The Bills already have five regular starters on defense who are either rookies (Stephon Gilmore, Nigel Bradham) or second-year players (Marcell Dareus, Kelvin Sheppard and Aaron Williams). Another second-year pro, SS Da’Norris Searcy, is on the upswing with his playing time.
“(Searcy) has earned the right to play and I think it helps both of them not to have to play the whole ball game,” Chan Gailey told reporters on Wednesday, presumably referencing veteran George Wilson. “The good thing is they are both fresher for special teams, which we need both of those guys on special teams.”
This is the second time in the past few weeks in which Gailey has referred to Searcy “earning” his playing time, showing how well he has performed in practice. Searcy has 27 tackles, three tackles for loss and two forced fumbles this season.
Wilson played in only 41 of the team’s 72 defensive snaps in Week 13 — Searcy played in 35. The way we hear it, Searcy’s impressive play of late will set up an interesting position battle down the line, as Searcy is expected to be the strong safety of the future. Wilson, who turns 32 in March, had a strong season as the full-time starter in 2011. What will make the decision difficult is that Wilson is a well-respected leader in the locker room (four-time team captain), but Searcy is clearly cutting into Wilson’s playing time and showing he can make impact plays.
Searcy has good size and toughness and, like Wilson, has been a steady special-teams contributor. With safeties at a premium in the NFL, the Bills are certainly in good shape on the back end — assuming FS Jairus Byrd re-signs — considering the way Searcy has stepped up his play.