For the past four seasons, Bills fans across the country have grown accustomed to seeing a particular face and frame sporting the blue and white No. 94 jersey in Orchard Park.
Former No. 1 overall pick Mario Williams has been the owner of that number since signing with Buffalo in 2012, racking up 145 tackles (122 solo, 23 assists), 43 sacks, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries along the way.
But, Williams was cut this offseason following a dismal performance in 2015 (19 tackles, five sacks in 15 games), and the number that has been linked to “Super Mario” in recent memory went up for grabs.
It was unknown who would take over that number in 2016, but it was revealed once OTAs began at One Bills Drive just a few short weeks ago.
No, it wasn’t one of the 14 undrafted rookies Buffalo signed who wound up with No. 94. And, it wasn’t one of the 10 free agents that the team acquired this offseason.
So, who’s the player that now bears that number on his back?
Meet Jerel Worthy.
A former second-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2012, Worthy has been with the Bills since being signed to the team’s practice squad last November before being called up to the active roster for the final two games of the season.
Wearing No. 69 last year, Worthy’s opportunities were very limited with the Bills after bouncing around from Green Bay to New England to Kansas City to Detroit and then to Buffalo since the Packers traded him to the Patriots in Aug. 2014.
The former Michigan State standout has struggled to find a home during his first four seasons in the NFL, but there appears to be an opportunity awaiting the 6-foot-2, 308-pound defensive lineman heading into his fifth season.
Worthy has been getting plenty of reps with the first- and second-team defense through two weeks of OTAs in Buffalo, lining up at defensive end and at the nose tackle position.
However, for a player who has just 15 tackles (11 solo, four assists), 2.5 sacks and four starts to his name, Worthy will need to prove his worth on the field far beyond offseason workouts.
So far, he appears to be off to a good start.
How Does Jerel Worthy Fit?
Heading into the league, Worthy had plenty of buzz surrounding his name.
A consensus All-American during his junior season in East Lansing, Worthy decided to enter the 2012 NFL Draft as an underclassman after totaling 107 tackles (52 solo, 55 assists), 27.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, six pass deflections and one fumble recovery in three seasons at Michigan State.
Following the NFL Combine where he posted a 5.08 40-yard dash, a 28.5-inch vertical and a 8-foot-11-inch broad jump, Worthy’s draft stock was in question before he tore through his pro day by dropping his times down in the 40-yard dash (5.06 sec), 20-yard dash (2.85 sec) and 10-yard dash (1.77 sec), while recording an impressive 28 reps of 225 pounds during the bench press.
While those numbers don’t jump right off screen at you, they’re solid for a man of Worthy’s stature and the 28 reps on the bench press show that the former Spartan has plenty of brute strength.
Aside from the numbers, Worthy displayed in college that he plays with solid leverage and is conscious of pad-level.
In addition, he also showed the ability to knife and slant through the line to disrupt plays in the backfield by using a surprisingly quick get-off for a man of his size.
Worthy has yet to put all of his talents on display on an NFL field to this point in his career, but it appears as if the Dayton, Ohio, native is beginning to put it all together after going through five teams in as many years.
Worthy will need to continue showing he’s versatile enough to line up at all three positions along the line in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 front if he hopes to stick around longer than his previous three stints with New England, Kansas City and Detroit.
He’ll be in direct competition with players like Lavar Edwards and Justin Zimmer for one the final spots on Buffalo’s 53-man roster, but Worthy could be in store for the most playing time of his up-and-down professional career if he takes advantage of his opportunity this summer.
If he does, Bills fans just might be dusting off those No. 94 jerseys they thought to be useless just months ago.
Follow John Green: @JGreen_PRsports