When Kyle Moore walked onto the field for the start of spring practices at One Bills Drive he saw a stacked deck at the defensive end position and he wasn't one of the cards on the top.
"I was kind of the odd man out coming into OTAs," he said. "They had Shawne Merriman, they had the signings of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson coming in and of course Chris Kelsay and everybody else that was there already."
The depth of veteran talent was new to him. After beginning his career as part of youth movement on Tampa Bay's defensive line and later as a member of Detroit's practice squad before being signed by the Bills last November, Moore wasn't used to being around so many proven players.
Moore just tried to remind himself that Chan Gailey's coaching staff saw enough in him to put him on the field for the final four games of the season last year. He clung to that each and every day he stepped on the practice field and four months later his odds of making the 53-man roster are vastly improved.
"I just wanted to be able to come in and work hard every day and show the coaches they could trust me," said Moore. "There's a reason why they put me on the field those last four games of the year. It wasn't because of my talent, it was because they could trust me and I could play a little bit."
Now he's hoping come the regular season he's not only on the roster, but part of a very deep rotation on Buffalo's defensive line and playing a whole lot more.
Moore knows just as well as any other NFL player that if there's one less player to compete with for a job, your odds are better. So he knows as cut throat as it might be, the release of Shawne Merriman Monday directly benefits him.
"Shawne with him playing end and us playing the same position, I don't know how many ends they were going to hold," he said. "My whole goal was just to make the top two groups and I was coming out here every day trying to do that."
The fourth-year end has flashed in the practice setting using his long and lanky 6'6" frame to keep offensive tackles from getting their hands into his chest. He's been running mainly with the second unit. Head coach Chan Gailey has said Moore has proven himself a capable pass rusher, but he wants a more complete end. That's why it sounded as though he was talking about Moore specifically when he explained why Merriman was released.
"At defensive line we've got some young guys that are pushing (for roles)," said Gailey. "So we felt like with the three good guys that we really like and are really playing well right now we could afford to do this and develop a young guy."
Just going off reps in practice and preseason games, Moore is the guy, but he knows Gailey wants him to be a complete end and that goes beyond the playing field.
"It's everything on the field and off the field," said Moore. "Being on time and accountable with everything that we do. That's what he's talking about. How to be a better pro when it comes to being on point with the details of things. It's not the big things, it's the small things that matter. I have to do better at that."
Perhaps the coaching staff believed clearing the path for Moore would inspire him to work harder and nail down a job that he's in the driver's seat to obtain.
"Oh absolutely," he said. "I'm hungry. I'm a hungry end. I was cut last year and this year I have a great opportunity to make this team and I won't give it back for any reason. So I'm going to take this opportunity and run with it."
Gilbert makes late switchMoore might be the frontrunner for that fourth end spot, but Jarron Gilbert is nipping at his heels. His road to this opportunity was a bit different. Picked up off the Jets practice squad last December, Gilbert was inactive for the last three games of the season in 2011. The team quickly re-signed him as a future free agent.
All through the spring and training camp he lined up at defensive tackle, running mainly with the third unit. Just last week however, he began lining up at defensive end. The 6'5" 285-pound San Jose State product didn't mind moving outside at all.
"End feels a little more natural," said Gilbert. "I played it mostly through college and a little bit my rookie year. Both of them I feel comfortable with right now. I know all the plays in the base positions."
Gilbert is hoping the versatility he displayed and end and tackle enhance his chances of making the roster. In Monday's practice he worked at left defensive end with the second unit while Moore worked on the right side.
After bouncing around the last couple of years from the Bears to the Jets and now the Bills, Gilbert has taken a liking to his most recent NFL stop.
"I'm comfortable. I like it here and I'm ready to go," he said. "I'm definitely comfortable in Buffalo. I'm happy to have the opportunity."
"We want to give these two young guys more reps in practice, more playing time in these last two games," said Bills GM Buddy Nix. "We need to look further down the road. We've got two good guys that are young and fit the scheme."