By BBD Staff Writer Eric Samulski
The preseason has wrapped up, the tough decisions have been made, and the 2012 season has finally come into focus. With the front office making cuts down to a 53 men last night, the Bills final roster has been decided on. There were some surprising decisions, and some positions that seem to still be unfinished, but it’s time to take a look at who’ll be suiting up in the Meadowlands week one.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tarvaris Jackson, Tyler Thigpen
Thigpen making this roster has been a bit of a shock to most fans. He was unimpressive throughout the preseason and is making a lot of money to be a 3rd string quarterback. It’s made even more confusing because the Bills have been talking about keeping Brad Smith as a 3rd QB all offseason (more on that later).
The only rationale I can provide here is that the Bills are holding onto Thigpen until Tarvaris becomes comfortable with the playbook. He’s only been in Buffalo a week and having a back-up QB who doesn’t know the system is a recipe for disaster. Once Jackson becomes more comfortable with the playbook, hopefully before Thigpen’s contract becomes guaranteed, look for the Bills to cut Thigpen and add another WR or try to stash a young QB, like recently released B.J. Coleman, on the practice squad or as a 3rd QB.
Fred Jackson, CJ Spiller, Tashard Choice, Corey McIntyre
This position worked out exactly how we thought it would. Choice got far more opportunities than Johnny White this preseason and did more with his touches. His collegiate connection to Gailey was just icing on the cake.
Scott Chandler, Lee Smith and Dorin Dickerson
This is another position that we predicted correctly. The Bills needed a strong blocking TE to pair with Chandler, and Smith was far and away the best one in camp. Dickerson adds a new wrinkle to Gailey’s offense as an H-back and could also be split out wide as another WR, hence Buffalo’s decision to strip that position down.
Stevie Johnson, Donald Jones, David Nelson, TJ Graham, Brad Smith
This is where most fans think Buffalo made a mistake, and I can’t really disagree. The entire idea of Brad Smith, as the front office explained, was to keep him as a hybrid 3rd QB and receiving option. If they weren’t comfortable enough with him as a 3rd QB (which explains Thigpen’s presence) then his overall value is negated. If he can’t play QB, and is viewed as strictly a WR, then he isn’t nearly as talented as some of the players that were cut, specifically Hagan, who had a great preseason and possesses explosive playmaking abilities.
My gut tells me that the Bills are going to eventually add another guy, move on from Thigpen, and keep Brad Smith as their 3rd QB. Look for the Bills to either bring back Hagan or Roosevelt in weeks to come or try to scoop up another released WR like Tori Gurley or Tim Benford. Also, look for Easley to be signed to the practice squad in hopes that more reps will help him regain some of that skill set that had people calling him a sleeper for the past two years.
Cordy Glenn, Chris Hairston, Erik Pears, Sam Young, Andy Levitre, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik, Chad Rinehart, Colin Brown
No major surprises here except for Sam Young making the final roster when Zebrie Sanders was placed on the I.R. I was never a huge fan of Young coming out of Notre Dame and nothing has changed to make me think he’ll be a successful NFL tackle. I’d much rather take a chance on Matt McCants, who was released by the Giants yesterday. Colin Brown also made the roster over Mark Asper and will man the pivot if Eric Wood goes down with an injury. Look for Asper to be signed to the practice squad because of his versatility as a G/C.
An interesting note on position designation is that Chris Hairston is listed at LT on the roster, while Sam Young and Erik Pears are at RT. Hairston had been pretty strong at RT in the preseason, and Pears hasn’t shown that he’s fully recovered from his injury, so I’m tepid in my belief that Pears can play RT week one.
Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcel Dareus, Mark Anderson, Kyle Moore, Alex Carrington, Spencer Johnson, Chris Kelsay
Another position that we predicted almost perfectly, except for Carrington making the team over Dwan Edwards. It’s a surprising inclusion, but one that I fully support. Carrington has been switching positions every season since he came to Buffalo. He had a lot of talent coming out of Arkansas State and can be a versatile and productive member of the line if he’s given a chance to really stick in one spot. Kyle Moore gained a lot of steam late in the preseason because of his ability to rush the passer. He’ll provide good athleticism and depth off the edge.
Nick Barnett, Arthur Moats, Kelvin Sheppard, Kirk Morrison, Chris White, Nigel Bradham, Bryan Scott
A couple fan-favorites, Scott McKillop and Tank Carder, lost out in the final moments, and I can’t help but assume it came down to nothing but special teams. Chris White hasn’t shown much on the field other than as a special teams ace, so the Bills obviously felt that his value there was worth a roster spot. Look for Carder to be signed to the practice squad because he has the ability to grow into a versatile backup and special teams asset.
Morrison will slide back to MLB and back-up Sheppard, while it appears that Moats has locked down a starting spot at OLB. There’s a lot of fringe talent in this group and it’s a big question mark heading into the season.
Stephon Gilmore, Aaron Williams, Terrence McGee, Justin Rodgers, Ron Brooks, Leodis McKelvin
This position had been locked into place for most of the preseason. It’s a young, potentially explosive group, and McGee was kept around for leadership and mentoring.
Jairus Byrd, George Wilson, Da’Norris Searcy, Delano Howell
Camp darling Howell makes the roster as the final safety. He showed enough smarts and tackling ability to consistently find himself in the right place to make plays. He probably won’t see the field much in this group, but it’s a solid quartet of players whose skill sets balance each other nicely.
Rian Lindell, Brian Moorman, John Potter, Garrison Sanborn
This group all comes down to Potter. We expected him to make the team for weeks, but many Bills fans think that the decision to keep two kickers is foolish. In my eyes, football is a game about field position and Potter can prevent the opposition from getting good field position every time. He also saves the Bills players from the wear and tear of contact on special teams, which causes more injuries than any other play in sports. If he does his job, the Bills defense will frequently be in a position of strength and they’ll continue to be healthy. For a team that’s going to win because of their defense, that’s important enough for a roster spot.