Getting signed by the Bills is only the first step to making it in the NFL for Brim and Gaines. As undrafted rookies, both players recognize that if they are going to survive the team’s roster cutdown from 90 to its regular-season 53-man limit, they are going to have to earn their spots.
“I have this opportunity [to be on an NFL roster], not many people have these opportunities so I’m just going to make the most of it,” Gaines said. “I just feel blessed about the opportunity, to have this opportunity to facilitate what I have to these coaches personally. They want to see you every day and I get the opportunity to show them what I have and how I can, what I can bring to the table to make the team successful.”
In his personal quest to make the Bills, Brim said he is paying attention to detail.
“I try to just look at the little things that I can improve each day,” Brim said. “I’ll look at film, I’ll look at ‘am I doing my technique right? am I doing things that I’m coached?’ and just in a day, I’m trying to make plays out here, so that’s the things that I pay attention to.”
Having gone undrafted, both players face uphill battles to make the Bills roster.
Gaines, who measured in at 6’1” and 232 pounds at Miami’s pro day and ran a 4.84-second 40-yard dash according to NFLDraftScout.com, lacks the size and speed that teams typically covet at the linebacker position.
Brim, who measured in at 6’1” and 200 pounds and ran a 4.60-second 40-yard dash at Buffalo’s pro day according to NFLDraftScout.com, is closer to the physical prototype for a safety, but neither his workout numbers nor his on-field production at Buffalo were eye-popping.
Neither player was rated highly enough by NFL teams to be selected in the 2014 draft, but nonetheless, Harris said he “wouldn’t be surprised if they stick.”
“These aren’t bad football players by any stretch of the imagination,” Harris said.
A productive player for the Hurricanes, Gaines recorded 199 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions in his Miami career. C.J. Leak, an area scout for the Bills, told BuffaloBills.com’s Chris Brown that he thinks Gaines has the skill set to overcome his subpar measurables.
“What he lacks in size and speed he makes up for in quickness and shows the ability to slip backs,” Leak said.
Gaines’ production came in large part because of his hustle on the field. Game film from his career at Miami shows that the linebacker, even on plays where he initially make a mistake, consistently goes full-speed in his efforts to get to the football and make a play.
“That’s what I always taught, if I didn’t know what I was doing, at least give 100 percent while I was doing it,” Gaines said.
That mentality has been evident in Gaines since his days at Canisius, Harris said.
“He just doesn’t have another speed other than full speed,” Harris said. “You have to really almost corral him to get him to stop.”
The Bills can also count on Gaines, who was named Miami’s 2013 Strength Training Athlete of the Year, to work hard in the weight room.
“Everybody at his school raved about his character and work ethic,” Leak said.
Brim can’t hang his hat on his numbers, but like Gaines, he can consistently be seen going full-speed on the field in trying to make plays. He has enough athleticism and fluidity to play deep in an NFL secondary, while he is also a solid tackler who can make plays in the box.
“He’s a converted wide receiver who had a really good senior season and got better as the year progressed,” Bills coordinator of college scouting Doug Majeski told BuffaloBills.com.
There are spots on the Bills roster that could realistically be open for Gaines and Brim, but both players are going to have to beat out other rookies to earn them.
Gaines’ competition for a roster spot will include Randell Johnson, a seventh-round draft pick out of Florida Atlantic, and Darrin Kitchens, a fellow undrafted free agent from Florida. Those three rookies will likely be competing for a maximum of one spot on the depth chart, as the Bills also have a number of veterans jockeying for backup linebacker spots including Nigel Bradham, Ty Powell, Nathan Williams and Jacquies Smith.
There is a strong possibility that Buffalo could keep a rookie to be the team’s fifth safety, as other safeties on the roster have moved up the depth chart following the free-agency departure of Jairus Byrd to the New Orleans Saints. That gives Brim a shot to earn a spot, but he’ll have to beat out two fellow undrafted rookies, Kenny Ladler of Vanderbilt and Iowa State graduate Deon Broomfield, along with first-year player Jajuan Harley.
Ultimately, both rookies’ chances to make the team could come down to how well they perform this preseason on special teams, the capacity in which either would have the best chance of getting on the field in year one.
“I’m always a guy that’s looking to contribute anywhere I can,” Brim said. “If there’s opportunity, there’s a place in front of me on any special teams, I’m looking to help the team.”
From the outside looking in, Gaines and Brim both appear to be long-shots to still be on the Bills’ roster come September. That said, it’s evident that Gaines and Brim are both hard-working, intelligent players who are committed to proving they belong in the NFL.
“They’re both going to compete,” Harris said. “That’s been instilled in them since I had them and that’s something that I don’t think comes natural for a lot of kids nowadays.”
Even if Gaines and Brim aren’t initially projected to make the final 53, Harris expects them to make themselves tough for the Bills to cut.
“It’ll be a hard decision for the Bills, whether or not they let some other guy go [in favor of Gaines or Brim] that might have more pedigree supposedly,” Harris said. “These kids are two that are good football players and they’re tough football players.”
Gaines, Brim and Harris were each independently interviewed by Buffalo Bills Draft.