Disclaimer— this list is subject to change over the next several days. In fact, I’m wholly confident it will.
Training camp is in the books, as are three of the four Buffalo Bills preseason games. Just one last chance for bubble players to win the hearts of the coaching staff and front office remains; a home tilt Thursday night against the Detroit Lions that while inconsequential to most, finds a handful of hopefuls fighting for their lives, or at least a 2013 NFL game check endorsed by Ralph C. Wilson.
Exclusively for the purpose of this exercise, I indulged myself and put on Doug Whaley’s general manager hat. Based on what I’ve seen, heard and am thinking, I’ve outlined the final Bills 53-man roster—sort of.
A quick spoiler alert: I have three guys on the final roster currently not playing for the Bills. Who those guys are presently leaves me clueless, but they’re lurking around the league somewhere.
Of course, there’s no set-in-stone formula for how many players the Bills eventually keep at each position. My blueprint has the team keeping four tight ends, but that number could easily be three. I also have just 10 defensive backs while slotting 15 guys who play in the front seven. I could be wrong on those numbers. It’s specifically hard projecting with a first-year coach in Doug Marrone. Essentially, it’s impractical to know his numbers preference until we see with our own eyes.
What’s not debatable is the Bills need to get down to a maximum of 75 players by mid-afternoon Tuesday and stand at 53 players come August 31.
After the jump, check out our projections as we say goodbye to a handful of veterans, and an undrafted free agent perceived with a plethora of upside.
Quarterbacks (3): E.J. Manuel, Jeff Tuel, TBD (To Be Determined).
Notes: The Bills third quarterback, in my opinion is not currently on the roster. Kevin Kolb’s head injury coupled with inconsistent play through the duration of the summer may clinch his one-way ticket out of town. It’s already been reported the Bills will work out Matt Leinart and Jeff Beck. The names could grow over the coming days as more players around the league are released. Expect a move, perhaps plural to come quickly. The Bills wrap up the preseason Thursday against Detroit. Manuel surely won’t play and with Kolb out, Tuel is the only quarterback available. Should he go down, are we going to see Brad Smith under center?
Running Backs (4): C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Tashard Choice, Frank Summers
Notes: I’ll be perfectly honest—-had someone blown coaches away with an impressive camp and preseason I thought the 32-year old Jackson could’ve been a prime candidate for a shocking cut. Clearly that hasn’t happened. Kendall Gaskins and Zach Brown should have a final chance to unseat Choice Thursday, but they better do something special. Based on what we’ve seen this preseason the Bills will keep a fullback, and that guy will be Summers. He’s been with the first teamers and has been quite impressive on special teams.
Wide Receivers (6): Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods, T.J. Graham, Marquise Goodwin, Brad Smith, Marcus Easley.
Notes: If there truly is a battle between Easley and Da’Rick Rogers, a few things caught my eyes in Washington that points the arrow towards the former making the cut. Most notably I saw Easley with the punt coverage on the team’s first punt of the game. At least to me, that’s significant. Easley also got on the field for some late game reps at receiver while Rogers didn’t. Easley has been productive during the preseason and does have a combination of experience plus upside. Rogers, for all his talent has done little, at least on the surface to have won this coaching staff over. I still think Smith’s special teams prowess and ability to immediately contribute at receiver if necessary due to injuries, not to mention his leadership on a young receiving unit also gives him an advantage over Rogers. As far as I’m concerned, Rogers has one game next Thursday to change a lot of minds. I don’t think the Bills are as scared to cut him and lose him to another 53-man roster as most think, though I’m sure they’d prefer to stash him on their practice squad. Chris Hogan has had plenty of good moments in camp, but I think it’s a good story soon coming to an end. Brandon Kaufman and DeMarco Sampson were never serious candidates to make the team, at least in my opinion.
Tight End (4): Scott Chandler, Lee Smith, Chris Gragg, Dorin Dickerson
Notes: Chandler’s knee concerns may prompt the team to keep four tight ends. Smith can’t catch a lick but is a formidable blocker. Gragg and Dickerson are similar type of athletes. Dickerson is more accomplished, but Gragg is a draft pick of the current regime. Personally, I think Dickerson can become an effective player in this offense if used more, but if the team only keeps three his spot’s in trouble because of the aforementioned Gragg’s draft status.
Offensive Line (8): Cordy Glenn, Colin Brown, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik, Erik Pears, Doug Legursky, Thomas Welch, Antoine Caldwell.
Notes: The Bills may keep nine linemen on the active roster, but I’m going with eight for now, especially since Legursky will back up both center and guard. I could see one or two guys being on the practice squad, particularly Zebrie Sanders and David Snow. Chris Hairston isn’t getting cut but will start the season on the PUP list.
Defensive Line (7): Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Alex Carrington, Jerry Hughes, Jay Ross, Alan Branch.
Notes: I’m not sure technically if Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes should be considered linemen or linebackers, but it really doesn’t matter as both will be on the opening week roster. To me the only real battle comes down two spots between Branch, Jay Ross and Troup. Branch has virtually done nothing this summer, but I put stock into a regime thinking enough of any free agent they give $3 million to. Ross has been mostly impressive in preseason and Troup has had his moments. Troup’s injury history, however, in my opinion ultimately pushes him to the unemployment line.
Linebackers (8): Kiko Alonso, Nigel Bradham, Manny Lawson, Arthur Moats, Chris White, Marcus Dowtin, Jamie Blatnick, Jamal Westerman.
Notes: I’m not sure the Bills keep eight at this spot, but if they do this is the combination I anticipate them going with. Moats has looked in a backup role and White is a stud on special teams while also effective in short yardage situations. Dowtin has quietly had one of the more stirring camps and preseason of anyone on the team. Blatnick has earned a spot and although there’s many Bryan Scott fans, the younger Westerman being a Mike Pettine guy gives him the edge.
Cornerbacks (6): Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Justin Rogers, Crezdon Butler, TBD(1)
Notes: Many anticipated this position to be a mess for Buffalo and their play haven’t let the voal majority down. The first three have secured spots but everything after that is up for grabs. I’m far from sold on Rogers and Butler, but there doesn’t appear to be better options currently on the team. I already think there’s at least corner who will be on this roster who didn’t go to bed tonight a Bill, and that figure may end up plural.
Safety (4): Jairus Byrd, Aaron Williams, Duke Wiliams, TBD (1).
Notes: I truly think Da’Norris Searcy is playing his way out of town, and that was before the head injury he suffered at Washington. Jonathan Meeks seems more practice squad than active roster worthy. I anticipate the Bills bringing in a safety released from another team before long.
Special Teams (3): Dustin Hopkins, Shawn Powell, Garrison Sanborn.
Note: Nothing to say here. There’s no competition left, and these are the special teamers.
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