Heading into Saturday's NFL roster cut-downs, there were two situations that were known commodities to the Buffalo Bills: they knew that running back Marshawn Lynch would be serving a three-game suspension, and they knew that due to their inexperience at reserve linebacker, the position was a liability.
Buffalo worked the phones all day at One Bills Drive - just as every other NFL team did - trying to find reinforcements at linebacker, and very likely at running back as well, particularly after releasing veteran Dominic Rhodes. We're also fairly certain that the Bills found themselves short-handed at both positions for good reason.
The fact of the matter, however, is that the Bills are now woefully inexperienced at both running back and linebacker. Considering the way the Bills want to play football in 2009, that's not necessarily terrible news - and therefore, obvious areas such as quarterback, the offensive line and the pass rush remain the biggest question marks heading into the season. From a pure personnel standpoint, however, running back and linebacker are the two spots most likely to get reinforcements prior to the season.
Making it three weeks without Marshawn
Lynch will miss three games - and while he's sidelined, the Bills will be counting on a trio of backs. Well, that's not exactly true - they'll be counting on Fred Jackson, and solely Fred Jackson, sore wrist and all. BuffaloBills.com described Jackson's wrist injury as something that could "nag" Jackson all season - but apparently, it's healthy enough where they're comfortable using him as their feature back for three weeks.
Xavier Omon has six career NFL carries. Corey McIntyre, who is a fullback by trade, has zero career NFL carries. To expect the Bills to rely on either of these players as anything more than a let-Fred-breath-for-a-play relief player is absurd. It also throws into light just how little an impression Rhodes must have made in the pre-season, because the team is thinner than thin at this position. Stay healthy, Freddie.
Just as inexperienced at linebacker
The linebacker situation is not as desperate as the running back situation, simply because the Bills already have one starter - Keith Ellison - who is essentially a part-time player, as the team spends plenty of time in nickel and dime packages.
Nic Harris and Ashlee Palmer are both rookies. Marcus Buggs, who will back up Paul Posluszny at inside linebacker, dressed four four games in 2008 as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Vanderbilt, but eventually ended the season on Injured Reserve. Jon Corto, who is on the team strictly as a special teams ace, dressed for all 16 games last season, but did not see reps at linebacker.
Just like at running back, the Bills are one injury away from asking a wide-eyed, green player to step in and play like a pro. It's a scary proposition. Posluszny, Ellison and Kawika Mitchell - we'd appreciate it if you stayed healthy right alongside Freddie.
Further fortifications coming?
Just because of numbers issues and the inexperience factor, released players such as RB Bruce Hall and LB Alvin Bowen are strong candidates to make the team's practice squad. Both fit the same bill as the players listed above, however, and neither comes close to helping the situations much, particularly since, you know, they're not on the active roster even if they're brought back.
We have to think that the Bills will be scouring the waiver wire with several sets of eyes for fortifications at these two positions - and if there are veterans available, all the better.