The Buffalo Bills are set to take on the Detroit Lions Thursday night in what many deem a meaningless preseason finale. Generally speaking, starters and players with defined roles rarely see more than a brief cameo as their respective teams look forward to the regular season; rendering the contest to most observers as worthless.
While the finale may be insignificant to many, try passing that on to James Hardy and Naaman Roosevelt– as well as Donald Jones for that matter.
It’s not known whether Bills head coach Chan Gailey will elect to keep five or six wide receivers on the roster. For their sake, that number better be six and even then, one may have to shine against the Lions to have a chance of occupying that final spot.
It appears all-but-certain that Lee Evans, Steve Johnson, Roscoe Parrish, Chad Jackson and David Nelson will take up the first five slots.
Hardy has only appeared in one preseason game; catching a long pass for 30 yards against the Bengals last week. While it was a play that looked great on television, Hardy didn’t do much except streak down the sideline and have Ryan Fitzpatrick throw a perfectly placed ball in his waiting arms. Hardy also dropped a pass and had another broken up when he failed to gain any separation in a route–which has been his biggest criticism since entering the league.
Roosevelt, the undrafted free agent from UB, has had a pretty good preseason. He’s caught six balls for 46 yards and has gotten work as a punt returner; bringing back two punts and averaging 11.5 yards, including a 23-yarder against Washington.
Conventional wisdom says Hardy may still have the advantage. His size and draft pedigree are much greater than that of Roosevelt’s. Are the Bills ready to cut ties with a receiver selected in the second round just a couple of years ago?
Personally, I don’t buy the whole draft thing. Neither Gailey nor Buddy Nix had anything to do with Hardy being selected to Buffalo and therefore, have no special kind of allegiance to him. Releasing Hardy wouldn’t be a black eye on the current organization. Instead, it would be yet another indictment of poor player evaluation under the watchful eye of then-head coach Dick Jauron.
If the Bills do intend to keep six receivers, which is completely up in the air at this point, I tend to give the advantage to Roosevelt. He’s a much better special teams player on an unit that has looked pretty awful all summer long. If Hardy has no value with special teams, and he’s only the fifth or six receiver and doesn’t get on the field much, then I can’t see any reason to keep him around.
Having said that, he should get one final opportunity against the Lions to make something happen and show Gailey and Co. he has the tools to be a productive NFL receiver and a huge red zone threat specifically.
Though I’ve failed to mention him, don’t automatically disregard Donald Jones from the mix. Like Roosevelt he may be a valuable special teams performer and like his fellow undrafted counterpart he has six receptions on the preseason.
It’s anyone’s game— assuming Gailey keeps six of them.
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