Why Bryson Albright, aka 'Big Bird,' can make Bills' final roster

Shaq Lawson? He's out until October, at the earliest, because of shoulder surgery. Manny Lawson? He's under investigation by the NFL for a potential violation of the league's personal conduct policy, putting him at risk for a suspension. IK Enemkpali? He's out for the season with a torn ACL.

The Buffalo Bills have taken hit after hit at outside linebacker since the spring, which could be welcome news for Big Bird's chances of the making the 53-man roster.

Yes, Big Bird. Or at least that's what coach Rex Ryan calls updrafted rookie Bryson Albright, a 6-foot-5 pass rusher whose growing mess of curly, blonde hair makes him look like more of a product of Sesame Street than Miami (Ohio) University.

"Albright is a guy that you look at him and you’re like, 'Who is the guy that looks like Big Bird? That’s him," Ryan said on July 29. "Maybe there’s an opportunity for another guy to step up. He was impressive during our minicamps."

Step up is exactly what Albright, 22, has done since Ryan spoke about him at the start of training camp last month. With Shaq Lawson sidelined and Enemkpali on injured reserve, Albright has flashed potential in both practices and preseason games this August, including a fumble recovery in last Saturday's win over the New York Giants.

While he could use a season on the practice squad to bulk up -- the Bills list him at only 225 pounds -- Albright appears to be a notch higher on the depth chart than charismatic undrafted rookie Eric Striker, who was on the roster bubble entering training camp. Even after the addition of veteran Kroy Biermann last week to the mix at the position, Albright has still taken some reps with the second-team defense.

If Albright's youth and potential help him stick with an outside linebacker group that is also expected to include top pass rusher Jerry Hughes, Manny Lawson and veteran special-teamer Lorenzo Alexander, he will be the fourth undrafted rookie to earn an opening-day 53-man roster spot since general manager Doug Whaley took over control of the Bills in 2013. The team also kept linebacker A.J. Tarpley on its roster to begin last season, as well as cornerback Nickell Robey and quarterback Jeff Tuel in 2013.

But as far as nicknames go, Albright will stand alone.

"Light bright. Big bird. New Eric Wood. Eric Wood Jr.," Albright said at a recent training camp practice, rattling off his nicknames. "Curly. Sunshine. Blondie."

Wood, the Bills' veteran center who shares Albright's curly blonde locks, isn't the only figure on the team who has drawn comparisons to Albright. New assistant head coach/defense Rob Ryan mentioned the undrafted rookie by name in a meeting during June minicamp, recalling how the still long-haired Ryan twin once had a mop like Albright.

Albright, a Cincinnati native who began growing out his hair as a senior in college last year, doesn't mind the attention.

"It doesn't bother me at all," he said. "It's all in good fun. It's funny to hear. And it's pretty enjoyable to have a bunch of nicknames and have different people calling you different things. Like I said the other day -- I forgot who I was talking to -- but something that gets you recognition for a reason is always not bad.

"In this case it's really not. It's a good thing."