By Tim Graham
MINNEAPOLIS -- On the eve of training camp, Buffalo Bills General Manager Buddy Nix declared he was worried about his safety depth.
Nix indicated some veteran help behind Jairus Byrd and George Wilson would be nice and brought free-agent Jim Leonhard in for a tryout. Leonhard eventually signed with the Denver Broncos, and the Bills' need remained unfilled.
But maybe undrafted rookie Delano Howell is starting to make the Bills feel better about their backup safeties.
He had another solid performance in Friday night's exhibition loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field. He recovered a fumble, stuffed Vikings running back Lex Hilliard for a 1-yard loss and five plays later stopped Hilliard for a 1-yard gain on a third-and-3 pass play.
Howell also had three tackles and two passes defensed in last week's preseason opener against the Washington Redskins.
"I tell you what," Bills coach Chan Gailey said Friday night. "He's done some good things. I told him on the sideline before the game that he has really picked it up and done a good job.
"He's making a real run at this thing. He's been impressive the last three weeks."
Howell was viewed as a long shot to make the roster when training camp began. Stanford converted Howell from running back to safety, and he played well when he wasn't hurt, earning first-team all-conference honors last season.
"Just kind of taking advantage of whatever they give you," Howell said of entering Friday night's game early in the second quarter. "I'm happy if they're going to throw me in there earlier. That's great. Whenever they put me in, I'm just going to do my best to make the most of it."
Although that hasn't revealed itself on the field, he said his NFL transition hasn't been a breeze. Stanford's academic schedule didn't allow him to fully participate in the offseason program, forcing him to play catchup at St. John Fisher College.
"I had to make up a little bit, kind of learn the playbook and everything," Howell said. "But it was great because it was a great team atmosphere, and everyone's helping you.
"A lot of the veterans -- I've got George, I've got Jairus, I've got [Da'Norris] Searcy -- I've got a lot of questions for them and they have answers. I've got the playbook to study. So it wasn't too difficult to catch up with all the help of the veterans."