With training camp now officially open, I’m re-examining the State of the Buffalo Bills’ roster, going position-by-position.
Here’s an in-depth look at the cornerbacks:
White has gotten better and better each pro season, took a major leap last year, and has a terrific future ahead of him. He’s still under contract for two more seasons after the team exercised their fifth-year option rights to him for 2021, but at some point they’ll have to pay a premium price to retain him long-term. He was named a First-Team All-Pro and selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2019, tying for a league-high six interceptions and twice being named AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
Wallace was the primary starter and player opposite of White to start last year, but began to struggle midway through the season as teams started going away from White and began targeting him much more often. Although Wallace remained the starter, he and Kevin Johnson rotated every couple series throughout games. Wallace seemed better for it, but that’s not going to be good enough to star this season. He’s still young and developing and has played well enough over his first two years to warrant a shot at keeping his starting spot, but he’ll have to lock it down or lose it for good. The team would love to have one, steady, reliable player there.
Johnson is the team’s starting nickel cornerback and that shouldn’t change. He’s a very good player who’s not shy about playing the run from his slot corner spot, but that fearlessness has caused the smaller Johnson to have to battle several injuries over his first two years. He had two separate shoulder injuries his rookie year, then a hamstring injury last season that kept him out of four games.
Norman was signed by the team even before the free agency period began since he had been released from his contract by the then-Washington Redskins with a year remaining on a massive five-year, $75 million contract he had signed in 2016, making him the highest paid cornerback in NFL history at the time. He got his start in the league with the Carolina Panthers in 2012 when current Bills head coach Sean McDermott was the defensive coordinator. In 2015, Norman was named a First-Team All-Pro and considered one of the best cornerbacks in the game, but the two sides couldn’t come to a contract extension, leading him to ultimately sign in Washington. Norman’s time in the nation’s capital wasn’t as successful as it was in Carolina. It was a different defense with different responsibilities and was never a true fit for him. So, now he’s in Buffalo and back with McDermott in a scheme he’s familiar with and had personal success. With White on one side already, Norman won’t be expected to be the top cornerback, but he’s five years removed from his best years in the NFL, and now 32-years-old. It will be very interesting if he can re-capture any of what he was then as he competes for a starting role.
Lewis, a University at Buffalo product, was having a nice preseason last year before suffering a concussion and placed on injured reserve. Now with a full offseason with Bills coaches and training staff, he’s someone to keep an eye on competing for a roster spot.
Jackson was a seventh round pick of the team back in April. I really liked him when I saw him at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama in January. He just looked like he belonged on an NFL field. He was patient and didn’t overreact, and played solid man-to-man defense. The Bills play a lot of nickel packages, and injuries always seem to pop up, so he will certainly have a chance to make the team and have a role, especially since he can play both outside and inside.
Brown was signed as an undrafted free agent this offseason out of Florida International, where he totaled five interceptions, 24 passes defensed, and 101 total tackles in his four collegiate seasons.