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Young OLBs waiting for final verdict

Posted Sep 2, 2011

It’s a position where the starters are lead pipe locks with veterans Chris Kelsay and Shawne Merriman. Behind them however, is a trio of young talent arguably fighting for a pair of spots on the final 53-man roster. Danny Batten, Antonio Coleman and Robert Eddins all battled their tails off this summer and showed up in every preseason game. Whether there is room for all three on the opening day roster is a decision that’s left to Buffalo’s coaching staff this weekend.

With final cuts due at 6 pm on Saturday, Chan Gailey and his assistants have a good dilemma, but it doesn’t make the decision making process any easier.

“Hard decision,” said Chan Gailey in reference to the young outside linebackers he has on his roster. “They’re making it very difficult by all playing fairly well, not because any of them aren’t showing up. They’re all playing pretty well and it’s going to be a very, very difficult decision for us with the direction to go.”

Batten, who missed his entire rookie season due to a severe shoulder injury in training camp that required surgery had a solid preseason. He began with a pair of sacks in the preseason opener at Chicago and did his best to finish strong Thursday with two tackles including one for loss and a special teams tackle.

“I’m not going to say I exceeded my expectations,” he said. “There’s always room to grow. I took every single play as if I were to make strides and build on the last play I was out there. So I felt I had a decent preseason. I had some plays I left out there, but at the end of the day I played my hardest. I played my hardest on special teams which is going to be big for guys like me this year.”

Coleman, who had a sack last Saturday against Jacksonville, saved his best for last Thursday night with four of his five tackles going for loss to lead the team.

“Just playing football man, just doing what I can do, controlling what I can control,” said Coleman. “I went out there and flew around, had fun, made a couple of plays for the defense. Just got out there and tried to make these coaches proud.”

Eddins, an undrafted rookie out of Ball State, has been making plays throughout camp and the preseason as well posting a sack against Denver and against Jacksonville along with three tackles including one for loss against Detroit.

“Every game is an evaluation game so I’m just took every game in stride,” said Eddins. “This game was just like every other game, just trying to give my best effort and show the coaches what I can do.”

Gailey and his staff will huddle Friday and Saturday after reviewing Thursday’s game film and make their conclusions, but it’s not a part of the job that any coach relishes.

“We all know things like injuries play a part in this,” Gailey said. “Special teams plays a part in this. There are a lot of things that go into this. It’s a very difficult time of the year for me.”

All three linebackers felt they did all they could do on the field, which will allow them to rest easy until the final cuts are made on Saturday at 6 pm.

“I kept keeping the thought in my head that I didn’t want to get sent home, so that was the way not to think about the situation I was in,” said Eddins. “I was just happy to get the opportunity so I was just trying to make the best of my opportunity.”

“I got out there and flew around and made plays and did what was asked of me,” said Coleman. “The thing was I didn’t think too much, just played fast and let the plays come to me and fly around and try to be physical. So I’m going to sleep good at night. Those decisions are for the guys upstairs and hopefully they keep me.”

“Obviously I’ll be disappointed if I get cut, but regardless of the outcome I’ll be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that I played my hardest and know that if I got cut it was because I couldn’t do it, not because I didn’t get an opportunity. I’m extremely blessed to have these opportunities from the coaching staff and hopefully I made the right impression.”