As of yesterday the Bills final roster has been brought down to the mandated 53 players before the 2011 season can get underway. We said goodbye to quite a few players, some local talent and at the same time pause and think of how much better we feel about this year’s roster than compared to where the Bills were a year ago. There are 22 new faces from that time a year ago (not including Easley and Batten who were already on IR) and 10 new starters. That doesn’t mean that this roster could have different faces by the new year due to injuries or tweaking certain areas, but more hope exists as the Bills continue to improve their way to a playoff appearance.
QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyler Thigpen, Brad Smith
RB: Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Johnny White
FB: Corey McIntyre
LT: Demetrius Bell
LG: Andy Levitre, Chad Rinehart
C: Eric Wood
RG: Kraig Urbik, Colin Brown
RT: Erik Pears, Chris Hairston
TE: Scott Chandler, David Martin, Lee Smith
WR: Stevie Johnson, Roscoe Parrish, Marcus Easley
WR: Donald Jones, David Nelson, Ruvell Martin
LE: Marcell Dareus, Kellen Heard
NT: Kyle Williams, Torell Troup
RE: Dwan Edwards, Spencer Johnson
SLB: Chris Kelsay, Alex Carrington
MLB: Andra Davis, Kirk Morrison, Kelvin Sheppard
WLB: Nick Barnett, Arthur Moats, Chris White
JLB: Shawne Merriman, Danny Batten, Robert Eddins
CB: Terrence McGee, Leodis McKelvin, Justin Rogers
CB: Drayton Florence, Aaron Williams
SS: George Wilson, Bryan Scott, Da'Norris Searcy
FS: Jairus Byrd
ILB Reggie Torbor, RB Bruce Hall
From my last post I analyzed which players were locks to make the team, and which players on the bubble had a chance of making the roster. All my locks made it and two players (OL Colin Brown and WR Ruvell Martin) that were not on my bubble list made the last cut. Still, CHIX won’t rest until all aspects of the team are able to produce sufficiently and consistently so expect roster moves if players are underperforming (as well as personnel additions in the event of a player being placed on IR). For the bulk of my analysis, you can check out the links from previous articles I posted about the Bills at the top of the article.
Perhaps the biggest surprise on the final roster is interior lineman Colin Brown. Brown seemingly was behind four other offensive linemen who did not make the roster, but likely survived a lackluster camp due to his enormous frame. While likely to be the first lineman to be inactive on gameday, Chan likes the big linemen blocking skill sets which Brown fits.
Tight End David Martin did not have a whole lot of competition at tight end, but I had him fighting for a roster spot on the basis the Bills already had a starting/blocking TE (Scott Chandler), Martin’s lack of production last year, and age concerns. Still, Gailey likes blocking tight ends and Martin should get the nod, at least in the short term over newcomer (fifth round rookie) blocking TE Lee Smith.
WR Marcus Easley was not always a lock having struggled in preseason on special teams and catching the balls but a few good outings with his physical talent helped secure a roster spot for him this year. A bigger surprise at making the team is Ruvell Martin, a six year veteran who while not finding his form, is a big target who, likely to be inactive for a while, could be a big threat if someone ahead goes down with an injury.
Coming off of a strong training camp is DL Kellen Heard. With DE Alex Carrington splitting time at outside linebacker, the Bills needed to bring in extra defensive lineman although the sixth DL will likely be inactive for a while. Still at around 350 pounds, Heard is a big player to block on the end and provides good pressure and speed.
OLB Robert Eddins is the only undrafted rookie to have made the team this year (after TE Zach Pianalto made the initial cut to be dropped for TE Lee Smith a day later). Doing so was no easy task with the linebacker corps seemingly set from last year. A strong camp with a few sacks pushed Eddins over returning undrafted rookie Antonio Coleman who also played well.
With the defensive secondary, CB Justin Rogers had to compete with veteran Reggie Corner for a reserve cornerback spot. Showing consistent/adequate play during preseason combined with returning skills, Rogers outlasted Corner at corner. Lastly strong safety Bryan Scott seemed to be in a slight fight for his roster spot with the younger local, Jon Corto, but outlasted Corto with better pass defending skills and experience.
With the versatility of certain players, a NFL defocus on special teams, and the CHIX’s desire for bigger players, the Bills made several cuts in this past week. Among those gone are the local connection, HB Jehuu Caulcrick, WR Naaman Roosevelt and SS Jon Corto. All these guys had ties with the Bills special teams unit, particularly Corto, but with the decreased emphasis on the return game, became expandable.
Perhaps the biggest ‘surprise’ cut was OLB Antonio Coleman, who seemed promising on the weakside in camp but was bumped off by Eddins. Staying on the defensive side of the ball, the Bills also got rid of reserve veteran cornerback Reggie Corner who had struggled in camp in comparison to the younger corners. The big guy, Michael Jasper similarly did not make the final roster after getting upstaged by Heard, but is a good choice for practice squad development. LS Danny Aiken had an outside shot of beating out Garrison Sanborn but could not.
Offensively, the Bills had less certainty in some areas than the defense and as such had more on the bubble players cut. Rather than cutting RB Bruce Hall, who had a good camp, the Bills opted to place him in IR. Shifting to the ever questionable offensive line, the Bills made quite a few big cuts. The biggest was center Geoff Hangartner who could justify his salary in a backup interior position. Veteran Mansfield Wrotto likewise felt the pinch due to salary and struggling in pass protection. Somewhat of a surprise cut was with left tackle Ed Wang who got cut, despite being a position of uncertainty, due to a lack of field time via injury and potential versatility in Andy Levitre and Chris Hairston. The other bubble lineman, Cordaro Howard was cut as he lacked elite playing ability in preseason despite his versatility.
At tight end, the Bills saw a few cuts. Most notable is Shawn Nelson, who despite being physically talented, could not stay healthy. Mike Caussin meanwhile showed some potential as a catching TE warranting a practice squad position, but not enough for a roster spot yet. TE Zach Pianalto meanwhile actually made the final roster initially but later waived to make room for rookie fifth rounder Lee Smith from New England. Pianalto could either take the eighth and final spot on the practice squad or take Caussin’s spot if the coaches see more potential with him.
Lastly at wide receiver, the Bills had a few names that showed promise but could not penetrate a depth laden position. Namaan Roosevelt became the de facto sixth receiver with the trading of Lee Evans, but lacked the bigger size and speed Chan Gailey is looking for. Another player that fell in a similar boat was Buster Davis who also could not perform consistently in preseason. Felton Huggins could not pull off as good of preseason he had the year before, while undrafted rookie Kamar Aiken shows a lot of promise with good size in training camp this year to earn a practice squad spot.
Practice Squad Analysis
The Bills working with only two true quarterbacks this season (as Brad Smith, the third QB will be used predominately in wildcat options), the Bills decided to retain QB Levi Brown from last year. A former seventh rounder, Brown is a gunslinger who still has yet to fully grasp the speed of the NFL, but did alright in his last few preseason outings. Shifting to the offensive line, the Bills brought back center Mike Switzer as Eric Wood is the only true center left on the roster after the Bills cut backup Hangarter.
With a lackluster group of tight ends, the Bills also opted to retain TE Mike Caussin from last year to further develop as a multi-threat TE who played fair in preseason. Keeping in line with big downfield targets WR Kamar Aiken also went to the squad after pulling in good numbers in camp as well.
Defensively, the Bills decided to bring in two linemen. Nose tackle Michael Jasper, a seventh rounder this year, has enormous size and potential, but still is a bit rough, hence practice squad. Meanwhile veteran DL Lionel Dotson made it on the squad despite a lackluster career due to his experience in a 3-4 D-Line. S Josh Nesbitt was a no brainer given his experience as a wildcat QB and experience in the secondary with the Bills only keeping four active safeties this year.
As of right now, (obviously subject to change), the Bills still have one remainder spot open on the practice squad. Of the personnel that have practiced with the Bills this offseason, players that are eligible and stand the best chance of making the squad in my opinion are HB Jehuu Caulcrick, OT Ed Wang, TE Zach Pianalto, WR Naaman Roosevelt and LB Antonio Coleman. Alternatively, the Bills could also look for someone to bolster the secondary in the event of an injury given that the Bills only have 9 DBs right now.
As it stands though, either HB Caulcrick, OLB Antonio Coleman or OT Ed Wang stand the best chance of making the squad. As the Bills have only 3 RBs and 1 FB, an injury to one of these guys would hurt the Bills running game. Coleman is perhaps the most proven player of the three mentioned here. But given that the Bills already have 5 OLBs on the roster (6 ILBs), the odds of the Bills adding another linebacker (even for the practice squad) seems slim. The Bills having only 8 linemen (3 listed as tackles), can be considered a bit thin in turn. Wang needs more training but unless CHIX is convinced Hairston is a switch tackle, placing Wang on the practice squad would be the move I'd make. But for all we know, Buddy Nix is checking out the released players from other organizations and will take one of them instead.Go Bills!