BBD Staff Writer: Ryan Talbot
The Bills are halfway through the preseason and after two games there is a better understanding of which players are likely to make the roster. Dwindling Buffalo’s roster down to 53 players was much easier this go-around, but there are still a few players I had trouble keeping off the roster. With three weeks to go until the Bills kickoff the season against the Patriots, here is my 53-man roster projection.
Quarterbacks (3): EJ Manuel, Kevin Kolb, Jeff Tuel
Tuel earned his roster spot regardless of Manuel’s injury. The Bills will carry three quarterbacks in 2013 and hope that Tuel can be the backup quarterback in 2014.
Running Backs (3): C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Tashard Choice
The first two are obvious locks and Choice has run very well in the preseason. Choice’s spot isn’t set in stone just yet, however, as Zach Brown has also impressed. I’d be happy with Choice or Brown as the team’s third string running back.
Fullbacks (1): Frank Summers
Summers was blown up on a blocking assignment against the Vikings, but he has shown decent blocking ability and decent hands as a receiver.
Wide Receivers (6): Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods, T.J. Graham, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Hogan, Da’Rick Rogers
Brad Smith’s name was written as the sixth wide receiver and then I deleted it to add Da’Rick Rogers. Rogers has been buried on the team’s depth chart, but has definite talent. Perhaps I’m too big of a Rogers fan, because he hasn’t played like someone the team intends on keeping. That said, I’m keeping him on the list.
Tight Ends (3): Scott Chandler, Lee Smith, Chris Gragg
Chandler is a lock and Smith is the best blocking tight end on the roster . The final spot is up for grabs between Gragg and Dorin Dickerson. Gragg’s blocking ability puts him above Dickerson on the current roster projection.
Offensive Linemen (9): Cordy Glenn, Colin Brown, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik, Chris Hairston, Erik Pears, Antoine Caldwell, Doug Legursky, Sam Young
The first five names make up Buffalo’s starting offensive line. The other four players are strong depth. Don’t be surprised if Caldwell starts a few games at left guard this season. Legursky provides solid depth at center and guard, Pears has starting experience at right tackle and Young can play tackle or guard.
Defensive Linemen (8): Alex Carrington, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes, Jamie Blatnick, Jay Ross, Alan Branch
Not sure there are any huge surprises here. The only name that may not be on everyone’s roster projection here is Ross. He has had a good camp and his strong performance against the Vikings gives him the nod over Torell Troup.
Linebackers (6): Manny Lawson, Kiko Alonso, Nigel Bradham, Marcus Dowtin, Arthur Moats, Bryan Scott
Definitely the position I struggled with the most. The first five names truly deserve a roster spot based on their training camp and preseason performances. The sixth spot was really difficult. Scott provides versatility, Chris White has had a good camp and is strong on special teams, and Keith Pough is a personal favorite. For the time being, Scott edges out the competition.
Cornerbacks (6): Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Nickell Robey, Crezdon Butler, Justin Rogers
Buffalo has a lot of questions at cornerback after Gilmore, who looks like an emerging star. McKelvin has the talent to be a solid No. 2 cornerback, but his play is inconsistent. As of now, Brooks is the favorite to start as the nickel cornerback.
The final three spots go to undrafted rookie Nickell Robey, Justin Rogers and Crezdon Butler. Robey can play on the outside and as a nickel cornerback. Butler’s training camp started off slowly but his play has picked up significantly, and his size is also a plus. Rogers’ play has regressed since his rookie season, but Buffalo doesn’t have much after him.
Safeties (5): Jairus Byrd, Aaron Williams, Da’Norris Searcy, Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks
Look for Byrd to sign his tender the week before Buffalo’s game against Patriots. He’s so talented that he’s likely to start. Aaron Williams gets the nod at strong safety as he has had the best camp of the remaining safeties. Usually Buffalo wouldn’t keep five safeties, but with two rookies, the team is likely to go with five.
Long Snapper (1): Garrison Sanborn
Nothing to see here. No legitimate competition for Sanborn.
Kicker (1): Dustin Hopkins
Hopkins was declared winner of the place kicking contest on Monday after the Bills released Rian Lindell.
Punter (1): Shawn Powell
Only punter on the roster.
Who do you agree or disagree with? Later this week, Dan Hope will have his projection of the Bills roster as well.