The Buffalo Bills defeated the Cleveland Browns last night, 11-10, in their second of four preseason games scheduled to be played this summer. They have also completed 14 of 17 scheduled training camp practices at St. John Fisher. We are nearing the end of the preseason, friends, and with roster cuts beginning on September 1, Buffalo's bubble players are officially entering crunch time in their bids to make the roster.
Now seems like a perfect time for an updated 53-man roster projection, doesn't it? Let's go for it.
QB (3): Matt Cassel, Tyrod Taylor, EJ Manuel
Forget about the fairness of Manuel's perceived place in the starting competition for a second, and focus on this: Manuel has played his way onto the roster. So have Cassel and Taylor. They no longer have to consider the idea of keeping Manuel simply because his contract is fully guaranteed, or cutting Cassel because he's been outplayed. The Bills are not in a position where they can cut a quarterback that's playing well. The rest will sort itself out over the next few weeks, but I would be shocked if the Bills didn't keep all three of their quarterbacks right now. They're all playing fairly well.
RB (4): LeSean McCoy, Fred Jackson, Karlos Williams, Boobie Dixon
Given how banged-up this position is, and McCoy's "cautiously optimistic" outlook for Week 1, don't be surprised if the Bills keep five backs, at least early in the season. At the back end of the depth chart, I'll take Dixon over Bryce Brown for the time being based purely on special teams ability.
FB (1): Jerome Felton
This position has been locked down all summer. Moving on.
WR (6): Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Percy Harvin, Marcus Easley, Marquise Goodwin, Deonte Thompson
I'm comfortable calling the first four players on that list above locks to make the final roster, but the next one or two spots are pretty wide open at this point. The Bills might be best served finding a taller, project-type receiver amongst this year's cuts league-wide to stash on the back end of the roster, but for now, I'll give the last two spots to the receivers that have been most consistent throughout the summer in Goodwin and Thompson. Andre Davis is knocking on the door, too.
TE (3): Charles Clay, Matthew Mulligan, MarQueis Gray
Speaking of the waiver wire, I have to imagine that Greg Roman will be begging Doug Whaley to find him tight ends when final cuts are made. Clay has been an improvement at the starting spot, but the next two or three spots on the depth chart still need to be overhauled. Keep an eye on San Francisco, where they have a wealth of tight ends that Roman is familiar with; they won't be able to keep them all. If either of Derek Carrier or Garrett Celek is released, the Bills will probably pounce. But their scope should extend well beyond San Fran, as well.
OL (8): Cordy Glenn, Richie Incognito, Eric Wood, John Miller, Seantrel Henderson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Kraig Urbik, Cyril Richardson
To wrap up the waiver wire trifecta, the Bills need to be on the prowl for line depth. Their second- and third-team offensive lines are awful, nearly to a man. Manuel spent most of the second half of last night's win over Cleveland evading multiple free rushers on every snap, with Richardson and a few players that are going to be cut the biggest culprits. Kouandjio and Urbik have been okay, but one or two new faces are needed.
DL (4): Kyle Williams, Corbin Bryant, Red Bryant, Stefan Charles
The signing of Red Bryant last week indicated that the Bills have not been totally satisfied with the performance of their reserve defensive linemen. Bryant saw action with the first-team defense last night, so you can expect the veteran to immediately slide into the playing rotation. Playing against a pass-happy Indianapolis team in Week 1, it's not strictly necessary for the Bills to keep an extra defensive lineman on the roster while Marcell Dareus is suspended.
ER (7): Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes, Manny Lawson, IK Enemkpali, Quentin Groves, Michael Buchanan, Randell Johnson
Rather than force the issue at linebacker, expect the Bills to overstock themselves on edge rushers to make up for their lack of depth behind the line. Rex Ryan has always been known to do this, and the Bills have enough interesting prospects here (with special teams upside) to pull the trigger. Buchanan and Johnson are the iffiest propositions; Buchanan has been fairly quiet, while Johnson had a few awful plays in Cleveland that really hurt his stock.
LB (3): Nigel Bradham, Preston Brown, Tony Steward
Steward is stashed because, as the team has stated multiple times, they like him on special teams. He made a great open-field tackle covering a punt in Cleveland, displaying his athleticism. He's also seen a lot of playing time at linebacker. The Bills are clearly taking a long look at him.
CB (6): Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby, Nickell Robey, Ron Brooks, Mario Butler, Ellis Lankster
Leodis McKelvin is almost certainly going to start the regular season on the shelf, which opens up a roster spot early in the season. Ross Cockrell has been injured, and therefore unable to make his case for a spot, so he'll either be cut or land on IR, making way for Butler and Lankster. Butler has had a solid summer thus far, while Lankster sticks because he can play in the slot in the pinch and is also experienced on special teams.
S (4): Aaron Williams, Corey Graham, Duke Williams, Bacarri Rambo
The Bills might have a depth problem here. Rambo has been solid this summer, but that can't be said of Duke Williams, who has gone from supposedly competing with Graham for a starting job to making several bad plays (missed tackles and giving up a touchdown) in Cleveland. Williams can rebound, and Rambo is fairly dependable for a player with his athletic limitations, but this might be a position to keep an eye on for a waiver-wire add, as well.
ST (4): Dan Carpenter, Colton Schmidt, Garrison Sanborn, Jordan Gay
For now, I'll stick with the prediction that Gay makes the team simply because the Bills are sufficiently banged up that they might want to reduce the wear and tear on their reserves. Even if that only lasts early in the season, I think it's sensible enough for Ryan to decide to keep Gay around for opening day.
Reserve lists (4): DL Marcell Dareus (suspended), DL Jarius Wynn (injured), LB Ty Powell (injured), CB Leodis McKelvin (non-football injury)
Cuts (35): QB Matt Simms, RB Bryce Brown, RB Bronson Hill, RB Ricky Seale, RB Cierre Wood, FB John Conner, WR Chris Hogan, WR Andre Davis, WR Marcus Thigpen, WR Dezmin Lewis, WR Tobais Palmer, TE Chris Gragg, TE Nick O'Leary, OT Darryl Johnson, OT Tyson Chandler, OT Terren Jones, OG William Campbell, OG Alex Kupper, OG D.J. Morrell, DL Alex Carrington, DL Andre Fluellen, DL Jeremy Towns, DL Justin Hamilton, ER Cedric Reed, ER Andrew Hudson, ER B.J. Larsen, LB A.J. Tarpley, LB Jimmy Gaines, CB Ross Cockrell, CB Merrill Noel, CB Cam Thomas, S Jonathan Meeks, S Kenny Ladler, S Wes Miller
What does all of that look like in depth chart form? Glad you asked. Note that the chart below omits Dareus and McKelvin, and is a projection of what the roster could look like in Week 1.
|FL||10||Robert Woods||18||Percy Harvin||80||Deonte Thompson|
|TE||85||Charles Clay||49||Matthew Mulligan||48||MarQueis Gray|
|LG||64||Richie Incognito||68||Cyril Richardson|
|C||70||Eric Wood||60||Kraig Urbik|
|RT||66||Seantrel Henderson||71||Cyrus Kouandjio|
|SE||14||Sammy Watkins||88||Marquise Goodwin||81||Marcus Easley|
|QB||16||Matt Cassel||5||Tyrod Taylor||3||EJ Manuel|
|RB||25||LeSean McCoy||22||Fred Jackson||40||Karlos Williams||26||Boobie Dixon|
|ER||55||Jerry Hughes||91||Manny Lawson||51||Michael Buchanan||58||Randell Johnson|
|DT||95||Kyle Williams||79||Red Bryant|
|NT||97||Corbin Bryant||96||Stefan Charles|
|DE||94||Mario Williams||75||IK Enemkpali||49||Quentin Groves|
|WLB||53||Nigel Bradham||50||Tony Steward|
|CB||28||Ronald Darby||39||Mario Butler|
|NB||37||Nickell Robey||47||Ellis Lankster|
|S||23||Aaron Williams||30||Bacarri Rambo|
|S||20||Corey Graham||27||Duke Williams|
|CB||24||Stephon Gilmore||33||Ron Brooks|
|K||2||Dan Carpenter||4||Jordan Gay|