The Bills released DE Shawne Merriman for two reasons: He wasn't resembling enough of his former “Lights Out” self on the field, and they wanted to see more from their youngsters in the battle for the fourth defensive end position.
Enter Kyle Moore, Jarron Gilbert and Robert Eddins.
Those three defenders suddenly find themselves in a competition for one, maybe two spots on Buffalo's opening day roster.
“In that defensive line in general we've got some younger guys who are pushing,” coach Chan Gailey said. “We felt like with the three good guys that we really like and that are really playing well right now (top DEs Mario Williams, Mark Anderson and Chris Kelsay) we could afford to do this and maybe develop a young guy.”
Moore appears to be on the fast track for the fourth defensive end role. The 6-foot-6, 263 pounder is a former fourth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who struggled with injuries early in his career. The Bills signed him off Detroit's practice squad last November and he's impressed as a pass rusher at training camp, showing good burst and explosion around the edge. He appeared to be pushing for a roster spot even before Merriman was released.
“I'm a hungry end,” Moore said. “I was cut last year and this year I have a good opportunity of making this team and I won't give it back for no reason. I'm going to take this opportunity and run with it.”
Earlier in camp, Gailey stressed that Moore had to continue rounding out the rest of his game aside from pass rushing.
“He's done a good job,” Gailey said. “He's got to learn to play every aspect of the game, that's his thing right now. Kyle can rush the passer. We've got to make sure everything else is in sync with the rest of our football team.”
Gilbert is a bit of a surprise contender at this point. A former third-round pick of the Chicago Bears, Gilbert (6-foot-5, 289 pounds) spent nearly all of Buffalo's spring and camp workouts at defensive tackle. Just last week he was moved back to defensive end, which is where he lined up mostly in college at San Jose State, and is currently fifth on the depth chart. With Mark Anderson (groin) missing practice time this week, Gilbert's working alongside Moore with the second team.
“End feels a little more natural ... I'm happy to have the opportunity,” Gilbert said.
Eddins is behind Moore and Gilbert at the moment but impressed enough at training camp last year to make the opening day roster. Eddins (6-foot-3, 246 pounds) was placed on injured reserve early last season and returned as a member of Buffalo's practice squad in November following an injury settlement.
“We felt like we needed to move on and look down the road,” said general manager Buddy Nix. “So these young guys will get a shot.”
For more updates on the Bills follow correspondent Mark Ludwiczak on Twitter @CBSSportsNFLBUF and @MarkLud12.