CAMP COUNTDOWN

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Camp Countdown: No. 6 - Who are the training camp sleepers?

Running back TJ Yeldon spent his first four NFL seasons in Jacksonville and looks to earn a his spot in Buffalo after signing a two-year contract this spring.
Running back TJ Yeldon spent his first four NFL seasons in Jacksonville and looks to earn a his spot in Buffalo after signing a two-year contract this spring.

Every NFL team has them. The players who rise up and surprise everyone in training camp and seize a role on the 53-man roster. Buffalo is no different with a host of candidates who could open eyes and change the general perception of what their play can do for the 2019 Bills.

Here’s a look at eight players who could show up on the radar this summer.

Ike Boettger, offensive lineman

The second-year lineman was on the practice squad for the first half of the year, was signed off waivers by Kansas City midseason, and fortunately was released so the Bills could get him back. On the 53-man roster for the last half of the season, Boettger appeared in four games and will provide solid competition for the veteran free agent signees at the guard and center positions.

Ike Boettger is entering his second season with the Bills.
Ike Boettger is entering his second season with the Bills.

Nick Easley, wide receiver

With fellow undrafted rookie David Sills garnering most of the attention after a very productive college career, Easley has largely flown under the radar. A slot receiver, Easley is a clever route runner with the ability to separate thanks to good short area quickness. It’ll be an uphill battle, but a practice squad role could be in the offing with a strong camp.

WR Nick Easley was a standout wide receiver at Iowa.
WR Nick Easley was a standout wide receiver at Iowa.

Kevin Johnson, cornerback

He doesn’t fit the typical description of a sleeper, but Johnson comes to Buffalo after injuries interrupted his career in Houston. Levi Wallace has been able to hold him for the starting right cornerback role thus far, but a strong camp for Johnson could change things. Johnson is the only sleeper with a legitimate chance to start come this fall.

Kevin Johnson is entering his fifth NFL season after four seasons in Houston.
Kevin Johnson is entering his fifth NFL season after four seasons in Houston.

Mike Love, defensive end

On the practice squad for the first three quarters of the 2018 campaign, Love was called up to the active roster and appeared in three games late last season. Love has a long, lanky frame and does a good job of keeping offensive tackles from getting into his chest. He flashed at times in the spring. He’ll be battling the likes of Eli Harold, rookie Darryl Johnson and Eddie Yarbrough for perhaps the last roster spot at defensive end.

Defensive end Mike Love is entering his second season with Buffalo.
Defensive end Mike Love is entering his second season with Buffalo.

Siran Neal, defensive back

A valuable special teams performer as a rookie, Buffalo’s defensive staff has given him a singular role as a nickel corner. He currently sits behind fellow second-year defensive back Taron Johnson on the depth chart, but if he’s a quick study in the slot Neal could be a valuable depth player for Buffalo’s secondary.

Second-year defensive back Siran Neal is a former fifth-round draft pick for Buffalo.
Second-year defensive back Siran Neal is a former fifth-round draft pick for Buffalo.

Tommy Sweeney, tight end

The seventh-round pick has been largely overshadowed at tight end by the athletic exploits of draft classmate Dawson Knox, but when the pads go on in camp Sweeney’s game figures to be a lot more noticeable. Coming from a pro-style offense at Boston College will only help Sweeney, who has more to offer in the passing game than some might think.

Rookie tight end Tommy Sweeney caught 32 passes as a senior at Boston College and was named first team All-ACC last year.
Rookie tight end Tommy Sweeney caught 32 passes as a senior at Boston College and was named first team All-ACC last year.

Corey Thompson, linebacker

The second-year linebacker saw action in six games with one start as he manned Matt Milano’s position late in the year after Milano was lost to injury. In the spring he was rotated in for some first team reps in Lorenzo Alexander’s position. Thompson is an athletic linebacker with coverage skills and enough pop to be the first player off the bench if there’s an injury in the starting lineup at the second level.

Second-year linebacker Corey Thompson played in six games as a rookie for Buffalo.
Second-year linebacker Corey Thompson played in six games as a rookie for Buffalo.

T.J. Yeldon, running back

Many outside observers see Yeldon as the odd man out in a crowded offensive backfield. What the Bills see is a big back (6-1, 223) who can move and has a good set of hands as evidenced by his career-high 55 receptions last season in Jacksonville. LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore and Devin Singletary might get the headlines, but if Yeldon produces he’ll have a role on Buffalo’s roster.

As the Bills continue 2019 OTAs, check out photos of each of the 91 players on the team.

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