On Monday, we took a second-to-last guess at predicting the Buffalo Bills' 53-man roster. Of the 28 players that didn't make the cut in that exercise, there are several veteran players that have a chance at making the team. There are six such players on the team that find themselves in that situation, and need a very strong close to the pre-season to capitalize on that opportunity.
WR Buster Davis. Signed early in training camp, the former first-round pick of the San Diego Chargers (and Buddy Nix) has been dinged and barely played this pre-season. Meanwhile, even after the trade of Lee Evans, there is some established order ahead of Davis on the depth chart. He'll have to make the team as a sixth receiver - or perhaps even as a seventh - at this point, but in Buffalo's wide-open offense, there's some logic to keeping him.
Who he'd replace: If he makes it as a seventh receiver, the team would likely be losing a tight end, lineman or linebacker. If he makes it as a sixth - which is a stretch - he'd likely be beating out Naaman Roosevelt, a favorite of the coaching staff.
TE Shawn Nelson. Very few question the 2009 fourth-round draft pick's natural talent, but after two straight injury-plagued seasons, Nelson has again missed the majority of this pre-season with a knee injury (unrelated to his previous ailments). Nix and Chan Gailey won't keep Nelson around out of loyalty; Gailey appeared to have big plans for Nelson last year, but he's not going to hurt anyone from the sidelines.
Who he'd replace: If Nelson boggles minds to end the pre-season sufficiently so that he actually sticks, he'll be the third tight end, and knock a receiver, lineman or linebacker off of the team.
OT Cordaro Howard. An early camp injury hasn't led to a lot of publicity for Howard this pre-season, but we're sometimes quick to forget that he started some of Buffalo's best offensive performances at left tackle. He's capable of playing either tackle position, and may be ideally suited for guard. The Bills like versatile reserve offensive linemen, and that's exactly what Howard is.
Who he'd replace: There would be two prime candidates: Ed Wang, who is not quite as versatile in his ability to play multiple positions, and Mansfield Wrotto, who does many of the same things at a higher salary.
C Geoff Hangartner. As we discussed over the weekend, Hangartner's hefty salaries may make him unappealing to the team as a reserve. He has not played poorly this pre-season, but he's also not the Gailey prototype for an offensive lineman, and he hasn't been given much opportunity to move up the depth chart this summer. Still, quality reserves with experience don't exactly grow on trees, and there aren't an abundance of Bills linemen with snapping experience.
Who he'd replace: Just as with Howard, Hangartner would be replacing a lower-level reserve like Wang or Wrotto.
DE Lionel Dotson. Acquired off of waivers very quickly after the lockout was lifted, Dotson is an experienced 3-4 defender, but has not shown very well to this point in George Edwards' hybrid scheme. In fact, he's been outstripped by younger peers, while other veterans have locked up roster spots ahead of him. Dotson is a large and athletic man, but may not have the best awareness or demeanor for an aggressive scheme like this one.
Who he'd replace: We've got Kellen Heard making the team, and while we steadfastly believe Heard has outperformed Dotson this pre-season, Heard would be the guy that goes without question.
S Jon Corto. The Orchard Park native has fashioned himself a nice little career with his hometown team thanks largely to his prowess on special teams. League changes to kickoff rules have reduced the importance of that role, however, but Corto's gotten more play as a safety thanks to some shuffling at the position. He hasn't looked bad in that capacity, though there doesn't appear to be much upside, either.
Who he'd replace: Insofar as versatile defensive backs with special teams ability go, theres really only one guy Corto could surpass: veteran Bryan Scott, who is paid significantly more than Corto at this point. Still, Scott's a much better defender, and a key member of the team's nickel and dime packages.