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Shaq Lawson, Owa Odighizuwa rotating at starting left DE spot

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Both players are looking to impress coaches while Trent Murphy recovers from knee surgery

With spring organized team activities (OTAs) coming to a close for the Buffalo Bills, some positional battles are beginning to take shape. The defensive line has been reworked this offseason, but the starters were thought to be pretty well set in stone—Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy appear to be the starting defensive ends, while Kyle Williams and Star Lotululei look to be the starting defensive tackles.

With Murphy still working his way back from a torn ACL/MCL suffered in August 2017, the left defensive end spot has become the site of a battle for playing time. Last year’s starter at the position, Shaq Lawson, was supplanted at times during practice on June 7 by newcomer Owa Odighizuwa. While this could be nothing more than coaches trying to see more players gain more reps in practice, the noteworthy part came from Sal Capaccio’s write-up after the practice, which was posted to the WGR website.

“After the very first group of 11-on-11, Owa Odighizuwa was the starter at defensive end in place of Shaq Lawson for every other 11-on-11 I saw. Lawson was with the second team,” Capaccio wrote. This sounds less like a rotation and more like a possible audition for Odighizuwa, a former third-round draft choice of the New York Giants who never lived up to his athletic potential in New Jersey. He appeared in 18 games over two seasons, and only made 4 total tackles in that time.

For Lawson, his career enters a crossroads in year three, as he looks to build upon incremental improvements he made between his rookie year and his second season. He tied for the Bills’ team lead in sacks last season with 4, but he once again found himself on injured reserve, this time with an ankle injury. As a rookie, he missed time due to a shoulder injury. In total, Lawson has missed 11 of a possible 32 regular season games over his two years in the league.

While it’s very likely that Murphy returns as the starter prior to the first regular season game in September, it appears that the coaching staff is open to making a change regarding who will serve as his top reserve in 2018.