If you hadn’t heard by now, the Buffalo Bills play a whole lot of nickel defense. The emphasis on this philosophy places a tremendous amount of importance on finding enough defensive backs to create a reliable secondary. The recent retirement of Rafael Bush leaves one such roster spot open. The release of the unofficial depth chart prior to the preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts may suggest Siran Neal has the inside track.
According to the released depth chart, Taron Johnson remains the starter as the slot or nickel corner. Last year, Johnson often played over 50% of defensive snaps when healthy. When he did come off the field, it was to allow a larger defensive back such as Rafael Bush to come in to convert nickel defense to the “big nickel.”
Siran Neal, Dean Marlowe and Kurt Coleman all closely match the physical profile of Rafael Bush. All three players are only a few pounds heavier than Bush. Siran Neal is the only one taller. Neal’s listed height of 6’ is one inch taller than Bush, Coleman and Marlowe.
Listed as 14 pounds heavier than Taron Johnson it would be curious to see Siran Neal slotted in behind Johnson as the second string nickel cornerback outside of the above context.
Marlowe is the veteran, but a year after being Buffalo’s fifth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Neal looks to have passed him in the pecking order.