For just over a week now Kennard Cox has been lining up at free safety with the third unit on defense. It's a big change from cornerback, but he's open to the challenge of a new position.
"When I came in here I said I was willing to do whatever the coaches decided to do with me," said Cox. "I'm ready to do everything to make this team and make the team better and help them get to the playoffs. I'm just learning and trying to stay right by my coach's side with every rep and take it as it goes."
Bills Vice President of College Scouting Tom Modrak said the idea of Cox playing safety was a consideration when they made the Pitt product a seventh-round pick.
"We took him with the idea that he would start off at corner and knew safety was a possibility because he's a big, strong kid," Modrak said.
Cox was asked about a move to safety by a few NFL scouts prior to the draft, and decided to try his hand at the centerfield spot.
"It's something that the young man wanted to do," said defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. "We looked at the switch as a scouting department, as a coaching staff and thought it might be good for him."
After just a week of practice reps, the staff put him in the team's first preseason game at Washington at free safety with the third string unit.
"I was a little bit nervous when it first started, but once you settle yourself down you realize it's just football," said Cox. "The vets were helping me out like Donte (Whitner) and (George) Wilson. They told me to slow everything down in front of me and I'll be alright."
"Playing back in the middle more so than playing on the edge is a lot different. You can see in the ball game he was a little unsure and didn't know exactly where to go and what to do at times. Of course it's a new position for him and he's still learning," said Fewell. "I think the young man has talent. How we use his talent, how we garner his talent is something we're trying to find out every day."
The biggest difference is the perspective on the field from cornerback to safety. At corner you're out on the edge and generally have a specific cover assignment and your pursuit to the ball is usually in the same direction every time since you're out on the flank. That's not the case at safety.
"You have the whole field, sometimes half of the field, or sometimes you roll down and you have a zone that we tell him to play also," said Fewell. "There is a lot more responsibility than meets the eye."
"You're so used to coming from right to left and at safety you're coming downhill," said Cox. "But you realize you can do the same thing if you continue to work and try to be the best at what you do."
If Cox can prove to the staff that he's a quick study at safety it would certainly increase his value to an NFL secondary with the plethora of spread offenses in the league these days.
"With his ability to play the corner position it allows us not to substitute if they put three wides on the field because he can go cover the second receiver," said Fewell. "It's not that I want him to beef up or anything of that nature. I want him to be natural in how he plays and what he does."
Showing an ability to play cornerback and free safety would also enhance his chances of earning a roster spot in a very crowded and talented secondary.
"The way roster sizes are the more things you can do only helps you especially when you're in a backup role you want to try to do multiple things," said Modrak. "When you can back up at a couple of positions and play special teams your value goes up."
"No question about it. If he can handle the information, if he can handle the opportunity to go out and play that safety position, he's a free safety candidate for us," said Fewell. "And if he can do those things that versatility will definitely help him in his quest to make this football team."