– Matt Haring
Through the early stages of training camp, the 2015 Buffalo Bills are essentially what we expected them to be. A talent filled team with an elite defense, and a disaster of a Quarterback situation. After a live scrimmage and a week and a half of camp practices, I take my best stab at predicting what the Bills 53 man roster projection may look like when the Bills take the field September 13th against the Colts. Below is the excel sheet I use to create the Bills 53 man roster. It’s a great way to look at the financial implications of cutting a player, also. Simply type the players name in the name column of their position (spelled correctly, of course), the excel sheet should self-adjust. This is your opportunity to play GM.
QB: Matt Cassel, Tyrod Taylor, EJ Manuel (3)
Whew. I have been advocating against Matt Cassel making the 53 man roster since OTA’s broke in the spring, but at this point I’m not sure they have a choice. His $4.15 million cap hit may deter the Bills from keeping him if he doesn’t win the starting job, but at this point he is the favorite. He’ll stick around, for now. I view Taylor and Manuel as safer bets to make the 53 man roster than Cassel. Manuel, because of the $2.83 million it would cost to cut him, and Taylor because he is an affordable, and presumably competent backup option with the highest athletic ceiling.
FB: Jerome Felton (1)
One of the best in the league. Premier lead blocker, and a big part of the Bills running game.
RB: Lesean McCoy, Fred Jackson, Karlos Williams, Boobie Dixon (4)
With McCoy and Jackson figuring to be the first two options in the running game, look for Williams to push for some carries in a crowded backfield. Karlos Williams has really impressed thus far, particularly in the scrimmage last Saturday where he showed the size-speed combination that the Bills were so intrigued by. Fan favorite Boobie Dixon gets the nod as the fourth RB due to his great value on special teams, and powerful inside running if need be. Bryce Brown simply cannot be awarded a roster spot due to his inability to hold onto the ball.
WR: Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Percy Harvin, Marcus Easley, Chris Hogan, Marquise Goodwin (6)
It is entirely possible that Rex Ryan and Greg Roman may decide to keep 5 receivers on the roster. In a heavy running offense, perhaps they don’t see a need to keep 6, but for now I am thinking they will. We know the top three will be a major part of the offense, and Easley will be a lock due to special teams ability. After that, you have a fight for one or two roster spots. Hogan and Goodwin lead the pack of second tier WR’s fighting for a roster spot. Hogan has had a few bad drops in camp thus far, while Goodwin has had an exceptionally strong camp. I still give the edge to Hogan because he flourished nicely last year, and Goodwin just can’t quite seem to stay healthy. Both should be safe if they keep 6 players at the position, though. Dez Lewis, Deonte Thompson, Caleb Holley, and Andre Davis are the next wave of players and will all be under consideration, and make for good practice squad material.
TE: Charles Clay, MarQueis Gray, Nick O’Leary, Matthew Mulligan (4)
Greg Roman loves his TE’s, and for the first time in two decades, they have a respectable set of players at the position. Clay will be on the field nearly every snap, and after that MarQueis Gray and Nick O’Leary have been splitting reps as the second tight end behind Clay. Both of them should be safely on the right side of the roster bubble. The name Matthew Mulligan probably is going to make Bills fans cringe. Another blocking tight end? Didn’t we just ditch Lee Smith? Well, yes, we did. But in a run first offense, I would prefer to have a blocker like Mulligan earn a roster spot over the inefficient Chris Gragg. When you’re filling out the bottom portion of your roster you have to look for production however you can get it, and Mulligan will offer more than Gragg or Clay Burton would. Chris Manhertz, former Canisius basketball forward, looks like a prime developmental candidate for the practice squad.
T: Cordy Glenn, Seantrel Henderson, Cyrus Kouandjio (3)
Pretty cut and dry here. All three players are firmly on the roster, though Henderson and Kouandjio will continue to battle for a starting spot.
G: Richie Incognito, John Miller, Kriag Urbik, Cyril Richardson
Incognito and Miller have both impressed thoroughly during the early stages of camp, and will be the starters at guard. Kraig Urbik will likely live another year with the Bills, as the veteran provides great versatility and experience at both the center and guard position. Richardson has looked drastically improved from last year, where he was thrust into the starting lineup prematurely. Richardson has raved about the offensive line coaches this year, and will serve as the primary backup at guard. As a big, powerful guard he could fare nicely in a Greg Roman offense. William Campbell, who has looked good with the second team, just missed the cut here. Don’t be surprised if he plays well in preseason and pushes for a roster spot.
C: Eric Wood (1)
Wood will be the starter, though he hasn’t been particularly sharp in camp.
Understanding Rex Ryan’s defense isn’t as easy as classifying players into set positions. There is a lot of abstract features in a Ryan defense, making it tough to break down in a roster projections. For simplicities sake, I’ll classify the front 7 into three segments: down lineman, edge players, and inside linebackers.
DL: Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus*, Corbin Bryant, Stefan Charles, Alex Carrington (4)*
We know what Williams and Dareus bring to the table, but the depth behind them isn’t too shabby, either. Bryant and Charles will make the final roster, and both provide incredibly valuable depth on a team that prides itself on the pressure their line generates. Bryant and Charles could start on numerous NFL teams. Carrington, in his second stint with the Bills, sits on the roster bubble but he is in a favorable position to make the roster due to his athleticism, versatility, and kicking blocking niche.
*Note: Dareus is suspended for week one, and therefor will not count against the 53 man roster until week 2
Edge: Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes, Manny Lawson, Jarius Wynn, Randell Johnson, Michael Buchanan (6)
Williams, Hughes and Lawson should all find their way onto the field majority of the time in Ryan’s defense. Lawson will return to his role in Mike Pettine’s defense, where he was extremely efficient and productive. Wynn showed his ability to provide valuable snaps in relief of Mario and Hughes last year, and figures to play the same type of backup role this year. As for Michael Buchanan, the former Patriot impressed in the blue and white scrimmage on Saturday, and will figure to be a similar player to Manny Lawson in a reserve role. Maybe it’s my allegiance to SPARQ scores and athletic upside, but I have a lot of faith for last year’s seventh round pick Randell Johnson. He is a strong, long, and fast player that contributes on special teams, but look for that role to expand this year. He should be a pass rushing options on 3rd and long situations.
ILB: Nigel Bradham, Preston Brown, Ty Powell, Tony Steward (4)
I’m not sure anyone outside of Buffalo, and even within Buffalo, realizes just how good Bradham was last year for the Bills. In a Rex Ryan defense where the speedy linebacker will be running free… watch out. Preston Brown will be the signal caller after his fantastic rookie year. Ty Powell is a Rex Ryan favorite, and a lock to make the roster. Traditionally, Ryan only keeps three inside backers, but due to the Dareus suspension Steward can be stashed on the active roster for one more week, to prevent a team from stealing him away.
CB: Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby, Nickell Robey, Mario Butler, Ron Brooks, Ross Cockrell (6)
“No Leodis McKelvin? Give up the sports writing thing, man.” Well, article commenter, I don’t think we can count on McKelvin being ready for opening day at this point in time. Starting on the PUP list may be Leo’s best option, where he can rehab fully and join the team after week 6. The McKelvin injury may save Ross Cockrell’s fate, for six weeks at least. Cockrell has been consistently burned and frankly doesn’t deserve a roster spot, but the 4th round pick may make the team by default. Mario Butler, on the other hand, has had a tremendous camp, building off the progress he made in OTA’s. At this point, I would imagine that he is a good bet to make the roster opening day.
S: Aaron Williams, Corey Graham, Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks (4)
I could very well see Rex taking five safeties on the final roster, due to how much they’re utilized in all facets of the defense. But for now, I’ll stick with four. Aaron Williams is your lock to be an every down safety. From there, it will be largely specific roles for the remaining safeties. Duke Williams and Corey Graham will play a ton. Graham can be the Swiss army knife in the secondary, playing deep in the secondary where he can use instincts best. Duke Williams, also, should play quite a bit. Williams is a great run stuffing safety and could play in the box for run support rather often. Meeks is one the most intriguing players on the roster, for me. Limited to nearly no playing time over the last few years due to injuries, Meeks chose to spend this time in the film room working with the team as opposed to returning home. The speedy, instinctual coverage safety at Clemson has taken a few first team reps, sometimes ahead of Duke Williams.
Special Teams: Dan Carpenter, Colton Schmidt, Garrison Sanborn (3)
No kickoff specialists allowed in this article.