Starters: Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes 3. Manny Lawson 4. Jarius Wynn
Projected Cuts: Ike Igbinosun, Jacquies Smith, Bryan Johnson
If this roster projection was simply about keeping the best 53 players regardless of position, Williams, Hughes and Lawson would be the only edge defenders slated to make the team. However, the Bills will probably want to have a fourth defensive end on their regular-season roster, and Wynn is the most likely choice for that spot.
Starters: Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus 3. Alan Branch 4. Corbin Bryant 5. Stefan Charles
Projected Cuts: Damien Jacobs, Landon Cohen
Williams and Dareus are two of Buffalo’s best players. If Dareus gets suspended for his two offseason arrests, Branch, Bryant and Charles could all see increased playing time as they rotate to fill the void. Even if Dareus is not suspended, all three of them should be good bets to make the regular-season roster.
1. Keith Rivers 2. Randell Johnson
Projected Cuts: Jimmy Gaines
Rivers will start at strongside linebacker but Johnson, a seventh-round pick, and Gaines, an undrafted rookie, could each end up on either side of the roster bubble. Johnson has highly intriguing physical tools but is a very raw talent; Gaines is more ready-to-play and could also factor in at weakside linebacker, but has limited physical attributes.
It’s likely there will be room on the roster for one of them but not both. Based on draft position and upside, Johnson has the edge. However, Gaines seems to making a serious case for himself; he recently took some first-team reps at WLB away from Nigel Bradham, who is currently listed as the starter, according to ESPN’s Mike Rodak.
1. Brandon Spikes 2. Preston Brown 3. Ty Powell
All three players currently listed at middle linebacker belong on the 53-man roster. Spikes is a thumper in the middle who will play primarily against the run, which likely means Brown will take his place often in defensive sub-packages. Brown and Powell have the versatility to play both in the middle and outside.
1. Nigel Bradham
Projected Cuts: Stevenson Sylvester, Xavius Boyd
The competition for backup linebacker spots is one of the most interesting on the team, as Sylvester has taken some first-team repetitions at weakside linebacker, according to WGR 550’s Joe Buscaglia. But unless he beats out Bradham for the starting job, which is unlikely, it would be a surprise if they kept him over Powell, Johnson and/or Gaines. Brown is also expected to compete with Bradham for the starting job this preseason.
Starters: Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin 3. Nickell Robey 4. Corey Graham 5. Ross Cockrell
Projected Cuts: Ron Brooks, Michael Carter, Mario Butler, Bobby Felder, Kamaal McIlwain
At arguably the deepest position on the Bills roster, Ron Brooks needs to stand out on special teams this preseason—or have injuries occur in front of him—to save his job. Gilmore and McKelvin are solid starters on the outside. Robey projects as the team’s nickel slot cornerback, while Graham should play in dime packages and be the primary backup for each of the top three cornerbacks. Cockrell is unlikely to see significant snaps on defense as a rookie, but the fourth-round pick reportedly stood out early in camp and should play on special teams.
Starters: Aaron Williams, Da’Norris Searcy 3. Duke Williams 4. Jonathan Meeks
Projected Cuts: Kenny Ladler, Jajuan Harley, Derek Brim, Deon Broomfield
Ladler is another undrafted rookie who sits squarely on the roster bubble. He’s unlikely to move ahead of Williams or Meeks, both 2013 draft picks, onto the second string, but could earn a spot as the fifth safety if he stands out on special teams.
1. Dan Carpenter
Projected Cut: Dustin Hopkins
Marrone said last week that Hopkins is only being considered as a kickoff specialist, not as competition to Carpenter, according to Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News. It’s highly unlikely that the Bills will deem Hopkins worthy of a roster spot.
1. Brian Moorman
Projected Cut: Jake Dombrowski
Moorman struggled in his return to the Bills last season, but has been far ahead of Dombrowski early in camp, according to Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com.
1. Garrison Sanborn
No analysis necessary here. Backup tight end Lee Smith is listed as the emergency long snapper.