The Buffalo Bills unveiled their first depth chart of the preseason today. As is always the case, the team considers this an unofficial depth chart, and will loudly proclaim that it was written by a social media intern without coaching input. You can take that as you will. Regardless of any misdirection by the front office, it's a time-honored tradition to inspect the list and try to read into the team's intentions.
The first notable thing about this roster slice is how it appears to be intentionally opaque. Positions that ordinarily will see two players on the field at once (such as wide receiver and cornerback) don't get two rows in the chart, cramming all of the names into a single-threaded list. Anyone not listed in the top three at a position is grouped into the "other" category, and it's unclear if a ranking order holds within that list. The defensive depth chart also reflects the hybrid nature of Rex Ryan's defense, with three distinct defensive line positions and three distinct linebacker positions.
The big question on everyone's mind heading into this discussion likely revolved around the current pecking order in the wide receiver category. Unfortunately, we only really have insight into the top three, thanks to Buffalo's format. Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods are the obvious first and second, and the number three spot goes to Marquise Goodwin, who has had a strong training camp. If you buy into the notion that the "other" group is ranked, the next three names are Greg Salas, Dezmin Lewis, and Greg Little, all of whom have had strong moments in camp. If that's the top six, some notable names will be on the outside looking in: Sixth round pick Kolby Listenbee, who still has yet to practice following offseason surgery, Walter Powell, a second year player who had a strong set of practices, and Marcus Easley, who is on the PUP list as he rehabs from a brutal 2015 injury.
At running back, Reggie Bush has managed to slip himself into the third string behind LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams. He's also listed as the primary kick and punt returner, with Kevon Seymour, Salas, and Powell backing up those positions.
The most surprising element of the depth chart may come on the defensive side, where Ronald Darby is listed as the "first" cornerback, and Stephon Gilmore as the "second." It's ultimately meaningless, since both will see the field on almost every snap, but is a strange swap nonetheless. Nickell Robey-Coleman maintains pole position on the third cornerback spot, and it appears that Seymour and Corey White are the next two up.
The defensive line has three starters named: Kyle Williams at DT, Marcell Dareus at NT, and Adolphus Washington at DE. Outside linebacker appears to be a position of versatility: Jerry Hughes is the starter, Shaq Lawson is listed second, and Manny Lawson third, and each of those players has a different style and area of expertise.
At middle linebacker, Preston Brown is named the starter, Randell Johnson (making the Arthur Moats move from DE to OLB to MLB) is the backup, and newly-signed Brandon Spikes is the third string.
The last ranking of note is at safety, where Duke Williams is listed as the first backup behind Aaron Williams and Corey Graham, despite a belief from many reporters at camp that Robert Blanton and Jonathan Meeks have outplayed him.
You can parse the full list here, Bills fans. What stands out to you?