For several years I have been following the offensive line closely. It kind of fell apart last year due to having one job (I teach in special ed) and a pair of other part time contract teaching gigs. I simply didn't have the time to do my write ups on the line and don't anticipate that changing this year. Anyone want to take up the mantle?
I'm worried about the offense, as I've noted in a number of other posts, as well as the defense. Sounds like a typical Bills year, right? There are questions along the offensive line (Glenn at LT? Can Wood stay healthy?) and Fitz seems to still be a work in progress. The WRs are what I really think may cause the offense to flounder and in part because only Graham (and maybe Hagan--if he makes the team) have any upside; Nelson, Jones, Martin and perhaps even Johnson have hit their respective ceilings. Granted, Johnson's ceiling is sufficient for him to start on most teams in the league. Nelson, Jones and Martin are what they are and would struggle to see playing time on good teams assuming they made the roster.
I'm also worried about the CBs. I expect Gilmore, Williams and Brooks to take their rookie lumps. (After missing half of last year I consider Williams to be essentially half way through his rookie year.) I don't expect McGimpy to make it through more than a few games before succumbing to yet another injury, nor do I expect McKelvin to suddenly become a paragon of consistency. (Unless being consistently inconsistent counts, which it probably shouldn't.) All of that spells trouble if the defensive line can't get near constant pressure on opposing QBs.
I read Brian's post on the Bubble Watch and started to think about how Buffalo could get maximum bang for the buck in terms of roster spots.
QB (3): Fitz, Young, Smith: There is no way that the Bills are going to cut Smith and also no chance that anyone other than Fitz (barring injury in the week 3 preseason game) starts. That leaves only the #2 slot and Young has looked better than Thigpen.
RB/FB (3): Jackson, Spiller, McIntyre: Neither Choice nor White has made much of a case for a roster spot. Consider also that the #3 RB won't get many snaps anyway unless Jackson or Spiller are injured. If one of those two get hurt the Bills will likely be able to re-sign Choice and White will almost certainly be holding down a couch somewhere. Instead, I've plugged McIntyre into the 3rd RB slot. This is the first 'saved' roster spot.
WR (6): Johnson, Nelson, Jones, Graham, Hagan, Easley: The first 5 were Brian's 'locks' for the roster and that seems right to me. As noted above I think the WR group could use some improvement. I like the upside that Easley represents. Brad Smith, of course, can also play WR effectively giving Buffalo 7 WR options.
TE (2): Chandler, Dickerson: Smith probably shouldn't make the team because he's pretty much a one trick pony--might as well teach the 4th OT how to catch and save the roster spot. Dickerson is on the other end of the spectrum while Chandler is about as good of a pass catching TE option as the Bills have had in a very long time. Should Chandler or Dickerson get hurt I find it highly likely that Smith could be re-signed...if CHIX wants a glorified extra lineman on the field.
OT (4): Glenn, Pears, Hairston, Young/Sanders: The only real question is whether the Bills keep Young or Sanders. Young seems like a better player at this point but the Bills just invested a draft pick in Sanders. I don't see the Bills going with just 1 reserve tackle, particularly with Pears coming off of injury. My guess is that the Bills keep Young on the roster and try to slide Sanders through to the practice squad.
G/C (5): Levitre, Wood, Urbik, Rinehart, Brown: I can't see the team having just one interior reserve. With Wood's injury history (he's one of my favorite players and I have a Wood jersey sans hideous new collar) it's even more important that the Bills have 2 interior reserves.
DE (4): Williams, Anderson, Merriman, Kelsay: At least Kelsay is likely to become a reserve player. I've heard some gripes about Anderson's performance in the Minny game and some have wondered about Merriman as well. I could see a a 5th DE particularly given how badly the defense will need to get pressure to mask the weak secondary.
DT (4): Williams, Dareus, Johnson, Edwards: Like the DEs I see the DTs as needing to get pressure on opposing QBs. That might lead to a 5th DT instead of a 5th DE--it just depends on which deep reserve guy Wanny sees as having some kind of a shot at making an impact. For the record, I see Troup being put on the PUP list instead of cut if I'm right about it not costing a roster spot.. That would give Buffalo 6 weeks in which the injury bug might create a roster opening for him.
LB (6): Barnett, Sheppard, Moats, Scott, Carder, Bradham: Of this group I see Scott as the most interesting. He has experience at SS and could be shifted there in a pinch, though I suspect that Wanny would be really unhappy about it. At the very least Scott has experience covering guys like Antonio Gates (as a SS instead of LB but still....) so the LB unit might not be as terrible in coverage as it otherwise might be.
CB (7): Gilmore, Williams, McGimpy, McKelvin, Brooks, Rogers, Miller: I agree with Brian that the first 6 guys are pretty much locks for the roster. Given that Miller has flashed potential in the preseason and that it's only a matter of time before McGimpy is on IR I can see Miller making the final cut.
S (4) Byrd, Wilson, Searcy, Howell: Howell has been getting some attention and Nix has said that he wants a 4th safety. Howell seems to win by default, an uninspiring way to make a roster.
LS/K/P (4): Sanborn, Lindell, Potter, Moorman: I've made my peace with the fact that Buffalo will carry a kickoff specialist at least for this season. With any luck Potter will show enough consistency in practice to send Lindell packing next season.
That's 52 of 53 roster spots, including 3 QB, 6 WRs (7 if you count Brad Smith), 5 RB/FB/TE, 9 OL, 8 DL, 6 LB, 11 DB and 4 special teamers. While the 53rd slot could go to TE Smith, I think it would be better used on defense. The available options would be:
DL: Carrington, Heard, Moore
LB: McKillop, Morrison, White
If I remember right, McKillop has a connection to Wanny which might get him that last slot, though I don't see him being particularly helpful in either generating pressure or in coverage. I've heard good things about Moore throughout training camp. It could come down to the fact that the Bills have an investment in Carrington and that he can play DT or DE, a good thing for that 9th DL.