At 7:30 p.m. ET tonight, the Buffalo Bills will wrap up their preseason schedule at Ford Field with their annual exhibition finale against the Detroit Lions. If you're wondering how to catch the game tonight, we have you covered.
Two days later, at 4:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 5, the Bills will be required to take 22 players off of their current active roster, cutting down to 53 for the start of the regular season. As such, tonight's preseason finale affords bubble players their final opportunity - and an extended one, at that - to put their best foot forward as they try to make the team. These five players, in particular, have a lot on the line tonight.
TE Chris Gragg
Whether or not Greg Roman and the Bills see fit to keep four tight ends on their active roster remains to be seen. With very strong play in the last two weeks, however, Gragg has created a sizable gap between himself and the fifth tight end, rookie Nick O'Leary, who no longer seems destined to make the team. Gragg will end up playing a lot in Detroit, with a golden opportunity to add to his solid stat line from the last two games (7-125-1 as a receiver). One more strong performance may make him tremendously difficult to part ways with.
C Kraig Urbik
Buffalo's second-team offensive line has struggled mightily at times this summer, and Urbik has been at the center of it. That's not to say his play has been bad - it hasn't - but his snaps have occasionally been inaccurate, and his best argument for making the team all year has been experience and versatility. Buffalo acquired a center this week in Dalton Freeman, a former Jet that Ryan is familiar with, which dilutes Urbik's value a bit - especially at his $2.2 million cap charge. Buffalo wouldn't save much money in 2015 by releasing Urbik, but if they believe they can survive with Freeman and Cyril Richardson as the interior reserves this season, it may make the veteran expendable. (Freeman's presence could also directly impact Richardson, as well; Richardson has continued to struggle in his second season.)
DL Stefan Charles
The addition of veteran run-stuffer Red Bryant, who seems likely to play a significant situational role in Ryan's defense this season, makes discerning Buffalo's defensive line depth chart rather difficult - especially as it relates to their Week 1 depth with Marcell Dareus serving a suspension. Unless the team plans on only using three interior defensive linemen against Indianapolis, they have an interesting decision to make between Charles and the more versatile Alex Carrington for that last spot. One could easily surmise that Carrington, who has had a fairly quiet preseason, has an advantage due to his positional flexibility - and Charles may need one last strong performance to beat him out.
LB A.J. Tarpley
Tony Steward seems like the favorite to be the top linebacker reserve this season, but a knee injury could lay him up for a while, leaving the door open for Tarpley to make the team, at least in the early stages of the year. But the Bills fortified their noticeable depth issue at the position by bringing in third-year pro Kevin Reddick off waivers from Carolina, which could indicate a level of dissatisfaction with how things have played out behind their starters. Still, Steward's injury and Reddick's lack of familiarity with the scheme leaves the door open for Tarpley to make one final roster bid.
CB Merrill Noel
In their cut down to 75 players earlier this week, the Bills really thinned out their secondary, trimming to seven cornerbacks and five safeties. It's not out of the question that 11 of those 12 defensive backs make the Week 1 roster with starting cornerback Leodis McKelvin ailing, and while it's debatable which of the deeper reserves has more on the line tonight between Noel and fifth safety Jonathan Meeks, I'll roll with Noel, who has already been released by the Bills once this summer. The slot-sized corner can make his case with strong special teams play, where Meeks is an asset; he has a shot simply because, for now, the Bills are far thinner at corner than they are at safety.
Which other Bills players will you be focusing on tonight?