With training camp set to commence over at St. John Fisher College in less than a month, there will be plenty of roster spots up for grabs. Naturally, some roster surprises always seem to emerge as unexpected names could earn their way into the top 53 when it’s all said and done. Here’s our first 53-man roster projection to think about as training camp draws nearer.
Quarterback (3) – Tyrod Taylor, T.J. Yates, Nathan Peterman
It was pretty obvious at minicamp that Cardale Jones is on the outside looking in when it comes to the quarterback depth chart. He has a lot of work to do to earn a spot on this roster and even though he didn’t rule it out, it’s highly unlikely that Sean McDermott opts to retain four quarterbacks. Taylor is the obvious starter, Yates the primary backup and Peterman – being this new regime’s experiment – looks like the number three guy. Jones is ultimately the weak link.
Cut: Cardale Jones
Running Back (3)– LeSean McCoy, Jonathan Williams, Jordan Johnson
I went the sentimental route with this projection, keeping UB grad Jordan Johnson as the third running back on the depth chart behind LeSean McCoy and a guy who could blossom into a formidable number two back, Jonathan Williams. Johnson’s Buffalo background would be the feel good story of roster cuts and if he can have an impressive camp, maybe it happens. For what it’s worth though Cedric O’Neal and Joe Banyard took the majority of reps ahead of Johnson at minicamp and Banyard was particularly active catching passes out of the backfield.
Cut: Cedric O’Neal, Joe Banyard
Full Back (2) – Mike Tolbert, Patrick DiMarco
In today’s pass-happy NFL, the Bills adding two full backs this offseason came with some light-hearted social media jabs. Jokes aside, Buffalo is a run first team that will use Tolbert as a goal line back and DiMarco to lead the way for their assortment of runners. Both have a role in this offsense and will be part of the 53-man roster.
Wide Receiver (6) – Sammy Watkins, Zay Jones, Andre Holmes, Philly Brown, Brandon Tate, Rod Streater
Barring some unforeseen suspension or injury, the first three guys on this list are virtual locks to make the 53-man roster. Philly Brown isn’t necessarily a lock but assuming he continues to take some reps with the first unit, as he did during minicamp, there should be a spot for him on this team. Brandon Tate makes the cut as a depth receiver but more importantly as the Bills primary returner – he was phenomenal in that role last season. The final spot went to Rod Streater for the sole fact that he has the most experience of the remaining players. Walter Powell is a wild card here. He used an impressive training camp to make the team in 2016 and it’s not far-fetched to think he could do that again. This time around however, he has that four-game suspension looming over his head, for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances. To this point McDermott hasn’t been too forgiving of players who can’t contribute immediately.
Cut: Dez Lewis, Daikel Shorts, Jeremy Butler, Rashad Ross, Walt Powell, Brandon Reilly
Tight End (3) – Charles Clay, Nick O’Leary, Jason Croom
The tight end position heads into training camp as basically a battle between four guys for the third spot on the depth chart. Jason Croom gets it in this projection, after being pretty involved in team drills during minicamp.
Cut: Wes Saxton, Logan Thomas, Keith Towbridge
Offensive Line (10) – Cordy Glenn, Jordan Mills, Richie Incognito, John Miller, Eric Wood, Ryan Groy, Vladimir Ducasse, Dion Dawkins, Patrick Lewis Seantrel Henderson (suspended)
Henderson’s suspension is a little different than most in that his battle with Crohn’s disease has played a role in his failed drug tests; a fact McDermott will take into consideration. Ultimately, despite being suspeneded for the first five games of 2017, Henderson offers the Bills a value depth guy. Five-year veteran Patrick Lewis makes the cut while Henderson sits out, but he could bite the bullet upon his return to the field. The rest of this group is pretty self-explanatory. Glenn, Mills, Icognito, Miller and Wood are all likely starters, Groy – who Buffalo made sure to retain this offseason – the first man up off the bench. Ducasse was a free agent pickup and Dawkins a second-round draft pick. Barring a complete flop during camp, they’re all staying.
Cut: Cameron Jefferson, Jordan Mudge, Greg Pyke, Zach Voytek, Michael Ola
Defensive Tackle (4) – Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Jerel Worthy, Adolphus Washington
No players may benefit more from the transition back to a 4-3 than those along he defensive line. Veterans Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams should thrive as powerful run stoppers and pass rushers. Jerel Worthy and second-year-man Adolphus Washington fill out the depth chart behind them.
Cut: Deandre Coleman, Nigel Williams
Defensive End (4) – Jerry Hughes, Shaq Lawson, Ryan Davis, Ian Seau
Same goes for the defensive ends. Jerry Hughes and 2016 first-round pick Shaq Lawson should wreak havoc now that they can soley focus on rushing off the edge and not dropping into exotic coverages. Lawson in particular looked explosive and energized at minicamp. Behind them, Ryan Davis brings six years of experience with him – more than any of the other remaining players can offer – and I threw a bone to Ian Seau.
Cut: Max Valles, Marquavius Lewis, Lake Metz, Eddie Yarbrough
Linebacker (6) – Preston Brown, Lorenzo Alexander, Reggie Ragland, Ramon Humber, Gerald Hodges, Matt Milano
Preston Brown, Lorenzo Alexander and Ramon Humber made up the first-team linebacking corps at minicamp. However, it will be all eyes on Reggie Ragland at St. John Fisher to see how he bounces back from an unfortunate ACL tear and if he can crack into the starting rotation. Gerald Hodges was a gift that fell into the Bills lap this offseason and is certainly worth retaining for depth purposes. So is durable, fifth-round pick Matt Milano.
Cut: Abner Logan, Jacob Lindsey, Anthony Harrell, Tanner Vallejo, Carl Bradford
Cornerback (5) – Ronald Darby, Tre’Davious White, Leonard Johnson, Kevon Seymour, Shareece Wright, Greg Mabin
For being one of their most depleted positions when the offseason started, McDermott and the Bills did a solid job filling out the cornerback depth chart. Darby and first-round pick Tre’Davious White are the projected starters when Buffalo is in their base defense. And it was Leonard Johnson taking the majority of first-team reps at nickel cornerback when they broke into the subpackages during minicamp. Kevon Seymour showed spurts of brilliance last year and figures to improve in year two. He’s a valuable depth piece because he can play both the inside and outside corner positions. Shareece Wright should find a role on this team as well. Menawhile, Greg Mabin is an intriguing option to retain as the sixth CB. He initially signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent after missing the final four games of his senior season at Iowa with a broken foot. He could emerge as a surprising bubble player during training camp.
Cut: Charles James, Marcus Sayles, Bradley Sylve
Safety (4) – Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, Colt Anderson, Shamiel Gray
Poyer and Hyde were two of the Bills bigger free agent pickups this offseason and are already slated as starters on the backside of the defense. Colt Anderson is worthy of a spot for his special teams prowess alone. That leaves the fourth spot up for grabs between four players.
Cut: Joe Powell, B.T. Sanders, Trae Elston
Kicker (1) – Stephen Hauschka
The Bills didn’t sign Hauschka so they could cut him, but maybe the versatile Austin Rehkow could beat out Colton Schmidt as the team’s punter.
Cut: Austin Rehkow
Punter (1) – Colton Schmidt
Long-snapper (1) – Reid Ferguson
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