson has also earned praise from Danny Crossman, Buffalo’s special teams coach, about his play with that unit.
Both players are strong slot corners, both players are versatile (albeit in different ways), and both will almost certainly have a role on the team. The first preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings on August 10 will be the first step in providing greater clarity regarding what that role will be.