The Bills take over Green Bay : An act in the practice of stealing starters.

According to NFL rules, each team is allowed up to eight players on their practice squad at a time. To be practice squad eligible, a player must have not played more than nine regular season games or have been on an active roster for a full season. Also, they cannot spend more than two seasons on the same team’s squad unless that team’s roster never drops below 53 players.

Practice squad players are able to both scrimmage and work out with the active players, but cannot appear in a game unless signed to an active-roster contract. In 2009, minimum practice squad player compensation was a flat $5,200 per week, not shabby considering their position. Oftentimes, a team will place players on their 8-man squad who they want to develop down the road or are borderline NFL-caliber talent, yet the team still wants to get a better look at them. Players on a practice squad are available in the pool of free agents to other clubs at no compensation to the team they currently play for.

That brings us to the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, where on September 6th, 2009, the Packers designated and signed their eight choice players to their squad. Those players included wideout Jake Allen, cornerback Trevor Ford, runningback Kregg Lumpkin, linebacker Cyril Obiozor, defensive linemen Ronald Talley and Anthony Toribio, offensive tackle Jamon Meredith and quarterback Brian Brohm. Two of those players – Meredith and Brohm – are now former Packers and in the running for starting positions with the Buffalo Bills.

Brohm, definitely a player in the race for the starting quarterback position in Buffalo (along with Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick), is entering his third year in the NFL. Drafted in the second round  (56th overall) by Green Bay in 2008 out of Louisville, Brohm was immediately locked into a competition with 7th round pick Matt Flynn for the honors to be the primary backup to new starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Due to Brohm’s inability to quickly grasp the Packers’ vast offensive playbook, Flynn took the lead in that competition early in camp and never looked back. Brohm spent the 2008 season as the third quarterback and did not suit up once. He didn’t do anything to advance his position in 2009 and in early September, he was waived and allocated to the team’s practice squad – not spending very long there, he was signed to Buffalo’s active roster on November 19. The move came following the release of quarterback Gibran Hamdan, making Brohm immediately Buffalo’s number three signal caller. Brohm made his first start for interim head coach Perry Fewell on December 27th in Atlanta, completing 17 of 29 passes for 146 yards and two interceptions. His only other action in his sophomore season came against Indianapolis the following week, kneeling the ball for a loss of three yards on the final drive.

Had Brian declared early for the draft in 2007 as was anticipated of him, many league insiders and experts had expected him to go first overall, but his tough decision to return to Louisville to pursue his goal of winning a National Championship proved to be the wrong one. Though he posted career highs (4,024 yards, 29 touchdowns, 12 interceptions), the Cardinals were often playing from behind, causing him to throw very often. Their 6-6 record dramatically lowered his draft stock and he slipped to the 56th overall selection, almost at the end of the second round.

Meredith is preparing for his second year of NFL action after being taken in the fifth round (162nd overall) by Green Bay in the 2009 draft. He will enter the mix this year in a battle for the position of starting left tackle from now up until the start of the regular season against, presumably, incumbent starter Demetrius Bell, fifth-round rookie Ed Wang, and darkhorse candidate Jason Watkins. Coming out of South Carolina last year, Meredith was seen as not possessing the true athletic ability that you’d like to see out of your starting left tackle and was relegated to right tackle before being waived on September fifth, signing to Green Bay’s practice squad after passing waivers. Just over two weeks later, however, Buffalo lost starting right tackle Brad Butler to a serious knee injury and signed Meredith away from the Packers. He appeared in eight games for Buffalo, starting four of them (two at each tackle position) in his rookie campaign with a fairly strong showing considering his youth and knowledge of the NFL.

Jamon had a solid career at South Carolina, starting 38 of the 49 games he played in (19 at left tackle, 11 at right tackle, 8 at left guard). Meredith started his career at right tackle, but quickly made the transition to the left side and stayed there through the conclusion of his junior year, compiling 28 consecutive starts combined between the two positions. In his senior season of 2008, he had to sit out the first two games due to a decision by the NCAA regarding eligibility stemming from his redshirt status granted after playing in one game during his true freshman season. Because of this, then-sophomore Jerriel King had emerged as the starter at left tackle, and upon Meredith’s return, he was asked to play left guard even after starting his first game back at tackle. He finished out the season there, but entered the 2009 draft as an offensive tackle. Originally one of the top defensive end prospects coming out of highschool, he was blessed with naturally long and strong arms, which proved to be a positive trait in his transition back to tackle. Many scouts, however, saw him wrap up 2008 at guard and assumed his best shot in the NFL was at guard or, at best, right tackle, which dropped his draft stock significantly. Though he was one of the best offensive tackles to come out last year with undoubtedly one of the highest experience levels, he slid all the way to the fifth round where Green Bay selected him with hopes that he would one day replace left tackle Chad Clifton.

Both of these kids have as good a chance as any to become impact starters at the two most important offensive positions on a rag-tag Bills offense in 2010, and if either or both can re-create the glory of their college days, Buffalo’s front office will rightfully receive praise for snagging true steals off of an often-forgotten commodity that is another team’s practice squad. With Brohm’s natural skillset, positive attitude, and weak competition, he could grow nicely under Chan Gailey, Curtis Modkins, and George Cortez in their run-oriented offense. Meredith has more competition to sift through, but he is a smart kid who stays out of trouble off of the field and is a quick learner on it, which should help him greatly in his challenge to protect whoever it may be that starts under center in 2010. Personally, I would love to see both of these guys start and succeed in Buffalo as both are good guys and would provide a nice, feel-good story about the team, possibly making the national perception of them a little less bleak.

We will know in the coming months how each of their position battles plays out – and there is always the option for the team to make a play for an established starter at either position, as has been rumored often this offseason, but either way, both should provide a solid use of a roster spot and see plenty of playing time moving forward.

Here’s hoping for the best, Buffalo.

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