Bills defensive players to watch Sunday

August, 2, 2014
8/02/14
12:00
PM ET
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills' preseason opener against the New York Giants is quickly approaching.

While starters aren't expected to see any extended action, there will be several players who can benefit from the extra preseason game.

After highlighting players to watch on offense, we'll shift the focus to defense:

Preston Brown -- The third-round pick could have a significant role this season. Assuming Brandon Spikes only plays for a short period at the beginning of Sunday's game, Brown is expected to wear the defensive communication helmet for most of the contest. It will be valuable experience for Brown, who might not start games this season but could still see considerable time on defense. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has given Brown high marks since he arrived in May.

Randell Johnson & Jimmy Gaines -- Kiko Alonso's injury opened up a roster spot at linebacker, which could eventually come down to Johnson (seventh round) or Gaines (undrafted free agent). Johnson got a late start to camp while on the PUP list and could make his mark on special teams. Gaines received some snaps with the first-team defense last week in camp and could make a push with a strong preseason. Both players figure to see plenty of action Sunday night, giving coaches their first chance to evaluate the two rookies in live action.

Duke Williams & Jonathan Meeks -- The pair of safeties were drafted in back-to-back rounds last year but neither emerged on defense as rookies. Williams, a fourth-round pick, has yet to challenge Da'Norris Searcy for the starting safety job alongside Aaron Williams. Earlier in camp, coach Doug Marrone noted that Duke Williams has "flashed" ability at times but needs to be more consistent. Expect the duo to see extended playing time Sunday.

Ross Cockrell & Ron Brooks -- Can the Bills afford to carry six cornerbacks? That's a question that will linger throughout the preseason, and the performance of both players will be a factor. Cockrell, a fourth-round pick, is virtually assured a roster spot. But if Brooks, entering his third season, shows to be a more reliable option this August, then he could earn a spot ahead of Cockrell on the depth chart. Neither player has stood out in a positive or negative light through two weeks of camp. With the Bills managing the health of starters Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore -- it wouldn't be surprising if both didn't suit up Sunday -- these two cornerbacks should play for a chunk of the game.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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