Starters: Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes 3. Manny Lawson 4. Jarius Wynn
Projected Cuts: Jacquies Smith, Ike Igbinosun, Bryan Johnson
Williams and Hughes give the Bills a terrific tandem of pass-rushers off the edge. Lawson, a starter at linebacker last season, has looked good this summer as a rotational defensive end. Wynn is the likely choice to be the team’s fourth defensive end, but he might still be in a battle with Smith, who has displayed enough pass-rushing ability to make a case for himself this summer.
Starters: Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus 3. Corbin Bryant 4. Stefan Charles 5. Landon Cohen
The fact that there are only five defensive tackles still on the roster indicates there could still be competition for a roster spot at this position, but all five of them deserve to make the roster. Williams and Dareus give the Bills one of the NFL’s best starting combinations on the interior defensive line, while Bryant, Charles and Cohen have all had fantastic preseasons.
MLB: Brandon Spikes WLB: Nigel Bradham (Suspended for Week 1) SLB: Keith Rivers 4. Preston Brown 5. Ty Powell 6. Randell Johnson
Projected Cuts: Jimmy Gaines, Xavius Boyd
Spikes, Bradham and Rivers have looked to be a solid starting trio this preseason. Bradham’s Week 1 suspension shouldn’t affect his hold on the weakside linebacker job for the rest of the season; he’s clearly one of Buffalo’s three best healthy linebackers.
Brown and Powell are competing for playing time in his place in the season opener, according to Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com. Brown, a rookie third-round pick, looks like the favorite, but Powell is a better athlete who might be more capable of handling the coverage and space responsibilities of the WILL position.
Johnson is a raw player, but the seventh-round pick has made plays all preseason nonetheless because of his athleticism. He has performed well enough to secure a roster spot. Gaines, an undrafted rookie, also has a shot to stick on the roster—at least for Week 1 with Bradham’s suspension opening an extra roster spot—as a backup linebacker and special teams player.
Starters: Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin 3. Nickell Robey 4. Corey Graham 5. Ron Brooks 6. Ross Cockrell
Projected Cuts: Bobby Felder, Mario Butler, Sam Miller, Kamaal McIlwain
Gilmore and McKelvin are a strong starting cornerback duo while Robey is excellent as the slot cornerback in subpackages. Graham is in a similar position to where Robert Woods is at wide receiver: while he’s not a starter, he’ll be the primary backup at all three cornerback positions and could see playing time in dime packages.
Brooks has played well enough this preseason to earn a roster spot. Cockrell looks to be a similar position to what safeties Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks were in as rookies last season; while it’s unlikely Cockrell will see any significant playing time on defense, the fourth-round pick should have a safe roster spot and play on special teams.
Starters: Aaron Williams, Da’Norris Searcy 3. Duke Williams 4. Jonathan Meeks
Projected Cuts: Deon Broomfield, Kenny Ladler
Aaron Williams is a clear-cut starter at one safety spot. It’s unclear whether Searcy or Duke Williams will be the other starter, but it’s likely that both players will see significant playing time on the Bills defense this year. Searcy has a knack for making plays on the ball and more experience, so he could have the edge.
Meeks should be kept around as the fourth safety and a special teams player. Broomfield could be a tough cut; the undrafted rookie has been an active player on the field all preseason and has made a solid case for a roster spot.
The Bills made it clear from the beginning of camp that they expected Carpenter to beat out Dustin Hopkins for the kicking job, and he did. He had a great 2013 season, in which he made 33 of 36 field goal attempts, and the Bills will expect him to be just as reliable this year.
Brian Moorman or Roster Addition
Jake Dombrowski failed to put up a legitimate challenge for the punting job, and was cut Monday as a result, but the Bills should take a serious look at which punters get cut around the league this week. Moorman has the job for now, but he was one of the NFL’s worst punters last season and has continued to struggle this preseason; the Bills should be able to bring in an upgrade if they want to.
Sanborn is back for his sixth season as the Bills’ long snapper. Lee Smith is listed as the backup long snapper on the depth chart.
Evan Rodriguez, T.J. Graham, Deon Broomfield, Jimmy Gaines, Kenny Ladler, Bobby Felder, Jacquies Smith, Caleb Holley, Jared Wheeler, Outside Addition
Just last week, the NFL announced that practice squads would expand from eight to 10 players this season. Two practice squad spots can now be used on players “players who have earned no more than two accrued seasons of free agency credit,” while the other eight spots are open only to players who have “spent fewer than nine games on a club’s 46-player active list” in any season.
The extra two spots open the door for Rodriguez and Graham, if they are not picked up by other teams, to be brought back on the practice squad. The new rules also make the practice squad a possible landing spot for Hairston, Gragg or Brooks, as each of them is currently projected to make the roster but is on the roster bubble.
As for the other practice squad spots, the top two candidates should be Broomfield and Gaines unless they make the roster or are picked up by other franchises. Both undrafted rookies have made good impressions this summer and have earned, at least, practice squad spots.
Ladler, perhaps the Bills’ most highly-touted undrafted rookie at the time of signings, is another strong practice-squad candidate. Felder has some special teams value, Smith has had a strong preseason, Holley is an intriguing developmental receiver and Wheeler would give the team an offensive line call-up option if needed.
It’s also likely that the Bills will bring at least one player from other teams’ cuts for their practice squad. If not, other candidates for a spot could include undrafted rookie defensive end Bryan Johnson, linebacker Xavius Boyd and cornerback Sam Miller.