The first thing that attracted the Bills to free-agent cornerback Drayton Florence was the fact he is a seven-year NFL veteran. The coaching staff is hoping all of that experience will serve him well as he competes to become the team's new nickel cornerback.
Defensive backs coach George Catavolos has been working with Florence during OTAs, and believes the cornerback's time in the league gives him a competitive edge.
"He has experience, he studies the game, studies plays, and uses his past as an advantage," Catavolos said.
As a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars last season, Florence saw plenty of action against the three other AFC South teams. This season, the Bills play all four AFC South clubs, with three (Houston, Tennessee, and Jacksonville) coming in consecutive games in November.
Florence already has faced many of the opponents on the Bills' schedule, giving him a foundation of familiarity with receivers that he could be paired against this season.
"I definitely keep a mental notebook on all the receivers that I play against," he said. "Having played against (the AFC South) a little bit more (recently), I have a little bit of an advantage."
Filling the nickel cornerback position with the right player is crucial, especially with the ever more frequent use of three-receiver formations. Covering the slot receiver is no easy task as he's usually the quarterback's go-to man on third down.
"It's one of the more difficult positions," Catavolos said of the nickel cornerback. "You cover the slot receiver, and really have to pay attention to who you are facing."
Along with Bills veteran starting cornerback Terrence McGee, Florence will be another role model that younger players in the secondary can look to for advice. However, some of those younger players, such as Reggie Corner and Ashton Youboty, are also Florence's competition.
Florence is aware that he does not yet have a set spot as the nickel cornerback.
"Everybody's in competition with everybody," he said. "As long as everybody's got the same attitude as far as coming out here and winning and getting better, it really doesn't matter (who gets the job)."
Florence also offers outside corner experience. This makes him even more valuable to the Bills. In the event that McGee or Leodis McKelvin was to suffer an injury, Florence could be used in that role as well. In fact, McGee suffered a bruised shoulder during an OTA workout on Wednesday while McKelvin has been on the sidelines with a finger ailment. As a result Florence has been getting reps outside with the defensive starters.
Right now however, the focus is on getting Florence to understand the names of plays and become more familiar with the Bills' defense.
"Just the terminology is a little bit different," Florence said. "You know, football is football, Cover 2 is Cover 2, Cover 1 is Cover 1. (You) just learn the players, learn the kind of players you have around you … know the guys you're playing with in the secondary, just getting used to those guys is more difficult than anything."
Florence has been adjusting well to Buffalo and these first few weeks of OTAs have helped him get a feel for his new teammates and coaches.
"It's been easy, everybody's been welcoming," he said. "We're in OTAs right now, so everybody's working hard to prepare for the season opener."