Buffalo Bills: Early look at key training camp battles on defense

Levi Wallace, Buffalo Bills (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Levi Wallace, Buffalo Bills (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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Buffalo Bills
ORCHARD PARK, NY – SEPTEMBER 13: Harrison Phillips #99 of the Buffalo Bills against the New York Jets at Bills Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Orchard Park, New York. Bills beat the Jets 27 to 17. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /

In an era with free agency and so much roster turnover, it is rare for a team to bring back all their starters. However, that is exactly what the Buffalo Bills will do with the team’s primary starters from last year’s defense under contract. This doesn’t necessarily mean they will have the exact same defense though and there are a few positions that are up for grabs on defense entering training camp.

This is an early look at some of the potential training camp battles to watch on the defensive side of the ball for the Buffalo Bills.

Defensive Tackle

Harrison Phillips vs. Vernon Butler vs. Justin Zimmer

The Buffalo Bills have rotated the players on the defensive line pretty regularly and that includes at defensive tackle. While Star Lotulelei and Ed Oliver are expected to be the starters, the players behind them will likely see plenty of playing time.

This past season Oliver played the most defensive snaps among defensive tackles with 54% however five defensive tackles played 25% or more of the defensive snaps. This is why the battle between Harrison Phillips, Vernon Butler, and Justin Zimmer is one of the key position battles to watch.

The Buffalo Bills have great depth at defensive end and if they keep six pass rushers, this could limit the defensive tackles to only four which means of the three players listed, one may end up being released before the start of the season.

The battle may come down to what type of defensive tackle they need depth at as Harrison Phillips is more of a one-tech, Justin Zimmer is more of the three-tech while Vernon Butler could play both but tends to be a better fit as three-tech.