Buffalo Bills players will report for 2015 training camp at St. John Fisher College on Thursday, July 30, with the first practice of camp scheduled for the following day on Friday, July 31. That puts us, depending on your perspective, 48-72 hours away from the return of Bills football.
This offseason has, to put it mildly, been an adventurous one for the Bills, who have a flashy new head coach and are hoping to ride strong defensive and special teams units and a new identity on offense into the postseason for the first time in 15 years. It'll be a tall task, but we're still more than a month away from having to think about that. First thing's first: figuring out the 53 players that will be on the team when that quest begins.
Here is our final Bills 53-man roster projection before the 2015 season begins. Be sure to let everyone know what you think of it in the comments section.
QB (3): Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel, Tyrod Taylor
The idea that Cassel is on the bubble thanks to his bloated salary is sound, but it's still tough to envision the Bills parting ways with their lone veteran option at this juncture. It's possible, but maybe not likely yet.
RB (4): LeSean McCoy, Fred Jackson, Anthony Dixon, Karlos Williams
Jackson is the wild card, as he shouldn't play special teams and has a large salary for a reserve. But it's also difficult to imagine anyone proving to be as valuable as a complementary runner right now, as well.
FB (1): Jerome Felton
Cut and dried. He's one of the highest-paid fullbacks in the NFL for a reason.
WR (5): Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Percy Harvin, Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley
This is where the idea of "buying into your identity" really comes into play. The Bills don't have a lot of room on their roster for project receivers in a run-heavy offense; in this projection, they stick with the three guys that'll have big roles, and two more that can contribute on special teams.
TE (4): Charles Clay, MarQueis Gray, Nick O'Leary, Matthew Mulligan
The Bills are going to keep a blocking specialist to complement their "move" players at this position; I'm giving the edge to Mulligan in that competition for the time being. Keeping four here is easier because of Gray's ability to play special teams.
OL (8): Cordy Glenn, Richie Incognito, Eric Wood, John Miller, Cyrus Kouandjio, Seantrel Henderson, Kraig Urbik, Cyril Richardson
Depth is very thin here. The offensive line will be the Bills' top waiver-wire priority when cuts start coming down between September 1-5, with one or two additions for Week 1 a possibility.
DL (6): Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Alex Carrington, Stefan Charles, Corbin Bryant, Jarius Wynn
Dareus won't be on the Week 1 roster due to suspension, so substitute Andre Fluellen in his spot for a week if you're looking for maximum accuracy.
ER (5): Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes, Manny Lawson, Randell Johnson, Michael Buchanan
Versatility is the name of the game here, and Rex Ryan likes it. All three of the listed reserves can contribute in multiple ways.
LB (3): Preston Brown, Nigel Bradham, Ty Powell
The Bills can sacrifice unproven depth here in the name of keeping more versatile reserves in the edge-rushing group.
CB (6): Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Nickell Robey, Ronald Darby, Ron Brooks, Ross Cockrell
There isn't much room on this roster for project players; Cockrell slides onto the 53-man roster under that heading thanks to the numbers game.
S (4): Aaron Williams, Duke Williams, Corey Graham, Jonathan Meeks
The fourth safety job is up for grabs, to be sure. I'm going with Meeks because he's the best athlete and has been a special teams mainstay for Danny Crossman when healthy.
ST (4): Dan Carpenter, Jordan Gay, Colton Schmidt, Garrison Sanborn
Gay is another "commit to your identity" retention. He is, by no means, a lock for the final roster.
Cuts (36): QB Matt Simms, RB Bryce Brown, FB John Conner, WR Marquise Goodwin, WR Dezmin Lewis, WR Marcus Thigpen, WR Deonte Thompson, WR Caleb Holley, WR Tobais Palmer, WR Justin Brown, WR Andre Davis, TE Chris Gragg, TE Clay Burton, TE Chris Manhertz, OT Tyson Chandler, OT Darryl Johnson, OG Chris Williams, OG D.J. Morrell, OG William Campbell, C Alex Kupper, DL Andre Fluellen, DL Jeremy Towns, DL Justin Hamilton, DL Erik Williams, ER Cedric Reed, ER Andre Hudson, ER B.J. Larsen, LB Jimmy Gaines, LB Tony Steward, LB A.J. Tarpley, CB Rod Sweeting, CB Mario Butler, CB Cam Thomas, S Bacarri Rambo, S Kenny Ladler, S Wes Miller
Here's the full 53-man depth chart in all of its glory (and again, if you're thinking about Week 1 specifically, swap Dareus for Fluellen thanks to the former's one-game suspension). Where do you disagree?
|WR||10||R. Woods||15||C. Hogan||81||M. Easley|
|LT||77||C. Glenn||66||S. Henderson|
|C||70||E. Wood||60||K. Urbik|
|RG||76||J. Miller||68||C. Richardson|
|TE||85||C. Clay||48||M. Gray||84||N. O'Leary||49||M. Mulligan|
|WR||14||S. Watkins||18||P. Harvin|
|QB||16||M. Cassel||3||E. Manuel||5||T. Taylor|
|RB||25||L. McCoy||22||F. Jackson||26||A. Dixon||40||K. Williams|
|ER||55||J. Hughes||91||M. Lawson||51||M. Buchanan|
|NT||99||M. Dareus||96||S. Charles|
|UT||95||K. Williams||98||A. Carrington||97||C. Bryant|
|DE||94||M. Williams||92||J. Wynn|
|WLB||53||N. Bradham||58||R. Johnson|
|MLB||52||P. Brown||57||T. Powell|
|CB||21||L. McKelvin||29||R. Rockrell|
|SB||37||N. Robey||28||R. Darby|
|S||20||C. Graham||36||J. Meeks|
|S||23||A. Williams||27||D. Williams|
|CB||24||S. Gilmore||33||R. Brooks|
|K||2||D. Carpenter||4||J. Gay|