As roster cuts approach this Saturday, Bills players who are "on the bubble" got their last chance to show game time abilities in the 17-6 loss to the Detroit Lions Thursday night. Starters getting little to no game time meant that second and third team players received their share of action at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Third-year DE Copeland Bryan certainly has shown some promise this preseason. He had the only fumble recovery against the Lions, giving him two in the last two preseason games. Bryan also has two sacks and a forced fumble.
In the first quarter Thursday night, rookie DE Aaron Maybin sacked rookie quarterback and top overall draft pick Matthew Stafford. The ball popped out and Bryan recovered.
Bryan's performance in the past two games shows that along with experience, he also has gained confidence.
"I'm a lot smarter now," he said. "Last season, I was much more frantic in my mind. There was always so much going through my head last season. There are a lot of things that I need to be aware of at once, and it makes it difficult to focus sometimes. It's hard to sort through.
"I'm getting used to playing the game. I have a little more composure now, with more experience. I know the things I need to do, and I'm more confident about not letting myself have any kind of mental errors."
Bills DL Corey Mace agrees that Bryan's experience has brought out many positive aspects of his game.
"CB is an excellent pass rusher," Mace said. "In this preseason, he's got two sacks, and has had an opportunity to have three or four. He knows how to get after the ball. He did that in college (Arizona), and he has been improving it even more in the NFL.
"Even in Chicago (Bryan previous was with the Bears) he was working on it. I would say getting after the ball is the strongest point in his game. He's kind of like a praying mantis; he's got this little hand thing going on. If you watch, you'll notice his hand moving just like one. He's kind of a nerd, too."
The Bills picked up Bryan in 2007 from the Bears' practice squad. He appeared in 15 games for the Bills last season. However, Bryan knows that having made the active roster last year doesn't guarantee him of anything and he has been giving his all in the preseason to prove he deserves a spot on the roster.
The Bills are expected to keep five defensive ends after final cuts are made, and Bryan faces some strong competition to stick around.
"The coaches have been really supportive," Bryan said, especially grateful for the help he has received from defensive line coach Bob Sanders. "They're teaching methods and attitudes have been good for all of us. There have been improvements in the way we are able to retain information and able to bring it out efficiently on the field. We're just getting used to it. With another year under my belt, I've had a good chance to get out there, see what the other guys can do, and see where I stand. Having more experience has made things a lot easier."
Said Mace, "I think he's got a good relationship with coach Sanders, who is also very much active in getting him to the ball. Coach has really been helping CB with his technique. That work is showing out there on the field. In practice, he's got a knack for keeping his eye on the quarter back. I see big things happening for Copeland."