3 things we learned about the defense during Bills training camp

Scroll through to see the best photos from today's Bills training camp scrimmage, presented by Connors and Ferris.

1. Leaders are being identified

The loss of Lorenzo Alexander to retirement created a need to not only replace the linebacker's production on the field, but in the locker room as well.

Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier identified many of the team's returning veterans as players who have filled that leadership void during training camp, mentioning defensive end Jerry Hughes and safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde along with third-year linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.

Frazier also lauded one newcomer as having established himself as part of that group: defensive end Mario Addison.

"Having Jerry Hughes along with Mario and seeing how Tremaine has really matured into that role, that's probably been the thing I've been learning about our defense as much as the X's and O's because that's a big deal. You know, where is your leadership going to come from? It can't always come from coaches.

"You're in the heat of the battle, you're on that field, you need somebody to take charge. So, to see what Mario brings, to see what Tremaine is doing, to take a look at what Jerry Hughes is doing, that's been really encouraging along with Micah and Jordan Poyer as well."

2. Depth is plentiful on the defensive line

Of course, Addison wasn't brought in solely for his leadership. The 32-year-old has recorded at least nine sacks in each of the past four seasons with the Carolina Panthers and is expected to contribute to a defensive line returning Hughes, Trent Murphy, and defensive tackles Ed Oliver and Harrison Phillips.

But the depth doesn't end there. Frazier praised defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson, signed away from Seattle during the offseason, for the fiery competitiveness he's shown during camp. Darryl Johnson, Tanzel Smart, and Mike Love all caused disruption during the team's scrimmage on Wednesday.

Within that group exists positional versatility, prompting Frazier to be asked about the balance between moving pieces around versus sticking with a core philosophy.

"You can have all these toys that you can play with, but man, you've got to find something you can be good at," Frazier said. "We have some things we've been pretty good at in the past and if you want to add a few wrinkles, you want to do that. But you don't get away from what's helped us be successful.

"We're fortunate to have flexibility in our line that you mentioned. But at the same time we have some tenets that we believe in and we want to make sure we're good at those and then maybe add a few wrinkles here and there."

3. Options at cornerback

Josh Norman has been sidelined with a hamstring injury, putting the battle for the starting cornerback position alongside Tre'Davious White on hold.

While Frazier admitted the team was looking forward to competition between Norman and Levi Wallace – who started all 16 games for the Bills last season – he expressed confidence in Wallace's ability to do the job should Norman's injury carry into the regular season.

"We were really looking forward to those competitive practices between those two," Frazier said. "It really felt like that would really be good for our defense to have that competition going day in and day out. With Josh's injury, that's kind of been put on the shelf for now.

"Hopefully, we'll get him back prior to the Jets game and put enough time to get some practice in. But Levi's doing a really good job. If Josh doesn't make it back, we feel very confident that Levi can do the job. But we're going to have to make a decision whenever Josh comes back. One of those guys is going to have to start."

Frazier also listed several options being considered at the nickel position along with Taron Johnson, who was limited to 12 games last season. The group includes Cam Lewis, Siran Neal, and safety Dean Marlowe.

"Hopefully this season [Johnson] can play an entire season with no injuries, but we do have some backup contingencies if for some reason he gets banged up," Frazier said.

Johnson – who has impressed during camp – said earlier this month that he has a plan to give himself the best chance of staying healthy that began during the offseason.

"I have a script this year," Johnson said. "… It's just something that I know I have to focus on and I've been focusing on it. It's just something I just want to show people that, yeah, I will – with God's grace – stay healthy. It's just a script I'm sticking to, trying to make sure that I'm staying disciplined in my days off and this past offseason."

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