Taking a closer look at the Buffalo Bills’ linebacker position

Oct 30, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills inside linebacker Preston Brown (52) during the game against the New England Patriots at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 30, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills inside linebacker Preston Brown (52) during the game against the New England Patriots at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports /

The Buffalo Bills linebacker position will be an interesting position given the Bills are switching back to a 4-3 defense and losing a few key players

The Buffalo Bills are switching from a 3-4 defense back to a 4-3, resulting in one less linebacker on the field for McDermott’s defense.

With that, there is expected to be intense competition between several linebackers for starting jobs and for roster spots. In addition, most of these players will be seen on special teams.

Linebackers currently on the roster

  • Lorenzo Alexander
  • Reggie Ragland
  • Preston Brown
  • Gerald Hodges
  • Ramon Humber
  • Tanner Vallejo
  • Matt Milano
  • Carl Bradford
  • Ian Seau

(Some players on the defensive line will rotate into an outside linebacker role, like Max Valles)

Lorenzo Alexander

Alexander decided to re-sign with the Bills and it was a huge get for the Bills. Alexander had a career year last season which included 12.5 sacks, the most in his career. He was also voted as one of the top 100 players — voted on by the players.

Alexander will come to camp as the projected starting outside linebacker, but also could see time on the defensive line and rush the quarterback. Alexander is more of an edge rusher than a linebacker.

Lorenzo Alexander’s Role: Starting Outside Linebacker

Reggie Ragland

Ragland was a second round pick last draft and missed all of his rookie season with an injury. Ragland will now be playing his first NFL snaps. McDermott will have an intense camp competition with Ragland and Preston Brown for the starting middle linebacking role. But whoever loses it will still see the field a ton.

It will be interesting to see how Ragland can return to form following his injury. If he can return to his Alabama form the Bills will sure be happy to have him.

Reggie Ragland Role: Starting Middle Linebacker

Preston Brown

Brown was the team’s starting middle linebacker alongside Zach Brown last season, but it appears with Ragland healthy Brown may have lost his job. Brown last season had 139 tackles and one sack, for a very productive season. But now, people are questioning if Brown can handle being the lone middle linebacker on the field. Only time will tell.

For Brown, he needs a very good camp to win that starting job.

Preston Brown Role: Backup Middle Linebacker

MUST READ: Bills release Charles Gaines, sign Gerald Hodges

Gerald Hodges Jr.

Gerald Hodges is the newest addition to the linebacker corps this offseason. Signed on Thursday, Hodges will be fighting for a starting spot at weak side linebacker. At that position, McDermott has already named Humber the early starter, but that will likely change now.

With not much other competition at weak side, Hodges will have a good shot at starting outside linebacker opposite Alexander and beside Ragland/Brown.

Gerald Hodges Role: Starting Weak Side Linebacker


Ramon Humber

The former undrafted free agent played in all 16 games with the Bills last season, including one start. This season is his best chance to earn a starting job and at age 29, Humber is running out of time to be a productive NFL player.

Humber also figures to be a very key player on special teams this season, leading the Bills with 12 special teams tackles in 2016.

Ramon Humber Role: Backup Outside Linebacker/Special Teamer

Tanner Vallejo

The rookie linebacker out of Boise State was the Buffalo Bills’ 6th round selection in this past draft. Vallejo comes to the Bills after being a four-year starter at Boise State. Vallejo is coming off a broken wrist that cut his senior year short, but regardless should come in and be a key special teams player.

At Boise Stae, Vallejo blocked two kicks on special teams.

Tanner Vallejo Role: Backup Outside Linebacker/Special Teamer

Matt Milano

The Bills used a 5th round selection on Boston College’s linebacker Matt Milano. The rookie linebacker spent four seasons at Boston College and was a starter his final seasons, but during his first two seasons played a ton on special teams.

Milano figures to see most of his time on the field as a special team player, but can add insurance to the linebacker position. In his final two seasons, Milano played in 94% of Boston College’s defensive snaps.

Matt Milano Role: 3rd String Middle Linebacker/Special Team Player

Carl Bradford

Bradford signed with the Buffalo Bills on May 9th after being waived by the 49ers after one season. Bradford was a 4th round selection of the Packers in 2014.

For his career, Bradford only has five tackles in six games played including two with the 49ers. Like most players recently signed with the Bills, this may be his best shot to earn playing time and may have to earn his way by playing special teams.

Carl Bradford Role: Backup Outside Linebacker/Special Teamer

Ian Seau

Junior Seau’s nephew figures to be one of the final cuts or makes on the defensive line/linebacker group. Seau was an undrafted free agent and signed with the Rams in May, before getting cut in September. Seau never signed with another NFL club until April when the Bills signed him.

Now, this is Seau’s best shot to make an NFL roster, as he can be a rotational player on the defensive line and being the 3rd string outside linebacker behind Alexander and Valles, there still is a good shot he could be a practice squad player if Carl Bradford beats him out.

Ian Seau Role: 3rd String Outside Linebacker/Practice Squad

Next: Who to watch this season outside the AFC East

What do you see the linebacker group looking like come Week 1? Leave your thoughts below!