Projecting the 53-man roster

With the deadline to trim the roster to 75 looming (the Bills already dropped to 76), the remaining roster moves will come quickly once this week’s preseason game has passed.

The primary focus of this year’s camp has centered around the quarterback competition as EJ Manuel attempts to earn the role of starter as a rookie. However, both Manuel and Kevin Kolb are all but guaranteed to be in uniform and on the opening day roster when the Bills open against the Pats.

Positions like receiver, defensive line, corner and linebacker will be far different as the Bills 53-man roster shakes out and I’m hopeful that my projected 53-man roster is close to that of Doug Marrone’s.

QB (3): EJ Manuel, Matt Leinart, Jeff Tuel

–          Manuel’s knee ailment pretty much locks in Tuel to the active roster for now. Perhaps he was a practice squad candidate but I think his play in each preseason game showed that he had the chops to remain on the roster all year. I gather that Kolb is potentially destined for the IR at this point or even an outright release. Signing Leinart seems to indicate he will start the season as Buffalo’s backup– who he’s backing up is yet to be seen.

RB/FB (4): CJ Spiller, Fred Jackson, Tashard Choice, Frank Summers (FB)

–          Spiller and Jackson are the shoo-ins. At one point I thought that perhaps Zach Brown or even Kendall Gaskins may steal Choice’s spot as the third back. However, I think Choice acquitted himself well in the preseason and will remain on the roster. For an offense expected to be lightning quick, a fullback is an interesting choice. However, Summers has gotten solid reviews, appears to have solid special teams acumen and will fill a solid role for the Bills.

WR (6): Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods, TJ Graham, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley

–          The top four wide outs are locked in at this point. Graham’s injury could conceivably make him expendable, but that’s highly unlikely. The real battle came down to Hogan, Easley, Brad Smith and Da’Rick Rogers. Hogan saw the highest rise on the depth chart and impressed throughout camp. He also flashed in special teams coverage, which made cutting Smith much easier. The choice on Easley came down to playmaking. Rogers appeared to earn a spot in the doghouse and Easley has shown to ability to make more plays in more areas than Rogers to this point. Perhaps the potential is too great to let Rogers go, but I feel that Hogan and Easley help the team the most in terms of pure talent.

TE (3): Scott Chandler, Lee Smith, Chris Gragg

–          Pretty cut and dry here. Chandler is the primary pass catching option of the three and Smith will retain his role as a quality in-line blocker. I’ll be interested to see what role Gragg plays moving forward as his ability as a receiver could earn him more reps over Smith as the season progresses.

T (4): Cordy Glenn, Erik Pears, Sam Young, Thomas Welch (Chris Hairston – PUP)

–          It seems as if Thomas Welch has earned heaps of praise throughout camp but I still have a preference to Young for some reason. I think they both make the roster with Hairston on the PUP to start the year (assuming that’s the move) with Glenn and Pears as the two starters.

G (3): Colin Brown, Kraig Urbik, Doug Legursky

–          All three of these guys can play center if necessary and that versatility allows for some flexibility at other positions (specifically tackle). Urbik is entrenched as Buffalo’s second best interior lineman while Brown appears to have won the battle at left guard. Legursky will swing between guard and center.

C (1): Eric Wood

–          Plain and simple. He’s Buffalo’s best lineman and so long as he stays healthy, will be working towards a healthy raise.

DE/DT (6): Alex Carrington, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Alan Branch, Jay Ross, Corbin Bryant

–          I originally had five players here and six corners. However, I feel as if the Bills may scour the free agent market for a veteran corner and in the meantime it may open the doors for Corbin Bryant. I’m a fan of his as I like his ability to bounce between a few spots on the line. Like Ross and Branch, Bryant’s versatility is what makes him valuable behind Buffalo’s trio of starters.

RLB (3): Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes, Jamie Blatnick

–          I like referring to this position as rush linebacker or as an end/linebacker hybrid. Obviously Mario Williams will anchor this group with both Hughes and Blatnick proving that they should be nice additions to the defense this season.

WLB (2): Nigel Bradham, Bryan Scott

–          Both Bradham and Scott will serve well with their ability to run in coverage and play an aggressive style. There isn’t too much to read into in this case as this pair have been heads and shoulders above others playing the inside/weakside role.

ILB (2): Kiko Alonso, Arthur Moats

–          Moats has proven to be a serviceable option for the Bills over the duration of his career. While he doesn’t necessarily fit in one particular role, he has settle well inside this season and should see plenty of action on special teams.

SLB (2): Manny Lawson, Marcus Dowtin

–          With the Bills cutting ties with Chris White, the door could be open for another linebacker to be kept depending on numbers at other positions. Marcus Dowtin’s ability to play inside may limit the need to keep another linebacker, but that isn’t a guarantee at this point.

CB (6): Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Justin Rogers, Crezedon Butler, Nickell Robey

–          The play here has been so average I think the roster spot could be better spent elsewhere as opposed to a sixth body. But Stephon Gilmore isn’t going to be hit with the IR/designated to return tag according to Doug Marrone. That will affect another position as the Bills will be forced to keep at least one additional corner, if not two. Pencil Nickell Robey in for now with Rogers and Butler joining him on the bottom portion of the CB depth chart. I think a veteran free agent is the best way to go, but Robey is the most likely to get a roster spot from the 76 names remaining.

FS (2): Aaron Williams, Duke Williams

–          Pretty cut and dry with this position. Aaron Williams has been solid through camp and the preseason and Duke Williams has a high ceiling that has fans excited.

SS (3): Jairus Byrd, Da’Norris Searcy, Jonathan Meeks

–          Byrd was penciled as a strong safety on the first team depth chart, so I’ll keep him in that role for now. He will immediately leapfrog Searcy once he’s ready to return and there are some who think Searcy may get cut. Due to Searcy’s play and Byrd’s recent return, I’d guess that Meeks stays on for a bit.

Specialists (3): Dustin Hopkins, Shawn Powell, Garrison Sanborn

–          My only question surrounding this trio is how much longevity do they have. Powell had a booming leg at Florida State but hasn’t shown much consistency through two seasons. Hopkins was a wise choice to keep moving forward, but Powell seems to be replaceable if his play continues to falter.

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