ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Almost a month after the Buffalo Bills began training camp with a supposed competition at middle linebacker, 2016 second-round pick Reggie Ragland still appears closer to losing his roster spot than earning a starting job.
Preston Brown has exclusively taken first-team reps at middle linebacker in practices open to reporters and has ran the first-team defense in two preseason games. Gerald Hodges has led the second-team defense for the past two weeks, leapfrogging Ragland on the depth chart and not yet looking back.
That has left Ragland with the third-team defense and in jeopardy of either not making the 53-man roster or being traded.
"Reggie has made some progress," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said Wednesday. "He's getting more time at the linebacker spot. I can see more of a burst, but still not quite where we need him to be to make it a point where Preston would be in jeopardy of losing his job. It's not at that point yet.
"Preston is doing a good job for us. He's had a good preseason, just a good offseason in general. Reggie is making progress, but we still need to see more. And we'll see what happens this week as he progresses even more."
Ragland missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in August. Frazier believes the Alabama product has what it takes to fit into a new 4-3 scheme this season. The Bills used a 3-4 system run by Rex Ryan last season.
"He's smart enough, he's athletic enough," Frazier said. "Everybody recovers from this injury probably a little bit different. Some guys, it takes a year and a half. Some guys can come back even sooner. As he works through some of the things that goes along with rehab, and getting accustomed to playing live football again, we have to be patient and just let him continue to improve. And that's the good thing, that we're seeing improvement, so that encourages us. It's just a matter of time that he can get that burst back that we would like to see."
Frazier was unsure Wednesday of how much playing time Ragland would receive in Saturday's preseason game in Baltimore, a game in which traditionally starters see the bulk of the action. There could be an appeal to Buffalo in playing Ragland extensively in the second half to have him continue to settle back into live action -- or showcase him for a trade.
"Sometimes my knee feels good, sometimes it's sore," Ragland said. "I just need to keep getting better. I know I'm young and I still got time, so I'm really not pressed about some of the things. But I know I need to keep getting better, because Coach [Sean] McDermott and all the coaches keep telling me that."