Buffalo's strength and depth along the defensive front is apparent heading into this season. Expectations have been elevated for this team because of the improvements made to the defensive line this offseason. The added depth will provide some fierce competition between players during both training camp and preseason action, as they battle for roster spots. In addition, it will force the Bills' coaching staff to make some tough decisions when cuts are to be made.
"That is going to be a very difficult decision when it comes down to it," said Bills head coach Chan Gailey. "I think we have some good players in that area. Whoever produces and plays the best are the guys we are going to keep."
One player eager to enter this competition is Bills third year defensive tackle Torell Troup. Troup is recovering from back surgery and has been limited all offseason. He has done some individual work to begin training camp, but remains sidelined during team drills. It has been difficult for him to sit and watch the action from afar, but he understands the recovery process.
"It is very frustrating, but compared to where I was before, I really can't say anything negative," said Troup. "I've come from not being able to walk and being in pain every day, to getting back on to the field and close to full health."
Due to a broken hand and back issues, Troup saw only minimal game action last season. He participated in only six regular season games and battled through injuries all year. It was difficult to endure after a productive rookie season where he played in 15 games and made 23 tackles. Head Coach Chan Gailey expects to see improvements from Troup, and a number of third year players this season. He is convinced that should happen.
"Anybody that is going into their third year, it is time for them to step up," Gailey said. "I think they will. I think they will give their very best effort."
This is unquestionably a significant season for Troup, but he does not feel any added pressure this year that hasn't existed in the past.
"I don't see it as a make or break season because I know I can play," Troup said. "My mindset is to get healthy. I already know that I can play in this league and the coaches know I can play."
The increased level of competition upfront is also something that Troup believes will fuel him and his teammates. Some players would view it as an extra obstacle in their way, but he thinks it will only push them to be better.
"We have a lot of depth. We have about 17 or 18 guys that are trying to win a spot on the defensive line," said Troup. "A couple of those guys are already locked in, but for everybody else, it is up in the air. If you are not coming out here and pushing yourself every day, then you have no excuses because everyone is out here fighting for a job, which will make everybody fight even harder."
While Troup's main focus is getting back to 100 percent this offseason, he has also been mentally preparing to play. He may not be physically where he wants to be quite yet, but he feels that he is right where he wants to be in terms of comprehending the new playbook.
"In the same sense, I have picked up on things as well," Troup said. "I have not even run a play yet and I know everything that we have put in so far."
Troup is not only studying his new playbook, but he is taking advantage of the experience around him. He is picking the brains of the veterans who have been in similar situations, and learning from them while he is unable to fully participate in practice.
"Definitely, you would be stupid if you did not utilize the guys who have already been in your position," said Troup. "I talk to Kyle (Williams) everyday. You have to be a student of the game and take what you can from anybody who is willing to give you helpful information."
There is not a set date lined up for a return to full contact, but he can't wait to get out and prove his abilities once again to his teammates and coaching staff.
"Right now I just want to get onto the field and be full go," Troup said. "I am just taking it one day at a time like the trainers keep saying, and hopefully that day comes soon."