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Bills not handing open safety spot to Duke Williams

5/14/2015

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Last season, the Buffalo Bills took the loss of Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd in stride, inserting Da'Norris Searcy into the starting lineup and remaining one of the NFL's better secondaries.

They are looking for similar results this season after Searcy signed a four-year, $24 million deal with the Tennessee Titans in March, but it's still unclear which player will fill the hole next to Aaron Williams.

"I think there is going to be competition at that spot," coach Rex Ryan said Wednesday. "We’re not handing it to him, that it’s set in stone, like you can say about Aaron Williams. But there will be competition there."

Duke Williams, a fourth-round pick in 2013, was used sparingly as a rookie but started to gain traction with coaches last season, playing 49 percent of defensive snaps.

"I think Duke is a guy that has the physical traits you look for; he loves to play and is a tough physical guy and he can run," Ryan said. "I think those are obviously some main traits you look for. How quickly he processes and things like that, we’ll find out. There’s probably competition in this building and that will be good for Duke and will be good for our football team."

What sort of competition will there be with Williams? Here are some notes:

1. Bills tried to claim D.J. Swearinger: The Bills were one of eight teams to put in a waiver claim this week for former Houston Texans safety D.J. Swearinger, according to ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with the NFL's worst record last season, had priority and were awarded Swearinger. A second-round pick in 2013, Swearinger started 22 games his first two seasons but reportedly had a rocky relationship with coaches and had been on the trading block this offseason. With the Bills, Swearinger would have been the early favorite to win the job next to Aaron Williams.

2. Dawan Landry still an option: Veteran safety Dawan Landry, a free agent after spending the last two seasons playing for Ryan with the New York Jets, visited to the Bills last month and is still on their radar. "We’ve been in contact with Dawan. We brought him in here for a physical and things like that, so we pretty much know where he’s at," Ryan said Wednesday. "Does that mean we’re going to sign him? There’s nothing definite about that, but we did bring him. We kicked the tires, so to speak, and we’ll be prepared if that’s the case. If we think he can help our football team, then we’ll certainly look at that." Landry is 32 but is coming off one of his best seasons, when he was ranked ninth among NFL safeties by Pro Football Focus.

3. Other options on the roster: Other than Duke Williams, the Bills have four veteran safeties on their roster: Bacarri Rambo, Jonathan Meeks, Kenny Ladler and Deon Broomfield. Of that group, Rambo would have the best chance to challenge Williams but has some limitations in his game, including his pursuit and tackling abilities.

4. The next Jim Leonhard? I mentioned after this past weekend's rookie camp that undrafted safety Wes Miller, a tryout from UTEP, drew some similarities to former NFL safety Jim Leonhard, an undersized but instinctive player that Ryan favored in his time with the Jets and Baltimore Ravens. The Bills signed Miller to their 90-man roster this week and Ryan was fond of the comparison Wednesday. "He does look like Jim Leonhard and if he’s half the player, we’ll sign up for that as well," Ryan said. "He does have some of the same characteristics. He’s smart, sharp as a tack and I like the fact that when we had him he said, 'I just can’t wait until the pads come on.' I’m like, 'You’re 5-foot-nothing and you can’t wait til the pads come on?' That’s how he feels about himself, but you have to be that way." Miller is a long shot to make the roster, but it could be a fun story to follow.