5: Who are the training camp sleepers?

Every year there are some surprise talents that emerge at Bills training camp. Some come out of nowhere to land a spot on the 53-man roster, while others catapult themselves into a starting role when their chances of doing so appeared slim to none. It is part of what makes training camp interesting as it changes the look of a team, often for the better.

Below Buffalobills.com provides you with some of the less recognizable names on the roster that will be scraping and clawing to make an impression and improve their chances of being a bigger part of the 2009 Bills than anyone may have initially thought.

Marcus BuggsThe linebacker came close to making the final roster last year, but instead wound up on the practice squad. Though a bit small in stature (5'11" 225) Buggs is a downhill player and very aggressive. That made him an attractive candidate for special teams, and when injuries struck the defense last season, Buggs was called up to the active roster in Week 8.

"He's a smart player who's able to play multiple positions for us," said linebackers coach Matt Sheldon. "He brings some burst in his pass coverage and is feisty in the run game."

Buggs has an uphill battle with the return of Alvin Bowen from injury and the presence of fifth-round pick Nic Harris. He'll likely have to outperform them both in the preseason to have a chance at one of the final linebacker spots.

Chris Ellis
With all the hype surrounding 2009 first-round pick Aaron Maybin, Ellis has been lost in the shuffle at the defensive end position. Ellis was more a victim of his own inexperience as he played sparingly on defense as a rookie before going on injured reserve for the last four games last season with a high ankle sprain.

But the former third-round pick has been busting his tail this offseason to improve his upper body strength, and is determined to be a bigger part of Buffalo's defensive line rotation in year two.

"Ellis is another young guy that has gotten better, gotten experience and is working hard," said defensive line coach Bob Sanders. "I think he's ready to have a good training camp."

And Ellis will need to if he wants to crack the defensive lineup on Sundays.

Ellis LanksterThe Bills seventh-round pick was a pleasant surprise in the spring camps as he was second only to Reggie Corner among defensive backs when it came to making plays on the ball. Unofficially he had three interceptions and seven pass breakups through OTAs and minicamp, and held his own when matched up against some of the top wideouts on Buffalo's roster.

"He does a good job in his man and zone coverages and has had a number of balls locked down," said defensive backs coach George Catavolos. "Technique-wise and sometimes in coverage he gets lost, but that's understandable for a rookie. He's got the athletic skills to push to make this team."

With return ability and open field speed, Lankster will also be a strong consideration for special teams.

Ashlee PalmerThe undrafted rookie out of Ole Miss got a long look from Buffalo's defensive staff in the spring as he got regular reps with the second team defense and was even sprinkled in with the starters from time to time. Lined up mainly on the weak side, Palmer has sideline to sideline range and could be one of the last linebackers to make the squad with a strong camp and solid special teams play.

"He shows some burst in his movement skills," said Sheldon. "He needs to learn our scheme and have more time at the position."

At the very least a practice squad spot is waiting for him provided he makes good progress through camp and the preseason.

Brandon RoddThe 2008 practice squad player could land the backup center role with a consistent preseason. Rodd also has the ability to play guard, and aside from rookie Eric Wood and Geoff Hangartner, there is no other player ahead of him on the depth chart with those assets.

"We're looking forward to seeing him at camp because he's quick and strong and has a lot of tools," said offensive line coach Sean Kugler.

Rodd will be competing mainly with Marvin Philip for the backup center role.

Marcus Smith
Another 2008 practice squad player, Smith will be pushing John McCargo for the fourth and presumably last defensive tackle spot on the roster. Blessed with a powerful build (6'4" 295), Smith needs to show he can win most of those battles on the interior this preseason to convince the coaching staff he's worth the investment.

"Marcus understands what's going on," said Sanders. "He just has to continue to improve."

In all likelihood Smith will do no worse than the practice squad with a good showing in camp.

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