Enthusiasm continues to resonate One Bills Drive, and voluntary veteran mini-camp lifted the excitement level to yet another new height. With a new coaching staff and fresh schemes on both sides of the ball, opportunities will present themselves for many players.
One player who appears poised to prosper from the changes is second-year linebacker Nigel Bradham. Drafted in the fourth-round, Bradham spent the 2012 season working out of the strong-side linebacker position in the 4-3 defense, including starts in the final 11 games.
While Bradham found success at the position, strong-side linebacker was not a spot he had previous experience with. During his tenure at Florida State University, Bradham played weak-side as a freshman and sophomore, and inside as a junior and senior.
"Last year they moved me over to the SAM," said Bradham. "I started out at the weak-side and then moved over to the SAM. The transition was different for me. It was a different role because I had never played SAM before."
With defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's installation of a hybrid 3-4 defensive system, Bradham is heading back to the weak-side, and the 23 year-old is excited to be back to the position where he is most comfortable.
"Oh yeah, it's definitely nice to be back over there," Bradham said of the switch. "The role I had last year, I fit the team well and the coaches felt like that was best so I went out and played it."
From the weak-side, Bradham should be able to better utilize the speed and power that made him one of the most dependable linebackers at Florida State University, and earn time on the field as a rookie in Buffalo.
"I see myself fitting in well," Bradham said of the new scheme. "I feel like the scheme is really good for me, as far as where I can use my speed, my ability to cover, and pretty much be able to get some big plays and big hits on some guys this season."
Bills GM Buddy Nix himself believes Bradham is an excellent fit, and he foresees a solid season.
"I think he's a great fit for what we're doing because he can fly," Nix said Tuesday at the draft luncheon. "He can run. He's a guy that the closer he gets to the ball, the faster he gets. He likes to play. He was an excellent special teams guy. I would think he'll have a good year."
Nix did not hesitate when asked if Bradham could play all three downs this season.
"Absolutely," said Nix. "That's my opinion. Coaches may be different. Yeah, I think he can."
Bradham was used as a nickel package linebacker in the team's minicamp last week.
With the additions of Manny Lawson, who will take over the strong-side, and Marcus Dowtin, Nix believes the Bills linebacker corps is better than advertised.
"I think we've got some talent there, and a lot more than people think," explained Nix. "We'll know more with this group after we get through OTAs."
"We've got some depth there. There may be one in the draft we'll want to take, but we're better than we were when we started free agency."
Between college and the NFL, Bradham has experience at each linebacker position, and that makes him a particularly interesting option for a Bills defense that will be aggressive and versatile.
When asked about his experience, Bradham explained the advantage he believes it provides him.
"It's like a natural feel and natural instinct you have from when you've been playing certain positions. It pretty much just helps you be more versatile. I think it's definitely going to help me."
In Bradham's mind, his experience over the final 11 games in 2012 is the most beneficial.
"Game experience is tremendous," explained Bradham. "In the NFL, you're going against the best of the best. That game experience definitely will help me as far as the game. I know what it feels like now as far as sped and mentally and how fast you have to be mentally and physically."
As for what Bills fans should expect to see from Bradham and the new defensive scheme, Bradham's anticipates more blitzing and more fun.
"Pretty much everything [is different]," Bradham excitedly explained. "I feel like the blitzing, being in coverage, and the coaches [are] more enthusiastic. Pretty much everything as far as the scheme is something different and something I've never really been a part of as far as the blitzing, and I've been in mostly all coverage schemes, but this one has a lot more blitzing in it so it'll be a lot more fun."