We have spent a lot of time discussing the Buffalo Bills’ 53-man roster and the 16-man practice squad, but just as important are the 48 guys the team is going to be dressing each and every week. There are inevitably healthy scratches each week, so who are the Bills going to sit down on Sunday?
Here’s our first guess at Week 1, with five players needing to be on the list:
OT Tommy Doyle
The easiest decision to be made here, the green Doyle is the team’s ninth offensive lineman and if everyone stays healthy, won’t dress for a game this season. Dion Dawkins, Jon Feliciano, Mitch Morse, Cody Ford, Daryl Williams, Ike Boettger, Spencer Brown, and Ryan Bates are your eight linemen.
DE Boogie Basham
It’s a numbers game on the defensive line, and while Basham can cover multiple positions, they need to sit someone. Basham is the only DE who has shown the least in the preseason, but that’s okay for now. The team did the same thing with A.J. Epenesa a year ago.
DT Harrison Phillips
He’s the second-string 1-tech defensive tackle and coming off injury. With Vernon Butler able to slide to the 1-tech position when necessary, I expect Phillips will be a healthy scratch unless they are going run-heavy in their defensive front.
RB Matt Breida
These are getting tougher, because Breida adds something to the roster that Zack Moss and Devin Singletary don’t. His speed and change of pace could be enough to get him on the game day roster ahead of Moss/Singletary but, until I see it happen, I’m not going to predict it. It’s unlikely they will dress four running backs on Sundays and Taiwan Jones and his multi-phase special teams play will be on the field.
TE Tommy Sweeney
The Bills don’t use their second tight end very much and with Reggie Gilliam’s role as the fullback and on special teams, he could pinch hit at tight end, as well, especially as the TE2. When you see Dawson Knox’s snap counts over the last half of the 2020 season, see that Tyler Kroft was mostly inactive after November 8, and realize you’re talking about a Lee Smith blocking role, I’m not sure you’re going to see Sweeney active on game days. This is really going to depend on Gilliam’s comfort level and if the team is willing to use rookie Gilliam or Spencer Brown in the sixth offensive lineman role Smith perfected during his time in Buffalo.
S Damar Hamlin/LB Tyrel Dodson
If we are right on the first five, the Bills can keep both of these guys active. It’s hard to tell where the Bills will prioritize on Sunday because last year, the team had injuries deplete their linebacker corps early in the season. Do they want to dress all six linebackers or all four safeties? With the trade of Daryl Johnson, I think the team is going to prioritize Tyrel Dodson on game days for that special teams ability in a slightly larger frame. It’s a tough call, as both backup safeties from a year ago were among the top special teams snaps. It might come down to the defensive game plans; if they are facing a pass-happy team, the safety gets the call as opposed to a run-first game plan where the linebacker is active. But then again, if they want to go run-heavy defense, Harrison Phillips will likely be active.