Labor Day: Buffalo Bills Release Week 1 Depth Chart, Name Captains, Continue to Fill Practice Squad

Third-round pick Preston Brown is set to start in place of Nigel Bradham at weakside linebacker in the Bills' season opener Sunday. (Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig — USA Today Sports)

Third-round pick Preston Brown is set to start in place of Nigel Bradham at weakside linebacker in the Bills’ season opener Sunday. (Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig — USA Today Sports)

BBD Editor: Dan Hope

The Buffalo Bills stayed busy on Labor Day in their preparations for their season opener against the Chicago Bears on Sunday. On Monday, the Bills released their first in-season depth chart of the year, announced their six team captains and continued to make additions to their practice squad.

Depth chart updated for the regular season

How will Buffalo’s lineup look when it takes the field on Sunday? The Bills gave clarity to that question Monday when they revealed how their depth chart stacks up now that their 53-man roster has been set.

Monday’s reveal came with no surprises. As expected, rookie Preston Brown will fill in for Nigel Bradham, who is suspended for the season opener and is there not currently on the 53-man active roster, at weakside linebacker.

The only significant change from the preseason depth chart is at punter, where Colton Schmidt is currently listed as the starter ahead of Jordan Gay.

That depth chart probably doesn’t mean much; both Schmidt and Gay were signed in the past week and are likely to continue competing this week for the job vacated by Brian Moorman’s release. It’s likely the Bills will make a firm decision at the position by next week and release whoever loses the competition when they active Bradham, but while Schmidt is the logical choice over Gay based on how each player performed on punts and kickoffs this preseason, it wouldn’t be shocking if Buffalo gives both opportunities to punt and/or kickoff Sunday.

Everything else lines up as expected. Rookie Cyril Richardson, who is listed as the backup right guard, would presumably fill in for Chris Williams, for whom there is no backup listed, if Williams, who missed Buffalo’s last three preseason games with a back injury, isn’t healthy enough to go Sunday.

Offseason addition Brandon Spikes is one of Buffalo's six captains for the 2014 season. (Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig — USA Today Sports)

Offseason addition Brandon Spikes is one of Buffalo’s six captains for the 2014 season. (Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig — USA Today Sports)

Captains chosen

The Bills have elected their team leaders for the 2014 season. The team announced Monday morning that cornerback Corey Graham, running back Fred Jackson, linebacker Brandon Spikes, defensive tackle Kyle Williams, defensive end Mario Williams and center Eric Wood will be the team’s six captains this year.

The announcement created a hubbub on social media and in Internet headlines because of the notable omission of starting quarterback EJ Manuel.

Most teams select their quarterback as one of their captains, so it’s reasonable to question whether Manuel’s non-selection is indicative of a lack of faith in him from his teammates.

Truly, however, this storyline is probably much ado about nothing.

All six players chosen to be captains have at least four years of NFL experience and have proven themselves to be quality contributors for the teams they have played for.

Manuel is only entering his second season and has played just 10 regular-season games. Sure, you can note that Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson were all captains last year, but all of them played full rookie seasons and led their teams to the playoffs in 2012.

Manuel’s teammates should hold their quarterback accountable and expect him to prove himself before appointing him to any leadership capacity. Seemingly, his omission from the group of captains has more to do with being unproven that a lack of confidence in his ability to succeed.

The focus for Manuel, the Bills and their fans should be for the quarterback to put himself in the best position to succeed and help the team win. If he is going to do that, he’s going to have to exhibit some natural leadership, especially over the offense. True leadership isn’t about a title, it’s about trust, and it will take staying healthy and improving his play for Manuel to secure that trust. Not being a captain shouldn’t preclude Manuel from taking command when the time is right.

Nine practice squad spots filled, one left open

After bringing back seven of their Saturday cuts to begin filling their practice squad on Sunday, the Bills continued to add players to that group by signing two players from other teams’ cuts on Monday.

Fullback Lonnie Pryor was added to the Bills practice squad Monday. (Photo: Melina Vastola — USA Today Sports)

Fullback Lonnie Pryor was added to the Bills practice squad Monday. (Photo: Melina Vastola — USA Today Sports)

Lonnie Pryor is a fullback who went undrafted out of Florida State in 2013. He spent time on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ active roster as a rookie but did not appear in any games.

He failed to make the Buccaneers’ roster this preseason, but he has a solid skill set. A physical 6’0”, 224-pound back who can do damage as a between-the-tackles runner and is also a solid lead blocker, he has a similar game to that of Frank Summers, the only fullback on the Bills’ active roster. He probably won’t get called up unless Summers gets injured, but he’s a solid addition.

D.J. Morrell is an offensive lineman who went undrafted out of Old Dominion this year. He was initially signed by the Detroit Lions following May’s draft, but was released in July. He spent the preseason with the St. Louis Rams, but failed to make their roster as well.

Morrell might never emerge as a player caliber of being in the lineup for a regular-season game, but he gives the Bills additional offensive line depth for developmental purposes. It’s a mild surprise that the Bills brought in Morrell rather than bringing back Antoine McClain, who was among the team’s final cuts Saturday, but McClain has since signed with the New Orleans Saints’ practice squad.

The additions of Pryor and Morrell leave the Bills with one remaining spot on their practice squad. It’s possible the team could save that spot for the loser of the Schmidt-Gay competition, but it’s more likely they’ll bring in one more player, at least for Week 1.

Considering the Bills can use that last spot on any player with no more than two accrued seasons of NFL experience, they could be waiting on a player who is still trying to get signed to a 53-man roster.

Regardless of what route they go, it’s likely the Bills are targeting a player at a position they haven’t already covered on their practice squad and could use more depth at. The available spot would seemingly be best used on a tight end, defensive tackle or another offensive lineman.

Tags: Brandon Spikes, Captains, Colton Schmidt, Corey Graham, D.J. Morrell, Depth Chart, EJ Manuel, Eric Wood, Fred Jackson, Jordan Gay, Kyle Williams, Lonnie Pryor, Mario Williams, Practice Squad, Preston Brown

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