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Camp Countdown: Which rookies will contribute early?




Camp Countdown presented by M&T Bank will examine some of the more pressing issues facing the team on the field as they make their final preparations for the regular season. We also focus on a few different areas that impact the team off the field. We'll address these subjects one at a time until training camp begins. Here now is the latest daily installment as we carefully probe for some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 30 and the Sept. 13 opener at Ralph Wilson Stadium against Indianapolis.

Entering a regular season with arguably the deepest and most experienced roster they've had in a more than a decade, on the surface the Bills do not appear to have vacant roles for their draft class to fill as rookies this fall. Head coach Rex Ryan disagrees.

"I feel really good about our draft class," he said. "I think a lot of these guys are going to stick if not all of them. They're all going to have the opportunity to stick. Whether that means a guy is starting or in a backup role, we'll see. I think by the end of the day we'll have a couple of guys starting and being major contributors for us."

Here's a look at some of the more likely rookie contributors this season.

CB Ronald Darby

With veteran Corey Graham making the transition to safety Buffalo needs someone to step into the third corner role behind Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore, should one of them succumb to injury.

"Athletic, fast, that's why we drafted him," said defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman of Darby. "Looks like a pretty good man-to-man cover guy. Usually if you can cover, you can cover. It usually doesn't matter who it is, but he's been pretty impressive so far."

Some believe he could compete for the nickel corner job with incumbent Nickell Robey, but the defensive staff did not line him up there at all in the spring practices. That could change come training camp, but it seems like they want Darby ready to step in on the outside knowing the injury history of both Gilmore and McKelvin.

G John Miller

Buffalo's third-round pick looks like the odds on favorite to land the starting right guard position. It's where he lined up for most of the OTA practices and the entire minicamp. Miller is a heady player, who is quick to absorb and execute his assignments, and his coaches have noticed.

"John has adapted to our offense well," said offensive line coach Aaron Kromer. "He was well coached in college. When he got here he was further along than some guys and he's an extremely intelligent football player. He understands why we're trying to do things and that really helps him be more productive."

Miller is expected to start come September.

TE Nick O'Leary

O'Leary figures to be a big beneficiary of offensive coordinator Greg Roman's use of multiple tight end sets. With a versatile skill set that enables him to line up in the offensive backfield, detached and as an H-back, O'Leary offers Roman the options he wants to have pre-snap.

"Nick's an interesting guy. On tape, all he did was produce," said Roman. "The measurables might not be sexy, but then you see him in person and you're like, 'Whoa, this guy is a football player.' You get him out here and he's a pretty impressive guy. Good feel for things and he's pretty versatile. And he's a sharp guy, too."

O'Leary figures to be on the field in those multiple tight end sets come the regular season contributing both in the pass game and as a blocker.

RB Karlos Williams

Williams body lean running the football as a 6-1, 230-pound back was nothing short of impressive. His athleticism and wiggle for a back at his height is rare. However, he's at a position that is steeped in talent.

Though he might not see much of the field on offense this season, he is expected to play a regular role on special teams as a rookie. It's a role he embraced as a collegiate player.

"I played a lot of special teams at Florida State and took great pride in playing special teams at Florida State," Williams told "With the special teams coaches we've had there at Florida State we've always been top 10 in the country in each category of special teams. It'll be no problem. I've played in every scheme possible. So being here and being a part of special teams is going be a big part of me playing here. That'll be no worries at all."

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