Randell Johnson favorite to fill niche role on Bills' defense


Continuing a month-long series analyzing players who are on the Buffalo Bills' roster bubble and where they potentially fit in 2015:

Name: Randell Johnson

Position: Linebacker

Age: 24

2014 stats: 5 games, 1 tackle

Chance of making 53-man roster: 75 percent

Why he should make it: Johnson is a bigger linebacker (6-foot-4 and 245 pounds) who has the necessary size to play strong-side linebacker in Rex Ryan's defense. Johnson ran as Manny Lawson's direct backup at that spot during OTAs and minicamp -- with undrafted rookie Andrew Hudson rounding out the depth chart -- so Johnson doesn't face stiff competition at his position. With a background as a college defensive end and as a special teams contributor as a rookie last season with the Bills, Johnson also offers versatility that should be appealing to the coaching staff. He fills a niche on the roster that few other players can.

Why he shouldn't make it: Sixth-round pick Tony Steward is Johnson's closest competition for a roster spot. Steward was injured during OTAs and minicamp but when he was healthy at rookie camp, Steward lined up at middle and weak-side linebacker. However, Steward might also have the size (6-foot-1 and 241 pounds) to slide outside to strong-side linebacker and give Johnson a run for his money at that position, as well as on special teams. But at this point, Johnson looks to be among the safer players on the Bills' bubble. There just isn't another player who can replicate Johnson's size and skill set.

Closest competition: Steward, DE Michael Buchanan, LB Jimmy Gaines