When the Buffalo Bills selected Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft, he was expected to make a big impact alongside Preston Brown in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 defense. However, he missed his entire rookie season after tearing his ACL during last year’s training camp.
With new head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier implementing a 4-3 scheme, there was expected to be a heated competition for the starting middle linebacker job between Ragland and Brown. However, through Buffalo’s first four days of training camp, Ragland has exclusively worked with the second-team defense, despite fellow linebackers Ramon Humber, Gerald Hodges and even rookie sixth-round draft pick Tanner Vallejo seeing time with the first-team.
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Frazier spoke to the media on Sunday and was asked about Ragland, explaining that while he’s healthy, it’s still a long process to recover from ACL injuries but noted that he’s aware of the former SEC Defensive Player of the Year’s talent.
“You can see him kind of getting his legs back under him. He got a chance to get a little work at the end of OTA’s and [it’s been] a long road coming back from the type of injury that he had – and it may take a little while – but every day he gets a little more confidence,” Frazier said. “You can see the burst beginning to come back, but it’s a process when you’re coming back from that type of an injury so we’ll just watch and progress over the next few weeks and hopefully, he’ll have no setbacks.”
Ragland played in a 3-4 defense throughout his collegiate career and that was expected to continue when he joined the Bills. However, the responsibilities and assignments for linebackers in a 4-3 defense are different than what’s asked in a 3-4.
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Frazier didn’t sound too concerned with how Ragland would adapt from the scheme switch, stating that there would be similarities in what the role would include.
“The things that we ask him to do are not overly different than what he actually did in college,” Frazier said. “He’s a good enough athlete, he’s a smart enough football player that he can adapt to whatever system you have in place and he’s doing a good job in that regard. I don’t think there are any concerns, system-wise.”
The Bills have only had two padded practices thus far so the fact that Ragland has been working with the second-team defense may not be much of a concern, but it certainly will be something to monitor as training camp progresses.