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Bills camp battles: Harrison Phillips, Justin Zimmer fighting for roster spots at defensive tackle

Harrison Phillips plays 1-tech defensive tackle, eating blockers and space. Justin Zimmer plays 3-tech defensive tackle, knifing into the backfield to disrupt plays. Both are on the roster bubble on a crowded Buffalo Bills defensive line.

On the team’s official depth chart, Zimmer is listed as the primary backup to Ed Oliver, but with so many defensive ends rotating down into that 3-tech spot (especially on passing downs), Zimmer still has a ton of competition for his position. He’s talked about highly by the coaching staff as a hard worker and locker room guy, but that might not be enough to make the roster.

Phillips is third on the 1-tech chart behind Star Lotulelei and Vernon Butler. Both Lotulelei and Butler have massive guarantees in their contracts this season, making it harder to release them since they’ll be paid anyway. It means an uphill climb for the former third-round pick.

Not only are they competing in their respective roles, they are competing against each other and the stacked defensive end room. The team can only keep so many defensive linemen on the roster.

There is a strong possibility neither of these two players make the roster with the talent assembled at defensive end. There’s also a way I could see both making their way onto the initial 53-man list. It’s a pair we want to keep our eyes on in the preseason games.

2021 Buffalo Bills Offseason Depth Chart

Position Starter Backup Reserve
Position Starter Backup Reserve
QB Josh Allen Mitchell Trubisky*
RB1 Zack Moss Matt Breida* Taiwan Jones
RB2 Devin Singletary
FB Reggie Gilliam
WR1 Stefon Diggs Jake Kumerow Marquez Stevenson+
WR2 Emmanuel Sanders* Gabriel Davis
SWR Cole Beasley Isaiah McKenzie
TE Dawson Knox Tommy Sweeney
LT Dion Dawkins Spencer Brown+
LG Jon Feliciano
C Mitch Morse Ryan Bates
RG Cody Ford Ike Boettger
RT Daryl Williams Tommy Doyle+
LE Mario Addison Greg Rousseau+ Efe Obada*
NT Star Lotulelei Vernon Butler Harrison Phillips
DT Ed Oliver Justin Zimmer
RE Jerry Hughes A.J. Epenesa Carlos Basham+
MLB Tremaine Edmunds A.J. Klein Tyler Matakevich
WLB Matt Milano Tyrel Dodson Andre Smith
CB Tre'Davious White
FS Jordan Poyer Damar Hamlin+
SS Micah Hyde Jaquan Johnson
NB Taron Johnson Siran Neal
CB Levi Wallace Dane Jackson
K Tyler Bass
P Matt Haack*
LS
KR/PR Isaiah McKenzie Marquez Stevenson+