Given the Buffalo Bills' depth chart at running back going into training camp, Xavier Omon's chances of getting on the field or even making the team looked bleak.
But the Bills' decision to cut veteran Dominic Rhodes and keep Omon says a lot about their confidence in the second-year pro.
"Hopefully it says they're trusting me, and they're going to give me an opportunity to prove myself and show that I've worked hard in the offseason," Omon said after Monday's practice. "I've earned this opportunity and hopefully I'll do something with it."
The 5-foot-11, 217-pound Omon arrived at training camp 10 pounds lighter and the result was he hit the holes quicker and with more burst. He also impressed during the preseason, though he was knocked out of the last game with a calf contusion.
Omon appeared in only two games and carried the ball six times during the 2008 regular season. Despite his obvious lack of experience, the Bills apparently felt he was a better fit than Rhodes as Fred Jackson's backup the first three games.
"He has come in great shape, he looks good and he made some plays for us in the preseason," Jackson said. "That just shows that he's worked hard to get to where he is. The team has faith in him and I have faith in him, too. I believe he'll be able to make some plays for us and that's the reason he's here."
Omon should benefit having Jackson, who is in constant communication with the young running back to make sure he knows what to do and how to do it.
"After every play, I'm asking him what he's seen, what kind of defenses they were showing and if he was keying his reads in pass protection," Jackson said. "I just try to talk to him a lot and give him keys to pick up on. Shaud Williams did it for me, and I know it helps. So I try to do the same for him."
Making the 53-man roster was Omon's expectation all along. Running back coach/running game coordinator Eric Studesville told Omon that if he worked hard enough and improved as a runner, blocker and receiver he would get his chance to play.
That chance will arrive seven days from now in New England.
"Of course, I'll do special teams but I want to get on the field as a running back and get some carries," Omon said. "With only two running backs, hopefully I'll get some carries in this game. I know I'm ready to do it. I've been waiting for this opportunity a long time. It's finally here, so I've got to take advantage of it."
Defensive end Chris Kelsay returned to practice Monday after missing the previous five days because his daughter had surgery in Chicago.
Offensive tackle Demetrius Bell (back), cornerback Drayton Florence (knee), defensive tackle Spencer Johnson (thigh) and tight end Derek Fine still were unable to work out with the team, but Jauron reiterated that he expects all of them to be on the field on Wednesday.
Two days into Alex Van Pelt's tenure as offensive coordinator the players are feeling more comfortable with him.
"I think as an offensive unit, as a whole, we have," Jackson said. "It's something where we just kind of embrace the moment and we'll go out there and try to make plays whenever we get an opportunity.
"There's a sense of change. It's something that we knew was going to be a little different, but I think a lot of guys are excited about it and we're willing to try and make it work."