It’s only seemed like an eternity, but the NFL preseason is finally over and for the Buffalo Bills, a season opening showdown with New England now looms.
Exactly what 53 players will be members of the Bills come game day remains to be seen. One thing we know is Buffalo, along with the rest of the league must get down to 53 by mid-afternoon Saturday. That means 22 guys, many of whom hoped to impress the coaches one last time Thursday night against the Detroit Lions, will be spending the latter part of their weekend looking for a new job.
There wasn’t a lot we learned against Detroit in the preseason finale, other than an annual reminder that preseason football is the pits. Actually, I take that back. We did learn a few things. We learned Matt Leinart may end up with the smallest hotel room stay in team history. We also learned, if we didn’t already know that without Stephon Gilmore and Jairus Byrd, the Buffalo secondary is a catastrophe.
Roughly 36 hours ahead of the curve I’m taking a crack at projecting the Bills final roster. However, it’s strongly worth noting that I believe the makeup of this team will change, perhaps considerably over the next week or so. There’s a few guys that still may be in town come 4:01pm Saturday that won’t come next Monday or Tuesday.
So without further ado, my projected Bills 53-man roster.
Quarterback (3): E.J. Manuel, Jeff Tuel, Thad Lewis
Notes: Lewis has a skill set far more similar to Manuel than Leinart, and he flat-out looked a lot better Thursday when both had the same amount of short preparation time for the Lions. I think the Matt Leinart era in Buffalo ends up lasting a
Running Back(4): C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Tashard Choice, Frank Summers
Notes: Zack Brown made a nice late push at Choice’s job, but I don’t think he did enough for the Bills to rid themselves of the veteran. Kendall Gaskin didn’t get a lot of opportunities. Fullback Drew Smith had a nice reception Thursday, but Buffalo will stick with Summers.
Wide Receiver (6): Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods, T.J. Graham, Marquise Goodwin, Marcus Easley, Brad Smith
Notes: Easley’s 79-yard touchdown grab, coupled with him playing a lot of special teams this preseason probably ensures him of a roster spot. I think the Bills will stay with the veteran Smith over Mark Hogan, in part because they already have a slew of talented yet unproven receivers.
Tight End (3): Scott Chandler, Lee Smith, Chris Gragg
Notes: Dorin Dickerson had a touchdown catch in the preseason opener but barely got opportunities beyond that. Personally I think he’s a more complete player than Gragg but the latter being a current regime draft pick helps his cause immensely.
Offensive Line (8): Cordy Glenn, Colin Brown, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik, Erik Pears, Antoine Caldwell, Thomas Welch, *David Snow
Notes: What a mess beyond the starters. I’m anticipating Doug Legursky being carted off Thursday night is a significant knee injury. Welch and Zebrie Sanders were both disasters at tackle throughout the preseason but one of them almost has to stay. I could easily see Doug Whaley scouring the wire for line depth. I wouldn’t be surprised to see two new faces in town before the opening game.
Defensive Line (8): Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Alex Carrington, Jamie Blatnick, Alan Branch, Jay Ross, Jarron Gilbert
Notes: Gilbert, and possibly Ross is a very close call over Torell Troup and Corbin Bryant.
Linebacker (7): Manny Lawson, Kiko Alonso, Nigel Bradham, Jerry Hughes, Marcus Dowtin, Arthur Moats, Bryan Scott
Notes: Dowtin’s spot was likely already sealed before Thursday, but just to be sure he went out and had a solid first quarter. Chris White’s trade to Detroit probably benefited the veteran Scott, who I’ve thought has been in trouble since the start of camp.
Cornerback (6): Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Justin Rodgers, Crezdon Butler, *Kip Edwards
Notes: Good lord, Whaley will be losing sleep trying to find a corner or two—hell maybe even three over the next week. Let’s not kid ourselves here; the Bills have a solid but injured starter in Gilmore, a shaky veteran in McKelvin, a talented yet mistake prone nickel in Brooks and then mostly a pile of garbage. This position has to, and will be addressed further. Stay tuned.
Safety (5): Jairus Byrd, Aaron Williams, Da’Norris Searcy, Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks
Notes: I’ve yet to include Meeks in any 53-man roster projection, but that changed after playing Detroit. I think the Bills end up keeping 11 backs, especially with Gilmore out early on, and that greatly improves Meeks’ odds.
Special Teams (3): Dustin Hopkins, Shawn Powell, Garrison Sanborn.
Notes: There’s nothing to discuss here.
If you noticed, I have an asterisk next to the names of offensive lineman David Snow and cornerback Kip Edwards. It’s marked as such because I predict the Bills to go the route of signing a free agent released from another team over the weekend, making their stay as Bills 53-man players extremely short lived.