When it comes to annual training camp coverage around the NFL, the term "bubble" is one that is applied loosely to pretty much any roster situation that isn't ironclad. For example: a player on the bubble may merely be fighting for a starting job, assured of a roster spot, while another player on the bubble is simply fighting to make the 53-man roster.
For our purposes, we're going to use the term "bubble" to describe players that are not mortal locks to make the team. That's a difficult way to apply the term when the team you cover has a brand new coaching staff in place, but we'll effort it anyway.
Right now, I believe that 32 players are certain to make the Buffalo Bills' final roster. (Famous last words, I know.) This strikes me as a fairly conservative stab at finding the team's locks, as several names left off the list have better-than-good shots at making the team. Those 32 players are:
EJ Manuel, Kevin Kolb, C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods, T.J. Graham, Marquise Goodwin, Scott Chandler, Cordy Glenn, Erik Pears, Chris Hairston, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik, Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Alex Carrington, Alan Branch, Manny Lawson, Jerry Hughes, Kiko Alonso, Nigel Bradham, Bryan Scott, Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Jairus Byrd, Aaron Williams, Duke Williams, Da'Norris Searcy, Garrison Sanborn
Take away those 32 names, and you're left with two ideas to follow: meeting the minimum number requirements for each positional group, and filling out the back end of the roster with utility players and worthwhile projects. We believe that the word "bubble" is meant to capture both of those ideas simultaneously.
How, then, do we illustrate the Bills' bubble watch? Why, with the chart you see below. Separated by positional groups, in one column you see the minimum number of players required at each position; in another, you see the number already consumed by the "locks" listed above; and in the final column, you see the names of players fighting for those open spots. Note, also, that there are only 47 spots in total on the minimum required list, so aside from picking 15 names to meet minimum requirements, we're also looking for those six utility/project players to complete the 53-man roster.
|RB||3||2 (pick one)||Tashard Choice, Zach Brown, Kendall Gaskins, Drew Smith, Frank Summers|
|WR||5||4 (pick one)||Brad Smith, Da'Rick Rogers, Kevin Elliott, Marcus Easley, Chris Hogan, Brandon Kaufman, DeMarco Sampson|
|TE||2||1 (pick one)||Lee Smith, Chris Gragg, Mike Caussin, Mickey Shuler, Dorin Dickerson|
|OL||9||5 (pick four)||Colin Brown, Sam Young, Doug Legursky, Chris Scott, Zebrie Sanders, David Snow, Keith Williams, Thomas Welch, Zack Chibane, Ryan Turnley, Hutch Eckerson|
|DL||7||5 (pick two)||Torell Troup, Jay Ross, Jarron Gilbert, Corbin Bryant, Izaan Cross, Aaron Tipoti|
|LB||7||5 (pick two)||Jamie Blatnick, Kourtnei Brown, Marcus Dowtin, Arthur Moats, Chris White, Keith Pough, Brian Smith|
|DB||9||7 (pick two)||Crezdon Butler, Nickell Robey, Justin Rogers, Dominique Ellis, T.J. Heath, Jumal Rolle, Kip Edwards, Jonathan Meeks, Mana Silva, Jordan Dangerfield|
|K||1||0 (pick one)||Rian Lindell, Dustin Hopkins|
|P||1||0 (pick one)||Shawn Powell, Brian Stahovich|
If you'd like, use the comments section to give us your take on the Bills' bubble watch. Fill out the minimum number at each position as suggested (or tweak it if you think our minimum numbers are wrong), then pick six additional names from the leftovers to formulate the 53-man roster.