Backup: Levi Wallace
The starter opposite Tre’Davious White last season, Levi Wallace, is in danger of losing his starting job despite having a solid campaign. Due to the familiarity of the coaching staff with Norman, and his big contract, it seems like the veteran is a step ahead of Wallace.
An undrafted free agent in 2018, Wallace has been starter opposite of White since the last half of 2018 and has been a consistent presence for the team. Starting all 16 games last season, racking up 76 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions and 9 passes defended, it was a productive season for the sophomore.
Teams completed 65.7% of passes thrown his way on 105 targets and three touchdowns, for a mediocre 85.5 passer rating versus his coverage. Wallace was by no means poor last season, but is limited physically as he has a “wiry” frame at 6’0″ and 179 pounds and is does not have the speed to keep up with fast receivers.
After his game versus the Browns, where he gave up 2 touchdowns in a losing effort, Wallace and Kevin Johnson formed a platoon role for the rest of the season, which could be his role with Norman this season.
Backup: Siran Neal
The big nickel currently for the Buffalo Bills will likely be in a roster battle with E.J. Gaines and Dane Jackson, but due to his familiarity of the scheme and reliability on special teams Neal should make the roster again. At 6’0″ 206 pounds Neal is gifted physically and needs to prove himself next season.
Playing in 15 games last season, making one start, Neal racked up 36 tackles, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Neal was exceptional for the Bills in their playoff game versus the Texans where he had one sack and a pass defended, and could have had another sack if not for an unlucky break between him and Matt Milano in overtime.
Playing just 17% of snaps on defense last season, if Neal can prove capable he could see a jump in snaps for 2020. Playing 58% of snaps on special teams, the third-year pro should maintain his spot as a core special teamer.
Backup/Special Teams: Dane Jackson
Jackson fell to the Bills in the seventh-round of the 2020 NFL Draft and does a lot of things well to become a future replacement for Taron Johnson. At 6’0″ and 180 pounds, with average athleticism there are reasons why Jackson fell where he did.
The former cornerback for University of Pittsburgh has the makings of a great special teamer as he’s very competitive and is a great tackler. Joe Marino of The Draft Network wrapped up Jackson’s game perfectly:
"Physical, aggressive and competes for the football like an alpha. Not the biggest bodied guy but he’s willing to crowd the frame of bigger receivers and make it difficult for them to establish their frame at the catch point. Quick trigger working downhill and he makes the run defense better. Three year starter with consistent ball production. Physical and never reluctant tackler. Love his click and close ability and how aggressively he drives on routes. Experienced in zone coverage and has a sound feel for layering coverage."
Marino cites Jackson’s aggressiveness as his best trait and is an ideal fit for the Bills defense.
"His best role at the next level is likely to come as a slot corner where he has the ability to be a featured player in subpackages."
His ideal role fits exactly what Taron Johnson currently occupies for the Buffalo Bills. He likely won’t occupy the position this season but if he proves worthy he could battle for it next season. More likely settling in as a core special teamer next year, and could be a valuable gunner for the Bills.