Sean Moran isn't missing Bruce Smith.
Don't get Moran wrong. The Buffalo Bills' second-year defensive end knows how important Smith is to the Bills' defense.
It's just that Smith's absence from the early part of the Bills' training camp has been an opportunity for Moran.
"I don't mind at all," said Moran, who is keeping Smith's spot in the starting lineup warm while he's away. "I'm getting a lot of repetitions, and it's good for me. But I understand Bruce will be back. He's a great player, and he has to do what he has to do."
What Moran has had to do in Smith's absence is make a positive impression on the coaches.
He did that in Saturday's preseason game in Denver. In about four series of work, Moran stuffed Denver running back Terrell Davis for a 3-yard loss on one play, smelled out a screen pass on another, made four solo tackles in all, and generally made things happen.
The performance was an indication Moran might be able to give the Bills some decent spot duty as a backup at defensive end this season.
That's what he's hoping.
"I think it proved at least a little bit how far I've come since last season," said the 6-foot-3, 275-pounder. "Hopefully I can give Wade (Phillips) a little bit of confidence to put me in the game a little more during the season."
Moran played a lot on special teams last season but saw very limited time at defensive end as a rookie. Actually, none of the Bills' defensive line reserves saw much action last year.
But Moran thinks he's much better prepared to contribute this year.
He weighed just 255 as a fourth-round draft choice out of Colorado State last spring. He got himself up to 265 by the end of last season. This year he's between 275 and 280 and is better suited to taking on offensive linemen.
"I'm less likely to lose my ground," he said. "They say they want me to be as big as I can get while keeping my speed."
Good quickness is one of Moran's strengths.
"Quickness and a lot of effort," said defensive line coach Dan Sekanovich. "If you noticed the other night, from the line of scrimmage he'd break to make a tackle on a receiver or to get the draw from behind. Not only did he do it technically right, he did it within the scheme. He's stronger than last year, and he's playing with leverage."
Moran's lack of ideal size kept him from being a higher draft pick. Besides his collegiate weight, he's about two inches shorter than the prototypical NFL defensive end.
Of course, the Bills don't need Moran to be Bruce Smith (presuming Smith's holdout ends, as expected, sometime this preseason). But it would be nice if they had a little more reliable defensive line depth.
"I think I'm doing pretty decent," Moran said. "I'm hanging in there with Phil (Hansen) and Ted (Washington) and holding my own."
Moran's strong showing Saturday was especially satisfying because he had so many friends in attendance. He was born and raised in the Denver area.
"I probably saw about 120 people I knew at the game, from friends and family to high school football coaches and little league coaches.
"I wanted to impress the home fans," Moran said. "Now I've got to keep it up."