D-line outlook: status quo

Every indication is that the Bills this season will be going with the defensive linemen they already have on their roster, and won't bring in any veterans.

The only possible change could be re-signing under tackle Shawn Price, but his rehab from knee surgery isn't going as quickly as he had hoped. During May, he talked about being cleared for football workouts some time in June. Now, it appears that his return date still is at least a few weeks away. He worked out alone at the Fieldhouse during Buffalo's June mini-camp, but was noticeably limping.

All but gone are the possibilities of the Bills' signing "name" free-agent defensive linemen. If they had been able to chop Jay Riemersma's salary-cap figure, if not his 2002 compensation, by a million or so, perhaps they could have gone after someone like Chidi Ahanotu.

As it stands, then, who will make up Buffalo's defensive line?

The only really settled position is nose tackle, and even there Pat Williams has been brought along slowly after undergoing off-season surgery on both ankles. As the most recent mini-camp ended, the remainder of the starting defensive line appeared to be left end Kendrick Office, under tackle Tyrone Robertson and right end Aaron Schobel. All were rookies last season.

And if the Bills call on others as potential D-line starters, they'd probably have to go with draft picks Ryan Denney and Justin Bannan or second-year man Ron Edwards. He could back up Williams or compete for playing time at under tackle. Robertson is hardly set in stone there; he also worked at left end during the June mini-camp.

Fading farther down the depth chart appeared to be third-year players Erik Flowers and Leif Larsen, and second-year man Bryce Fisher. Flowers and Fisher still may not be big enough to play regularly on an NFL defensive line, and Larsen's inexperience and lack of football savvy could doom him.


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