Now that they're in their third week of training camp practices, and are on the verge of playing their second of five preseason games, ongoing Buffalo Bills position battles are starting to become a bit clearer. There is still the typical reading of tea leaves that needs to be done in coming up with a 53-man roster projection - injury concerns are the main culprit at the moment - but we're ahead of where we were in late July in terms of understanding where guys are lining up.
The Bills will be practicing this afternoon at St. John Fisher in their last public session prior to traveling to Carolina, where they'll take on the Panthers on Friday evening. Below is our latest stab at predicting the Bills' roster, in depth chart form, with notes on particular selections to follow.
|XR||14||Sammy Watkins||88||Marquise Goodwin|
|SR||10||Robert Woods||15||Chris Hogan|
|LT||77||Cordy Glenn||66||Seantrel Henderson|
|LG||74||Chris Williams||68||Cyril Richardson|
|RG||60||Kraig Urbik||75||Chris Hairston|
|RT||79||Erik Pears||71||Cyrus Kouandjio|
|TF||84||Scott Chandler||85||Lee Smith||38||Frank Summers||48||Evan Rodriguez|
|ZR||19||Mike Williams||81||Marcus Easley|
|QB||3||EJ Manuel||7||Jeff Tuel||9||Thad Lewis|
|RB||28||C.J. Spiller||22||Fred Jackson||26||Anthony Dixon||35||Bryce Brown|
|RE||55||Jerry Hughes||91||Manny Lawson|
|UT||95||Kyle Williams||97||Corbin Bryant|
|NT||99||Marcell Dareus||90||Alan Branch|
|LE||94||Mario Williams||92||Jarius Wynn|
|WLB||53||Nigel Bradham||56||Keith Rivers||58||Stevenson Sylvester|
|MLB||51||Brandon Spikes||52||Preston Brown||57||Ty Powell|
|RCB||21||Leodis McKelvin||20||Corey Graham|
|SCB||37||Nickell Robey||29||Ross Cockrell|
|S||23||Aaron Williams||27||Duke Williams|
|S||25||Da'Norris Searcy||36||Jonathan Meeks|
|LCB||24||Stephon Gilmore||33||Ron Brooks|
The lineups are listed as 11 personnel on offense and a nickel alignment on defense, because that's what the Bills are going to be playing most of the time, anyway.
The offensive line is extremely difficult to project right now. Cordy Glenn's illness might necessitate an extra tackle on the final roster, even if the team doesn't expect him to miss much time. Cyrus Kouandjio looks like he's destined to be a weekly scratch until he makes significant technical advances, so I'm counting Chris Hairston as a tackle until further notice, even though he's listed as a guard here. If Glenn isn't ready for the regular season, Hairston might end up being the top reserve at tackle, with Cyril Richardson taking that honor at guard.
Evan Rodriguez makes this projection for one reason: he is a viable special teams option. The team is going to collect as many of those as they can on the back end of the 53-man roster, and the fact that he can chip in at tight end if needed helps his cause. Tony Moeaki is simply too injury-prone for the team to rely on.
Those battles for the fourth spots at defensive end and defensive tackle, respectively, are going to be interesting. Jarius Wynn gets the nod at end for now, but keep an eye on Jacquies Smith, who is the only reserve in that battle that might offer something as a pass rusher. (He may, however, be skill redundant with Manny Lawson, which is something to keep in mind.) Ike Igbinosun might make a push there, too. At tackle, it's hard not to like what we've seen from Landon Cohen, and Stefan Charles has upside, but Corbin Bryant is a fairly steady and proven commodity, as well.
The Bills have enough young linebackers on their roster where, if they need to compensate at other positions early, they might risk stashing guys like Randell Johnson and Jimmy Gaines on the practice squad. Stevenson Sylvester and Ty Powell act as the deep reserves and special teams mainstays in this scenario.
Ross Cockrell bears watching. He didn't play a ton in the preseason opener, and if the team doesn't believe they can count on him on game days, then it's going to make it very easy for Ron Brooks to make this team.
Where am I wrong, Bills fans?