The Buffalo Bills still have two preseason games left to play before the final opening day roster is set, though at this juncture we can begin to piece together what that 53-man squad will look like.
There are clearly some battles yet to be determined. Brian Brohm and Ryan Fitzpatrick are locked in competition to backup Trent Edwards. James Hardy still has a small window to show why he was drafted high by the organization three years ago. There are also the last few spots on the offensive line and defensive front seven still up for grabs.
But for the most part things are coming into focus. At this point of the preseason, this is how we foresee the Bills looking on opening day.
Quarterbacks (3): Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm, Levi Brown.
It would take an injury to remove Edwards from being the opening day starter. He hasn’t been brilliant by any means, but he’s clearly the best quarterback on the roster. The feeling is here is Brohm did enough against the Colts this past Thursday to satisfy Chan Gailey’s worries aboutbeing able to run his pistol offense. Brown will be the emergency quarterback/clipboard holder. This will leave Ryan Fitzpatrick out. What he has on his side is experience and the ability to embrace a backup role, but with Brohm having more upside it eventually will leave Fitzpatrick unemployed.
Running Backs (5): Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, C.J. Spiller, Joique Bell Corey McIntyre.
This is a tricky proposition because of the injuries to Jackson and Lynch. Bell has had an outstanding start to the preseason; being the Bills most effective back in both the first two games. Still, I wouldn’t have him on the opening day roster and instead have him pegged for the practice squad. However, the probability of Jackson missing the opener could change Gailey’s thinking. How Lynch’s ankle feels by opening day could go a long way towards Bell’s Buffalo future.
Wide Receivers (6): Lee Evans, Stevie Johnson, Roscoe Parrish, Chad Jackson, David Nelson, Naaman Roosevelt.
I find Hardy as the odd man out. Parrish has looked good this summer in the number three role and Jackson has been impressive in camp as any Bills receiver. Hardy has not proven he can stay on the field and even when he does; it’s glaringly obvious he struggles to get open. This opened a door for Nelson and thus far he’s taken full advantage. I don’t see Hardy as a special teams player, which gives Roosevelt the edge over him for the final roster spot. It’s tough to cut ties with a second round draft pick only three years into his career, but I think Hardy will have to try and jumpstart his career elsewhere. It’s a shame Marcus Easley probably misses the season with his knee injury; I really like his potential.
Tight Ends (3): Jonathan Stupar, Michael Matthews, Derek Schouman.
I thought, and still do think Schouman’s career in Buffalo is in jeopardy. He’s dependable when on the field, but staying on it has become a big problem. He was injured again against the Colts Thursday. But the shocking news that Shawn Nelson will be suspended for four games changes things. Stupar has been the starting tight end and I don’t think that changes anytime soon, while Matthews is the pure blocking tight end Gailey wants to use in certain packages. For now, Schouman is safe.
Offensive Line (9): Demetrius Bell, Andy Levitre, Geoff Hangartner, Eric Wood, Cornell Green, Kirk Chambers, Jamon Meredith, Kyle Calloway, Cordaro Howard.
The first seven slots seem set in stone, but it gets difficult after that. Calloway and Howard are in a fight with Nick Hennessey and Andre Ramsey for the last two swing slots. Christian Gaddis and Jason Watkins are probably on the outside looking in. If either Calloway or Howard doesn’t end up making the opening day roster, they’d be locks for the practice squad. The Bills can still look at the free agent and/or waiver wire for more backup help here. It’s also possible they only keep eight linemen on the active roster and use the open slot for an extra linebacker or defensive back.
Defensive Line (7): Marcus Stroud, Dwan Edwards, Kyle Williams, Spencer Johnson, Alex Carrington, Torell Troup, John McCargo.
A couple of weeks ago I didn’t think there was a chance in hell of McCargo making this team. But the 2006 colossal first round draft bust has played the best football of his career thus far in camp and the preseason. The Bills are running a 3-4 but still sprinkle in plenty of traditional 4-3 looks. This could prompt Gailey to keep seven defensive linemen, which keeps McCargo in the fold. Lonnie Harvey could be headed to the practice squad.
Linebackers (7) : Chris Kelsay, Paul Posluszny, Andra Davis, Reggie Torbor, Kawika Mitchell, Aaron Maybin, Chris Ellis.
There’s no question these seven linebackers will make the roster. The only uncertainty comes down to if the team keeps seven or eight linebackers. Typically I’d say eight and that may turn out to be the number, but the Jackson injury could land an extra running back on the opening day roster. If the Bills do keep eight linebackers it will be bring Arthur Moats into play, as well as Antonio Coleman, who the Bills are giving a LONG look too and even got more reps than Maybin Thursday. I think it’s the end of the line for veteran Keith Ellison, who doesn’t fit into a non-cover two type of defense.
Cornerbacks (5): Terrence McGee, Leodis McKelvin, Drayton Florence, Reggie Corner, Ashton Youboty.
The Bills will keep 10 defensive backs on the roster. Headed into the preseason I suspected six would be corners, but Ellis Lankster may have played himself out of a job the past two weeks. He’s been brutal this preseason, particularly against the Colts when he was owned by third string receiver Taj Smith on consecutive long passes. Dominique Harris has looked pretty good, but I think he’s more of a practice squad candidate than making the 53-man roster.
Safeties (5): Donte Whitner, Jairus Byrd, George Wilson, Bryan Scott, Cary Harris.
The combination of Lankster’s regression thus far and Byrd’s groin injury will definitely prompt Gailey to keep five safeties on the opening day roster. Harris has looked pretty good this summer and don’t forget he had a pair of interceptions in the season finale last year against the Colts. Couple that with no real safety competition at camp and the last spot should go to him with little problem.
Special Teams (3): Rian Lindell, Brian Moorman, Garrison Sanborn.
Don’t need any explanations here. The Bills don’t even have ompetition at any of the three special team slots—nor should they.
The Notable “Cut” List: James Hardy, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ellis Lankster, Keith Ellison, Chad Simpson.
◊I ’m expecting Easley to eventually be placed on season-ending injured reserve because of his knee. If by chance that doesn’t happen, he would occupy Roosevelt’s spot.
◊ As stated above, I think the 53rd spot is a battle between Joique Bell and Arthur Moats, depending on what kind of numbers game Gailey decides to play.
◊ Nelson won’t occupy a roster spot because he’ll start the season on the suspended list. Had he taken up a spot, it would probably be Schouman
getting his walking papers.
◊ I think it’s a little too early to project a practice squad, but Bell, Moats and Coleman are locks if they don’t make the active roster, as are two offensive linemen.