With the Bills set to significantly trim their roster tomorrow, I thought I would take my first run at the 53-man roster. I have a few positions that I had struggled with, but managed to come to a final conclusion. This week’s preseason game and practice reports pointed towards a few of the decisions I went with, although there is always a chance for a surprise veteran to get the gas at this time of the year.
For the first time in a few years, the Bills entered preseason with a roster that was a little more stable that in recent seasons. There were fewer position battles, especially for starting jobs and there was far less attention paid to the contributions of late picks and undrafted free agents. I had a fairly strong sense of what the roster would eventually look like heading into this first round of cuts. Hopefully my picks don’t turn out to be totally foolish. (* indicates rookies)
Specialists (4) – Garrison Sanborn, Rian Lindell, Brian Moorman, John Potter*
This was tough only because I felt the need to keep Potter on the roster and figuring out where a spot could be freed up was difficult.
Quarterback (3) – Ryan Fitzpatrick, Vince Young, Brad Smith
Fitz was the obvious starter and Young became the obvious backup with his performance in the first two preseason games. His versatility as a mobile QB made him a more attractive option than Tyler Thigpen on paper alone. Seeing the two execute sealed the deal. I’m interested to see if Young will be utilized as a Wildcat option at any point this season.
UPDATE: As of yesterday evening, the Bills had reportedly come to an agreement for a trade for Tavaris Jackson from the Seahawks. In what is easily the most reactionary league in the world, I would assume the Bills have been scared off by Vince Young’s performance on Saturday and would like a better insurance blanket at this point.
Running Back (4) – Fred Jackson, CJ Spiller, Tashard Choice, Corey McIntrye
Jackson and Spiller are locks, as is McIntrye at fullback. The decision to keep Choice over White was the difficult one. Both have shown flashes of brilliance, but Choice has seen more time and done more with it. .
Tight End (3) – Scott Chandler, Lee Smith, Dorin Dickerson
Dickerson is a very interesting prospect to me. He is big enough to be placed on the line or in the backfield as a blocker, but he is also fast enough to be split out wide. I think of him as having the potential to be the Bills’ version of Aaron Hernandez. Chandler is the obvious number one man here and Smith is practically an extra tackle thanks to his blocking ability. Dickerson is the versatile threat who could even be counted as a full back if need be.
Wide Reciever (5) – Stevie Johnson, Donald Jones, David Nelson, T.J. Graham*, Derek Hagan
Brad Smith represents Buffalo’s sixth wide receiver for all intents and purposes. Johnson, Jones and Nelson are all locks and Graham’s draft status and early production makes him a shoo-in. Hagan has had an edge on the fifth spot for some time and Smith’s versatility makes the need for a sixth wide out superfluous.
Tackle (5) – Cordy Glenn*, Erik Pears, Chris Hairston, Sam Young, Zebrie Sanders*
Most accounts have indicated that Sanders has struggled through camp. However, he was a well-respected prospect entering the draft and has the type of raw talent that can be cultivated. I think that he would get signed away if the Bills tried to sneak him onto the practice squad at this point. As for the rest, Pears, Hairston and Young are all steady incumbents from last year with Glenn taking over the starting left tackle spot.
Guard (4) – Andy Levitre, Kraig Urbik, Chad Rinehart, Colin Brown
Levitre, Urbik and Rinehart have established themselves as an effective trio. Urbik can swing to center and all three can swing to either side to play guard. Brown can also play center if necessary and has proven he is an adequate depth player.
Center (1) – Eric Wood
Wood is the only true center on the roster but is backed up by Urbik and Brown on the depth chart. If he can stay healthy he is a Pro Bowl talent.
Defensive End (4) – Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Chris Kelsay, Kyle Moore
One of the positions (along with WR) that could potentially have another player added to the depth chart depending on the direction the Bills decide to go. I would anticipate that Robert Eddins and Jarron Gilbert are part of the conversation here. Moore has been good and simply looks like a football player when he is in uniform. Most accounts had Moore on the roster prior to Shawne Merriman’s release, the other three were already locks.
Defensive Tackle (4) – Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Dwan Edwards, Spencer Johnson
Williams and Dareus are obvious choices and the two veterans have shown an ability to adapt to the 4-3 scheme. Johnson can also flex to play end if absolutely necessary, a trait that will be helpful as the season progresses. I wondered about Edwards ability in an even front, but all reports have indicated he has been a strong contributor. Torrell Troup can technically be counted among this group after being placed on injured reserve. I had thought this could be an option regarding the DT, but it is no longer a revelation-worthy thought since I didn’t get this post up in time.
Linebacker (7) – Nick Barnett, Arthur Moats, Kelvin Sheppard, Kirk Morrison, Nigel Bradham*, Tank Carder*, Bryan Scott
Morrison could be a surprise cut depending on how the Bills view him and what direction the team wants to go in. However, I think the staff likes him as an option as a strong side or middle linebacker at this point. Scott McKillop is a very real option here based on what type of team they hope to roster. However, as Joe B pointed out on WGR, his skill set may not be useful with a kickoff specialist. Personally, I think Bradham will see significant time by the end of the year and Carder is likely going to become a special teams monster in time.
Cornerback (6) – Stephon Gilmore*, Terrence McGee, Aaron Williams, Ledois McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Justin Rogers
This was another easy unit to lay out. The Bills will need six corners and have six capable of playing at an NFL level. I think Gilmore ends up being a week on starter and you will possibly see Brooks surpass McKelvin as the nickel back at some point.
Safety (3) – Jarius Byrd, George Wilson, DaNorris Searcy
I know all about Delano Howell. If there is a position that is trimmed by one, perhaps Howell makes the 53-man roster. However, Bryan Scott is still a safety in my book and I firmly believe that Searcy could bump to free safety (as could Wilson) if there was an injury along the way.
Final cuts – Scott McKillop, Delano Howell, Jarron Gilbert, Robert Eddins, Ruvell Martin
I had a tough time deciding between Dorin Dickerson and McKillop. At the end of the day I determined that Kirk Morrison’s extra reps at middle linebacker had rendered McKillop expendable. Therefore, he was my final player to be “cut”. Howell, Gilbert and Eddins could all sneak on the roster depending on the numbers game at other positions; namely offensive line and linebacker. Martin is a good special teams player, but isn’t very good as a receiver. Brad Smith’s ability as a wide out makes Martin expendable.