They are players the casual Bills fan may not consider a familiar name. Down a few notches on the team depth chart, these players may be seen by many outside observers as a long shot. But every year there are a few players who are able to surprise not only fans, but coaches, and earn a spot on the 53-man roster. Below are a handful of Bills players who could pull that off this summer.
WR Robert Foster: The undrafted rookie is a receiver who certainly has the physical skills to make plays, as evidenced by his play in the spring practices. The Alabama product was routinely getting behind defensive backs for big plays during OTAs and minicamp. The question is will it continue when the pads go on. If so, Foster could add a much needed big-play element to Buffalo’s passing game.
CB Phillip Gaines: An unheralded free agent signing this spring, Gaines comes in with plenty of NFL experience both in the slot and on the boundary at cornerback. He won’t wow anyone with his physical skills, but his steady play has been noticed by the defensive staff. His best chance to be on the field appears to be in the slot, though there will be quality competition in the form of rookie Taron Johnson.
RB Marcus Murphy: Signed late last season as a reserve running back, Murphy is a classic scat back whose trademark is his elusiveness. He proved himself capable in Week 17 last season, serving behind LeSean McCoy, when he averaged 5.9 yards per carry. He’s working against a tough field at the position in Chris Ivory and Travaris Cadet, but Murphy won’t be an easy out.
DE Owa Odighizuwa: Another player with some NFL experience (18 games) who is trying to find a niche role. Blessed with quality physical talent, Odighizuwa has to channel it into pass rushing success if he’s going to carve out a spot for himself at the very deep and experienced defensive end position.
LB Julian Stanford: A special teams ace who is looking to be a more consistent contributor as a middle linebacker signed quietly with Buffalo after two seasons with the Jets. He’ll be battling for a backup role behind rookie Tremaine Edmunds at the 'mike,' but Stanford can run and hit.
WR Rod Streater: A forgotten man after a dislocated toe injury last preseason cut short perhaps the most promising individual training camp run of any player on Buffalo’s roster, Streater is back and was gaining steam as the spring practices came to a close. One could argue he has an even greater opportunity to stick this season if he can stay healthy.
LB Tanner Vallejo: Buffalo’s 2017 seventh-round pick was largely a special teamer as a rookie and will be Stanford’s chief competition in landing the backup middle linebacker role. Vallejo looks stronger and faster entering his second season and it had made him a more confident performer on defense.**
CB Levi Wallace: Another undrafted rookie, who impressed in the spring, Wallace’s length is a coveted asset at cornerback in the NFL these days. Though not blessed with elite long speed, Wallace’s skill set is a good fit for Buffalo’s zone-based coverage scheme and could land a reserve cornerback role.