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Bills GM Brandon Beane goes heavy on defensive line

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Day 2 of Buffalo Bills training camp

Bills head coach Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane survey their team from the middle of the field at ADPRO Sports Training Center.

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In going through the process of getting to the initial 53-man roster, Bills General Manager Brandon Beane kept coming back to one group. His aim was to keep the best players regardless of position, insofar as that is doable. So they stayed heavy on the line.

The Buffalo Bills kept 11 defensive linemen: six defensive ends and five defensive tackles. Beane believes doing so will bolster this defense, even if it sheds a few spots elsewhere on the team.

In analyzing the way the roster was formed, Beane brought up the D-line again and again Wednesday. He did so first when talking about tight end Jacob Hollister, one of the more surprising cuts.

“It was really a numbers thing. If we had kept another one, he's probably on the roster,” Beane said on Hollister. “It was just, we went heavy on D-(line), and unfortunately when you go heavy somewhere you got to cut somewhere else. So we wish Jacob the best.”

It came up later when delving into the Darryl Johnson trade, which sent the defensive end to the Panthers Monday for a 2022 sixth-round pick. Beane spoke highly of Johnson, repeating that he would have loved to have kept him, particularly given his impact on special teams. But the Bills couldn’t balloon to 12 at defensive line.

“He definitely could have helped our team this year,” Beane said. “But I mentioned it earlier, we went with 11 D-linemen right now, which is about as heavy as you can go. And we really tried to keep the best 53 and not say, we're going to keep x number of running backs, x number of receivers, tight ends. Again, that's why we went thin there (at tight end).”

His solace in letting Johnson go was the pick the Bills got in return. Beane said Johnson had “probably the most value” the team could recoup.

“These are tough calls. But again, we felt the value to get the sixth back, a hard pick,” Beane said. “Sometimes you're getting conditionals, or to get that for him knowing we've got to reduce by one – which (six is) still heavy.”

One other aspect of the roster that Beane highlighted was the continuity. He noted that with coaches, too. Having a team that generally already has a strong feel for each other’s tendencies allows them to quickly build upon that. It was one of two areas he brought up when asked what this team has now that it lacked last year. As for the other? Beane once again looked to the defensive line.

“Defensively, the biggest difference is our up front. We've really focused on retaining the back end, the back seven, and then strengthening this front four, and being able to rush in waves. I think that's what you'll see,” Beane said. “If we have eight or nine up on game day, Eric Washington is going to be rotating those guys to where we're hopefully going to be able to get after this quarterback.”

It’s a solid goal, one shared by the players.

“That’s what you want, particularly guys on the back end, just as a team, constant pressure on the quarterback,” linebacker Tremaine Edmunds said. “That’s the number one thing.”

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“They continue to battle and that’s true for all positions – the competition continues and that’s a good thing,” coach Sean McDermott said Thursday. “We’ve got extremely competitive guys out here that want to compete – that’s the environment that we foster and facilitate every day out here."

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