Analysis: Buffalo Bills Release First Depth Chart of 2013 Preseason

Is Aaron Williams in line to start at strong safety this season? That’s what the Bills’ first depth chart of the preseason indicates. (Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig — USA Today Sports)

BBD Editor: Dan Hope

The Buffalo Bills released their first depth chart of the 2013 NFL season on Monday, six days in advance of their preseason opener versus the Indianapolis Colts and in advance of their intrasquad scrimmage scheduled for tonight’s training camp practice.

One should not read too much into preseason depth charts. Teams tend to place veterans high and rookies low on preseason depth charts. The depth chart is very much subject to change over the upcoming month, especially given that the Bills have not even played their first preseason game yet. That said, the depth chart release does give us some insight into the standing of many players competing for starting jobs, playing time and roster spots.

You can take a look at the full depth chart released by the team at the link above, but let’s take a look at some of the points on the depth chart that stand out.

Quarterback Competition: As the two players compete, veteran Kevin Kolb and rookie EJ Manuel are currently listed as co-starters at quarterback on the team’s depth chart. This competition will likely continue for at least another 2-3 weeks, but early indications are that the competition is shifting toward Manuel.

Many reports, including those of BBD’s Glenn Gifford, have indicated that Manuel is outperforming Kolb. Additionally, Kolb’s status is currently “day to day” after suffering a knee injury Saturday, according to the Buffalo News.

I published a look yesterday at how Kolb’s injury impacts the quarterback competition.

Stacking Up the Wide Receivers: One of the biggest questions throughout the preseason is certainly going to be how the Buffalo Bills’ wide receivers, a group largely comprised of rookies, will stack up on the team’s depth chart this season.

The Bills currently list Stevie Johnson and T.J. Graham as the team’s starting wide receivers. Rookie second-round pick Robert Woods is listed as Johnson’s backup, while third-round pick Marquise Goodwin is behind Graham. That said, do not surprised if Woods ends up beating out Graham for the No. 2 job (though both are likely to be in the lineup when Johnson moves to the slot in three-receiver sets). It is common for teams to keep rookies off the top lines of preseason depth charts, but Woods is expected to be an immediate factor this season.

Another interesting note as far as rookies go: undrafted rookie Da’Rick Rogers is currently listed as a fifth-team wideout. This may come as a surprise to the many Bills fans and followers who have high expectations for him — BBD staff writer Ryan Talbot, who is a big believer in Rogers, said his placement was the “first thing” he noticed on the depth chart.

Don’t read into it too much, though. While Rogers has the talent to play immediately, he is still an undrafted rookie who has to fight his way up the depth chart. If he continues to perform well in the preseason, he will work his way up, but if his spot on the depth chart indicates anything, it’s that he must continue to prove himself to lock himself into a roster spot.

One wide receiver who may be higher than people expect: Chris Hogan, who is listed as a third-team receiver and notably ahead of Marcus Easley, Kevin Elliott and Rogers, among others. He will have to make a big impression throughout the preseason to stay there, but it is definitely reasonable to think he could have a legitimate leg up on Easley and Elliott.

Left Guard Competition Continues: The depth chart isn’t providing any clarity to the Buffalo Bills’ left guard competition, which has by all indications been a disappointment so far.Bills head coach Doug Marrone said last week that the play at left guard has been “inconsistent,” according to ESPN’s Mike Rodak, and he certainly does not seem ready to name a starter yet. Colin Brown and Doug Legursky, who have been splitting first-team repetitions in training camp, are currently listed as co-starters at left guard.

Also interesting is the placement of Antoine Caldwell on the team’s depth chart. We thought that Caldwell would be a significant competitor in the left guard competition when the Bills signed him prior to training camp, but he is currently listed as the third-team right guard, which indicates that he may not be a factor to start at left guard at all. The only other player listed at left guard on the team’s initial depth chart is undrafted rookie Zach Chibane.

As one of the Bills’ top four defensive lineman, Alex Carrington could be set to move from defensive tackle back out to defensive end this season. (Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig — USA Today Sports)

Defensive Front Seven: The Bills are expected to use a hybrid scheme, likely based out of the nickel with both even and odd defensive fronts, but at least on their initial depth chart, the defense is positioned in a 4-3 alignment.

Most interestingly, the Bills list Alex Carrington as a starting defensive end opposite Mario Williams. Carrington played inside at defensive tackle and had the best season of his career last year, but the team has much more depth at defensive tackle than defensive end. Playing Carrington opposite Williams would allow the team to get their four best defensive linemen all on the field at the same time, with Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus plugging up the middle.

Aaron Williams At Strong Safety? The most interesting aspect of the entire depth chart may be the team’s listing at safety, where Aaron Williams as listed as the starting strong safety alongside starting free safety Jairus Byrd.

A converted cornerback, Aaron Williams was expected to play free safety and fill in for Byrd until his return at that spot, after which he would become the backup free safety. That may still be the case, but the initial depth chart indicates that Aaron Williams could remain a starting safety even upon Byrd’s return.

From what initial expectations were of this year’s safety depth chart, Aaron Williams is switched with Da’Norris Searcy. Searcy was expected to take over as the strong safety following George Wilson’s release, but he is currently listed as the backup free safety. Expect the competition between Aaron Williams and Searcy to continue throughout the preseason, especially until Byrd signs his franchise tender and returns to the field, but the initial depth chart suggests that Williams may have taken an early lead in that competition.

Tags: Aaron Williams, Alex Carrington, Antoine Caldwell, Chris Hogan, Colin Brown, Da'Norris Searcy, Da'Rick Rogers, Depth Chart, Doug Legursky, EJ Manuel, Kevin Kolb, Marquise Goodwin, Preseason, Robert Woods, T.J. Graham

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