Nigel Bradham Suspended for One Game; Who Should Replace Him as Buffalo Bills Weakside Linebacker?

Nigel Bradham has been suspended for the Buffalo Bills’ season opener, which opens up the team’s weakside linebacker starting job to competition. (Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig — USA Today Sports)

BBD Editor: Dan Hope

Kiko Alonso and Nigel Bradham were expected to be the top two weakside linebackers of the Buffalo Bills’ depth chart this season. The Bills will have neither of them for their first game of the 2014 season.

The NFL announced Wednesday that Bradham will suspended for one game, Buffalo’s season opener versus the Chicago Bears, for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.

He was arrested last August for marijuana possession in Tonawanda, N.Y., but all charges were dropped he was not disciplined by the league at that time.

Bradham confirmed after Wednesday’s practice that his suspension is related to his arrest last summer.

Per Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com, Bradham has already had an appeal of the suspension denied.

Per the league’s official statement, which was reproduced by Tim Graham of The Buffalo News, Bradham is eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games.

With Alonso already sidelined for the year with a torn ACL, Bradham has been working as Buffalo’s first-team weakside linebacker so far in training camp, according to Matthew Fairburn of Syracuse.com. Bradham was listed as such on the team’s first depth chart of the preseason, which was released Monday.

Bradham, who has started 13 games and recorded 108 total tackles and two pass deflections in two NFL seasons, was the early favorite to be Buffalo’s 2014 starter at the position. The job should become wide open now.

Preston Brown is the Bills’ top candidate to replace Bradham in the starting lineup for Week 1. (Photo: Andrew Weber — USA Today Sports)

The most likely candidate to take Bradham’s place in Week 1 is rookie third-round pick Preston Brown. Brown is a better fit inside than outside, and was listed as Brandon Spikes’ backup at middle linebacker on Monday’s depth chart, but Graham reported prior to the start of training camp that the Bills would like to the rookie, who has worked with the first-team defense in nickel packages, seize hold of the role as Alonso’s replacement. If Brown starts in the season opener and performs well, it’s quite possible the Bills could keep Brown in the lineup ahead of Bradham all season.

Stevenson Sylvester is currently listed as Buffalo’s second-team weakside linebacker, so he also could certainly be in the mix to start. Second-year player Ty Powell, listed as the third-team MLB, also possesses the skill to move outside and play at WLB. A dark-horse candidate to fill in for Bradham: Jimmy Gaines, an undrafted rookie out of Miami, who is listed as the third-team strongside linebacker but has taken some reps on the weakside with the first-team defense, according to ESPN’s Mike Rodak.

Tags: Jimmy Gaines, Kiko Alonso, Linebackers, Nigel Bradham, Preston Brown, Stevenson Sylvester, Suspensions, Ty Powell, Weakside Linebackers

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