#25 - Which rookies will contribute early?

Posted Jun 30, 2012

Every summer leading up to training camp asks 25 of the most pressing questions facing the team as they make their final preparations for the upcoming regular season. With Year 3 under head coach Chan Gailey and veteran player report day at St. John Fisher fast approaching, here is the latest daily installment as we closely examine some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 24th and Sept. 9th.

There is always a level of uncertainty surrounding rookies heading into their first training camp. Expectations range from player to player, but their lack of game experience at the professional level is something that they all have in common. A coaching staff can certainly get an inkling of who they feel will be an early contributor to the team during OTAs and mini-camp, but nothing is settled when players are in shorts and t-shirts.

The Bills addressed some key team needs and added some much needed depth to their roster with their 2012 draft class. This has a lot of people optimistic about the rookies’ chances.

Nigel Bradham
Fourth round draft pick, Nigel Bradham, led Florida State in tackles for three straight seasons, was a team captain, and also consistently contributed on special teams. That will serve him well at the next level because he is primarily going to play special teams during his first season and provide depth at outside linebacker. Special teams are an aspect of the game that he has always embraced and he is looking forward to the opportunity.   

“Yes, most definitely I am sure hoping I will be able to get out there and contribute on special teams anyway I can,” said Bradham. “Pretty much I just hope I can impact the team in any kind of way.”

Ron Brooks
With their second fourth round pick the Bills selected Ron Brooks, a cornerback from LSU. Brooks may have been overlooked by some people because he played behind the likes of Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne, and Tyrann Mathieu, but there is no denying his skill set. Similarly to Bradham, Brooks will likely begin the year playing special teams. Towards the second half of the season he could play in some sub package duties and see some success like Justin Rogers did last year.

Brooks has lined up at both the outside and inside corner positions during the offseason and he has been successful. He is open to everything and will take on whatever role he can heading into his rookie season.

“Whatever the coaches feel like they want to do with me, and how they feel they need to play me, I’ll do it,” said Brooks.

Stephon Gilmore
The NFL has continued to become more of a passing league and the cornerback position is as important as it has ever been. Buffalo’s first round draft pick Stephon Gilmore has shown why he was selected in the top ten thus far during OTAs and mini-camp. He has been impressive and taken the majority of the reps as the outside number one corner. Gilmore has the potential to be a very solid cornerback in this league and he has never lacked confidence in his abilities.

“I always play with confidence. You can’t play corner unless you have confidence,” said Gilmore. “So I think that comes with me; and if I just keep learning the sky is the limit.”

Gilmore stands a very good chance of nailing down a starting role as a boundary corner, mostly likely on the right side.

Cordy Glenn
One of the most critical positions on a football team is left tackle. The Bills hope that they have found their left tackle of the future in Cordy Glenn. Glenn has taken all of the starting reps there throughout OTAs and mini-camp and has been impressive. He fell to the second round because some experts claimed he didn’t have the foot speed to play the position. The Bills were very pleased when he slid to them and they have always believed that he is capable of playing left tackle.  

“He’s got a lot of learning to do but he’s got physical talent,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “He’s got ability and he’s got a work ethic that will allow him to get there.”

With a strong camp Glenn’s future at left tackle could begin in September instead of a year from now.

T.J. Graham
Heading into the offseason it was apparent that the Bills needed another play-making wide receiver. With great speed and athleticism T.J. Graham has the ability to be that kind of player for this team. Graham struggled a little bit at the beginning of OTAs, but has continued to come along ever since. These early bumps in the road are part of the transition process and it is something that Chan Gailey is not worried about.

“T.J. Graham struggled because he has just not been in the system,” said Gailey. “He just needs to learn the system. He has a lot of talent.”

A strong training camp and preseason could earn Graham some valuable playing time as one of the top four receivers.

Expectations are high for the Bills this coming season. Their strong draft class is one of the reasons for these high hopes. Stephon Gilmore and Cordy Glenn are the most likely candidates to lead this class as major contributors in the 2012 season.