Defensive Ends (3):
Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Jamie Blatnick
Remember that Buffalo will use different base defenses in 2013. Williams won’t always be a defensive end and some of the names you see under defensive tackle will also see snaps as defensive ends. Some linebackers will also see snaps as defensive ends (Jerry Hughes and Manny Lawson).
In 4-3 looks, Williams is a definite starter. Anderson didn’t have a great first season with the Bills, but a knee injury was a major reason for this. His roster spot should be safe in 2013. Jamie Blatnick has been impressive in OTAs according to BuffaloBills.com. It’s not a lock he makes the roster, but he could be the Bills’ Kyle Moore of 2013.
Defensive Tackles (5):
Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Alex Carrington, Alan Branch, Torell Troup
Williams and Dareus are locks. Williams has been one of Buffalo’s best players and while Dareus is coming off of an underwhelming season, I think it’s safe to give him a pass as he was grieving the loss of his brother. Alex Carrington, Pro Football Focus’ Secret Superstar for the Bills, should be the first defensive lineman off the bench in 2013.
Branch was a free-agent signing for the Bills and should see time as a rotational player. Troup has had serious back issues, but if healthy, he too will have the opportunity to contribute. This is likely Troup’s last chance with the Bills.
Inside Linebackers (4):
Kiko Alonso, Nigel Bradham, Bryan Scott, Arthur Moats
Alonso, the second of Buffalo’s second-round choices, has seen plenty of time with the first-team defense in OTAs. It’s clear that Alonso is safe as is Bradham. A fourth-round pick in 2012, Bradham is likely to be a three-down linebacker. He could play both inside and outside linebacker.
Scott has seen time with the Bills’ first-team defense at inside linebacker and the veteran is likely to make the team, although it’s no guarantee. Moats is another linebacker who can play both inside and outside. He, like Scott, is no guarantee to make the team, but his ability to play in various linebacker spots makes him valuable.
Outside Linebackers (3):
Jerry Hughes, Manny Lawson, Keith Pough
Hughes was acquired via a trade with the Colts on April 29th. Since joining the Bills, he’s impressed the team in OTAs by getting to the quarterback often. Lawson was a free-agent signing for the Bills and his versatility should ensure him a roster spot. Recently, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine called Lawson one of the smartest players in the league in an interview with the Buffalo News.
Pough was the toughest pick to make. Truthfully, I had Marcus Dowtin making the roster due to his impressive OTAs and knowledge of Pettine’s defense. However, Pough is a player to keep an eye on in training camp. Pough has shown flashes of his ability during OTAs, but will really get his opportunity to show off his talent at training camp.
Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Nickell Robey, Crezdon Butler, veteran cornerback
Gilmore played excellent football as a rookie is 2012. He’s certainly a lock as is McKelvin, who re-signed with the Bills in the offseason. Brooks played well in limited time during his rookie season and can play in both the slot and on the outside. Robey, an undrafted free agent out of USC, played extremely well in OTAs according to WGR’s Joe Buscaglia. He has a real chance of earning a roster spot and seeing time in the slot. Butler is the last cornerback currently on the Bills roster that I see making the team. Justin Rogers would be a difficult cut, but he regressed significantly in 2012.
There are only five cornerbacks listed here that are actually on Buffalo’s roster. At some point, another team is going to release a veteran cornerback as a cap casualty. Look for the Bills to go after any veteran that may help them win now.
Jairus Byrd, Da’Norris Searcy, Aaron Williams, Duke Williams
Byrd is currently franchise-tagged and not under contract, but the Bills have the cap space to get Byrd a new deal. Look for Buffalo to get this deal done. Searcy split reps with George Wilson in 2012 and played well enough that Buffalo released Wilson.
Aaron Williams can play both safety and cornerback. The team isn’t going to give up on Aaron Williams yet, but his play at safety may dictate whether he’s on the Bills in 2014. Duke Williams, Buffalo’s fourth-round pick in 2013, should make the team as the team’s last safety. He’ll see time on special teams.
Special Teams (3):
Dustin Hopkins, Shawn Powell, Garrison Sanborn
I really had trouble not listing Rian Lindell here. He’s played well in OTAs and in 2012, Chan Gailey didn’t give him many opportunities on longer kicks. Lindell, however, is 36 years old, and his time in the NFL is limited. The Bills may well go with sixth-round pick Hopkins, one of the best kickers in the 2013 NFL draft class. He may experience growing pains, but it’s a risk worth taking.
Shawn Powell had his ups and downs in 2012, but I still think he’s likely to be the team’s starting punter. Finally, Sanborn is safe as the team’s long snapper.
Offensive Roster Spots: 25
Defensive Roster Spots: 25
Special Teams Roster Spots: 3
Bills fans, do you agree or disagree with Ryan’s projections? What players not listed on this projection do you think will make the 53-man roster? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below!