The Buffalo Bills have a lot of defensive linemen heading into training camp. That much is clear when looking at the roster. The team has nine defensive tackles and 11 edge rushers/defensive ends. Of those 20 players in camp, the team is going to cut it down to either eight or nine combined once the final roster is made.
Given the number of players with game experience at the NFL level, it’s going to be exceptionally difficult for a rookie to make the 53-man roster. Injuries aside, it will take great camp practices and dominant preseason performances in order to move the needle in the direction of a younger player unseating one of the talented veterans on Buffalo’s roster. In today's installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss one of those young players — a defensive tackle looking to make his mark in a talented, deep group.
Name: DJ Dale
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 302 pounds
Age: 22 (23 on 10/30/2023)
Experience/Draft: R; signed with Buffalo following the 2023 NFL Draft
Acquired: UDFA signing
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Dale signed a three-year deal worth a total of $2.715 overall. That deal includes a $20,000 signing bonus, which is the dead-cap number Buffalo will carry should they release him this summer. If Dale makes the 53-man roster, his cap hit for the year is $756,666.
2022 Recap: Dale was used as a rotational piece off the bench this past season, a departure from his role as the starting nose tackle early in his Alabama career. He made 17 tackles (3.5 for a loss), and totaled 2.5 sacks on the season. He set a career-high with 14 pressures last year, as well. He was invited to the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, where he placed near the bottom in all of the athletic tests he did, including the broad jump, vertical jump, and 40-yard dash. He didn’t bench press at the combine or at his Pro Day.
Positional outlook: Dale is built like a three-tech, but he plays like a one-tech, so he’ll be directly competing with players like DaQuan Jones, Poona Ford, Eli Ankou, and Tim Settle for roster space. Jordan Phillips plays both as a one-tech and a three-tech (as does Settle, really, depending on which player he’s lined up with on a given snap).
2023 Offseason: Dale is healthy and participating in offseason workouts.
2023 Season outlook: There’s next to no chance that Dale is on the 53-man roster come September, though it is possible that he comes back to the practice squad after final cut-downs. Buffalo is going to have a difficult time cutting down to just four defensive tackles, given that a case could be made for Jones, Settle, Ford, and Phillips to join the newly re-signed Ed Oliver as the interior group. Chances are good that one of the four other than Oliver is gone, and all of them have a better claim to a roster spot than Dale does this year. The rookie is likely auditioning for other teams this summer, as well as for a spot on the Bills’ practice squad.