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Off-Season Opinions II: § IV: 53 Man Roster Predictions

§ I: 2011 Draft Analysis
§ II: Offensive & Special Teams Roster Analysis 
§ III: Defensive Roster Analysis

After doing my analysis on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, the time has come for my prediction for what the final roster will look like.  Some positions are more clear cut than others so I shall explain my reasoning for certain roster calls.  Will this be the final roster… probably not as I am not psychic.   It is the roster that I would however feel most comfortable going in with for this season as the team continues to rebuild.  In my opinion the defensive side of the roster seems more definitive than the offense (where I will not rule out one or two late season acquisitions to bolster the offensive line for depth).  Bearing no changes to the roster, here is my final cut (italics indicate on the bubble).

Pos.

#

Starter

#

Backup

#

Reserve

QB

14

Ryan Fitzpatrick

4

Tyler Thigpen

16

Brad Smith

RB

22

Fred Jackson

28

C.J. Spiller

35

Johnny White

FB

38

Corey McIntyre

 

 

 

 

LT

77

Demetrius Bell

71

Ed Wang

 

 

LG

67

Andy Levitre

 

 

 

 

C

70

Eric Wood

63

Geoff Hangartner

 

 

RG

76

Chad Rinehart

60

Kraig Urbik

 

 

RT

79

Erik Pears

75

Chris Hairston

 

 

TE

84

Scott Chandler

82

Mike Caussin

 

 

WR

13

Stevie Johnson

86

David Nelson

81

Marcus Easley

WR

11

Roscoe Parrish

19

Donald Jones

18

Naaman Roosevelt

LE

99

Marcell Dareus

92

Alex Carrington

 

 

NT

95

Kyle Williams

96

Torell Troup

69

Michael Jasper

RE

98

Dwan Edwards

91

Spencer Johnson

 

 

SLB

90

Chris Kelsay

57

Danny Batten

 

 

MLB

54

Andra Davis

58

Kirk Morrison

94

Chris White

WLB

50

Nick Barnett

55

Kelvin Sheppard

52

Arthur Moats

JLB

56

Shawne Merriman

59

Antonio Coleman

 

 

LCB

24

Terrence McGee

23

Aaron Williams

42

Justin Rogers

RCB

21

Leodis McKelvin

29

Drayton Florence

 

 

SS

37

George Wilson

25

Da'Norris Searcy

43

Bryan Scott

FS

31

Jairus Byrd

 

 

 

 

K

9

Rian Lindell

 

 

 

 

P

8

Brian Moorman

 

 

 

 

LS

65

Garrison Sanborn

 

 

 

 

Offensive Roster Locks

One area that is very stable compared to last year is the quarterback position.  Ryan Fitzpatrick was the clear cut starter after a good 2010 campaign in which he threw for 3,000 yards in 13 games.  Behind him is Tyler Thigpen, another mobile QB who worked with Gailey in the past, but has struggled so far in Buffalo. Lastly is wildcat QB/WR Brad Smith who brings a multi-threat offensive weapon (and possible kick returns) to Buffalo’s lackluster offense.

Likewise, the halfback positions are seemingly set as well.  Fred Jackson is the multi-purpose starter for the Bills on the ground, catching passes and blocking.  His immediate backup, C.J. Spiller, will find more playing time this year with his skills and talent still developing.  In my opinion, Jackson is the clear starter of the two as he has more patience for plays to open up and has performed greatly over the past few years.  Backing up these two is newcomer Johnny White, who aside from his special teams skills, has good physical tools to work with.  Corey McIntyre returns as the fullback, but depending on Gailey’s playbook, may not see too much time on the field.

Despite early struggles and inconsistency the Bills have a fair idea who three of their offensive tackles will be.  This is not to say that they are elite in any way, but Gailey seems to view them competent enough for at least this season.  Starting on the left side is Demetrius Bell, who has good tools, but is inconsistent especially in passing situations against speed rushers.  But even if Bell does not end up starting for whatever reason, he would be quality depth.  Opposite him is Erik Pears, a late 2010 addition who also struggles with consistency.  The other tackle lock is fourth round pick Chris Hairston who was impressive in his debut as a swing tackle and seems to be the eventual right tackle in the future.

Moving to the interior of the line, Kraig Urbik seems to be the set starter at right guard despite early struggles.  Also firmly entrenched is starting center Eric Wood who formerly played the right guard position. Andy Levitre is a lock at starting at left guard provided he does not take over his college position of left tackle.  Behind him is Chad Rinehart who is quality depth at both guard positions. 

Moving to the pass catchers, the only tight end that is a lock at this point is Scott Chandler another 2010 late season pick up.  Chandler, though a blocking TE, has a big frame and also has good hands.  At the wide receiver position, the Bills #1 wideout is Stevie Johnson who emerged last year as a quality starter though he will have tighter cover this year as a result.  Behind him is veteran Roscoe Parrish, whose speed and agility found new life with Chan before getting injured halfway.  Vying for the starter position is Donald Jones, a talented undrafted free agent a year ago who also has special teams talent as well.  From the same boat is David Nelson, who despite having a quiet preseason, remains a tall threat with good hands.

Defensive/Special Teams Locks
Switching along to the defensive line, the Bills have big talent for the front three.  On one end is first round pick Marcell Dareus whose enormous frame does not prevent explosive agility and strength providing good pass rushing and run defense ability.  Next to him is pro bowler Kyle Williams, who though undersized for a nose tackle, has great speed and warrants a double team on the line.  Next to him for now is Dwan Edwards, one of the leading tackling defensive linemen in the league who is fighting for a starting spot with fellow veteran Spencer Johnson who enjoyed a very productive camp this year. Backing up at nose tackle is Torell Troup who has a big frame and has good pressure. Alex Carrington meanwhile is the sixth defensive lineman right now, but is also spending time at outside linebacker with his speed. 

Shifting to outside linebacker the Bills have on the weakside three time pro bowler Shawne Merriman, who when healthy can be an absolute beast on the outside.  Opposite him is Chris Kelsay, a veteran of the team who although is not the most talented, is reliable and healthy.  Behind them is Danny Batten who is in his first year of play coming off an injury, but has looked impressive so far.   Coleman is close to being a lock if it wasn’t for OLB competition coming from Robert Eddins.

At inside linebacker, a position of weakness last year, the Bills have four new faces here out of six players, and frankly I do not know who the Bills could cut of this group.  Starting at weakside is Nick Barnett, a free agent pick up from Green Bay and a proven starter whose familiarity with the 3-4 defense is a big plus over the departed Poz.  Next to him is veteran Andra Davis who looks good in run support.  Splitting time with him may be free agent pick up Kirk Morrison who in his time with the Raiders proved to be a good pass defender with 7 interceptions there.  Third round pick Kelvin Sheppard adds depth to the position and may be vying for a starting job in 2012 with his physical talent.  Behind them is Arthur Moats, who late last year emerged as a playmaker on the outside.  Also in reserve status is sixth round pick Chris White who seems to be a good pass defender, but still has some learning to do as well.

The Bills have four locks at cornerback that could all have the potential to start by the end of the season. The number one corner is Terrence McGee, who excels at both run and pass defense, but has a propensity as of late to get injured.  Next on my depth chart list is former first rounder Leodis McKelvin who despite inconsistencies, is very talented.  Competing for now for that starting spot is veteran Drayton Florence, recently resigned in a big deal.  Florence is tall and provides adequate coverage when not committing penalties.  The last lock of this group is Aaron Williams, a tall second round pickup who can also double at free safety, and has shown good speed and playmaking in camp.

Despite my safety position looking a bit thin, the Bills have good players at this point.  The lone true free safety is Jarius Byrd who is a good defender against the run and has had ten interceptions in two years. Starting opposite him is George Wilson, who aside from his talent at special teams, is also a defensive playmaker with good skills (and can backup free safety as well).  I have Da’Norris Searcy in turn backing up Wilson at strong safety as he has better pass defense skills than Bryan Scott (in my opinion) and was one of the better ranked safeties taken in this year’s draft.

Lastly Rian Lindell and Brian Moorman seem to be in good form once more and should provide adequate special teams play during the year after easily beating out competition in training camp.  

Roster Competition
Of the 53 players I have making the final cut, for those of you who have been counting, only 43 names are all but guaranteed a roster spot this fall.  10 Players in turn are having to fight hard to secure their roster spot during the last week of practice and preseason game.  These players are OL Ed Wang, OL Geoff Hangartner, TE Mike Caussin, WR Marcus Easley, WR Namaan Roosevelt, DL Michael Jasper, LB Antonio Coleman, CB Justin Rogers, SS Bryan Scott and LS Garrison Sanborn. 

Of the players I think will be cut, these are the ones that I feel stand the best chance of possibly surviving a cut by the coaching staff on the 3rd.  Offensively these include HB Jehuu Caulcrick, HB Bruce Hall, OL Cordaro Howard, OL Mansfield Wrotto, TE David Martin, TE Zach Pianalto, TE Shawn Nelson, WR Buster Davis and Kamar Aiken.  Defensively and special teams, my list includes, DL Kellen Heard, OLB Robert Eddins, CB Reggie Corner, SS Jon Corto and LS Danny Aiken

The offensive line has two players, backup LT Ed Wang and backup C Geoff Hangartner competing for a spot against OT Cordaro Howard and OG Mansfield Wrotto.  Hangartner I feel has the edge on the group given that the Bills are under the salary cap and have no other player with serious experience at center. The only reason why Hang would go (despite having put up a respectable performance in 2010) would be in favor of Wrotto who aside from playing at guard, can perform at tackle as well.  Given the depth there in my roster cut, Wrotto is unnecessary and I would rather pay a little extra for a guy that can play all interior positions. 

Ed Wang however is perhaps the second least secure on the roster given that he is strictly a tackle.  Injuries have hurt his playing time last year and in preseason and he thus has questionable upside despite getting drafted in the fifth round by CHIX last year.  Wang’s security is that he played left tackle in college and Bell’s past injuries.  Howard meanwhile has played all along the line (minus center) and performs decently. However, if Chris Hairston or Andy Levitre show promise in the last preseason game at LT, Wang could see the boot as the ninth lineman either in favor of Howard or Gailey opting to keep just 8 linemen. 

At tight end meanwhile, the Bills have a major competition going on to backup Scott Chandler as no true #2 tight end has yet surfaced.  Mike Caussin wins out the battle as he has good physical level of play both blocking, receiving and performing on special teams.  David Martin, the veteran of the group gets the boot in turn because of a lack of production in 2010 and the fact that he is strictly a blocking TE (like Chandler) with little upside in my opinion.  If Gailey opts to keep a third TE though, Martin should likely stay.  One of the better undrafted rookies, Zach Pianalto I have getting cut due to prior injuries and inconsistency in camp although he would be an ideal candidate for the practice squad if the Bills do only keep two tight ends. Lastly Shawn Nelson is off because despite his physical talent and catching ability, he cannot stay healthy. However, a strong performance for any of these guys in the last preseason game could help them stay around for another year.

With the Wide Receiver position, I believe that since Gailey enjoys a pass-happy offense, he will keep 6 WRs on top of QB/WR Brad Smith and only keep 2 TEs.  The battle here is more clear cut but still some names are worth mentioning especially after last year’s WR cuts.  WR Marcus Easley is perhaps the most physically talented of the wideouts with potential to start.  The only reason why I am not guaranteeing him a spot is past inconsistency (especially on special teams) and injuries, but I feel practicing at the end of the depth chart will help him to develop like Stevie.  Also staying on is local product Naaman Roosevelt who has good hands and special teams play despite not having as much upside.

Of the wide receivers cut, Buster Davis is the last to go having been a former first rounder with talent, but cannot stay healthy to field good production.  Undrafted rookie Kamar Aiken has made a strong run this preseason to fight for the sixth receiver spot as well, but like Davis, cannot overcome the depth already there. 

Originally I had the Bills only keeping 6 defensive linemen given the versatility and size of the line as it is right now.  But with Chan having Alex Carrington sharing time at OLB, the need for a seventh defensive lineman appears.  Thus a battle ensues between Michael Jasper and Kellen Heard.  Jasper, a seventh round pick this year has huge upside and around 350 pounds will play predominantly at nose tackle.  Keelen Heard meanwhile has appeared at DE as well as NT and has performed well in preseason.  The only reason why I am keeping Jasper over Heard is that the seventh DL will largely be inactive in 2011 which will give Jasper more time to work on his technique.

With 11 linebackers on my version of the final roster (including Carrington), this position falls under attack when trying to free up roster spots elsewhere despite the importance of the linebacker in the 3-4 defense.  A position of burden last year has become depth filled complete with quality starters and backups.  Of this group I think Antonio Coleman has the least investment of the group, but is having a good preseason; hence why he survives getting cut.  Robert Eddins has an outside chance of making the final cut after enjoying a good preseason as well but for the depth already at this position has to get cut (but would make a great practice squad addition). 

At cornerback the Bills have four people with talent to start in 2011.  Behind them is a tight contest between seventh round pick Justin Rogers and veteran Reggie Corner.   Should the Bills keep just four safeties, it is possible the Bills could keep both defenders to bolster the secondary, but under my prediction this will not be so as Da’Norris Searcy can double at corner.  Rogers is return threat and has raw talent while Corner brings experience, but a lackluster 2010 campaign.  As Rogers has greater upside, he survives any cornerback cut.

As of late there has been talk about the possibility of strong safety veteran Bryan Scott losing his spot to local special teams stalwart Jon Corto.  Scott will make the roster simply because his is a vetted veteran who does well in run support.  Corto has similar pass defense skill, but his blocking ability on kick returns has been severely diminished under the new NFL rules.  If it weren’t for that fact, Corto would have made my roster prediction, but as such does not.

One area that I did not expect a lot of competition at is long snapper.  Garrison Sanborn was recently re-signed by the Bills after carrying that duty for the past three years but his main competition, Danny Aiken, has had a strong camp as evidenced by making the first cut last week.  Perhaps I am overhyping this battle but nonetheless the fact that Aiken survived the first wave is impressive.

Roster Cuts

Players that have very little chance of making the roster at this point include QB Levi Brown, QB/DB Josh Nesbitt, OL Jason Watkins, OL Colin Brown, OL Michael Switzer, WR Paul Hubbard, WR Ruvell Martin, DL Lionel Dotson, DL T.J.Langley, LB Brad Jefferson, LB Brandon Hicks, LB Jammie Kirlew, CB Doyle Miller, and SS Sidney Glover.  Whether it is because the position already has sufficient depth, poor preseason play or they just don’t fit the offensive/defensive schemes Gailey and Edwards have laid out, these guys just don’t make the cut.

One point of interest I feel I should bring up before I conclude is that I do not have any undrafted rookies making the final cut.  Of the ones the Bills currently have, I feel TE Zach Pianalto, OLB Robert Eddins, LS Danny Aiken, an

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of BuffaloRumblings.com.

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