It’s that time of year. The Buffalo Bills have been in training camp long enough to the point in which that impressions have been made on both the coaching staff and front office.
The team has played three of their five preseason games, and with only eight days to go before the first round of cuts, it’s also a good time for WGR’s first roster projection of the summer. Who makes the cut? Who doesn’t? Any surprises?
Let’s find out:
Quarterback (3) EJ Manuel, Jeff Tuel, Thad Lewis Cuts: Dennis Dixon
- The quarterback group has been the weakest from a depth perspective. EJ Manuel is trying to find the consistency required for the Bills to take the next step. Behind him, both Jeff Tuel and Thad Lewis have failed to discern themselves as the backup quarterback the Bills were hoping for. Tuel has been mediocre and would likely win the job by default because Lewis has struggled throughout all of camp. Don’t be surprised if Lewis gets cut and the Bills look to the first or second round of cuts around the league for a veteran backup with some game experience.
Halfback (4) C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Bryce Brown, Anthony Dixon Cuts: Ronnie Wingo
- This is as straight forward as it gets. The team still has big plans for both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, and they acquired Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon in the offseason. Ronnie Wingo will be playing in the fourth and fifth preseason games to try and hook on with another team, or to prove himself worthy of practice squad consideration.
Fullback (1) Frank Summers Cuts: Evan Rodriguez
- In this battle, Frank Summers still takes the first-team snaps and is the better blocker of the two. In a run-heavy scheme that gives Summers, who isn’t as gifted athletically, the edge in the debate. Evan Rodriguez needed to show he could make big plays out of the backfield, but he’s coupled the good (big receptions) with the bad (scuffles, fumbles).
Wide Receiver (6) Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams, Robert Woods, Chris Hogan, Marquise Goodwin, Marcus Easley Cuts: T.J. Graham, Kevin Elliott, Chris Summers, Tori Gurley, Caleb Holley, Naaman Roosevelt
- With five spots essentially locked up the sixth receiver position comes down to T.J. Graham, the former third-round pick, and Marcus Easley. Graham has picked it up over the past week or so, but his problems with drops have plagued his training camp and he doesn’t offer enough in the special teams category to win the sixth spot. Easley, on the other hand, has shown enough offensively in camp to warrant the final spot, allowing the team to keep his special teams presence on the roster.
Tight End (3) Scott Chandler, Lee Smith, Chris Gragg Cuts: Tony Moeaki, Dominique Jones
- The Bills probably really wanted Tony Moeaki to make this roster. Unless he gets healthy enough to play in this week of practice and during the final two preseason games though, it could be the end of the line. The Bills likely want to keep an athletic tight end, and since Moeaki has been injured, Gragg stays on.
Offensive Tackle (4) Cordy Glenn, Erik Pears, Seantrel Henderson, Cyrus Kouandjio Cuts: Chris Hairston, Edawn Coughman
- Seantrel Henderson has played his way on to the 53-man roster by showing much more than his actual draft position in the seventh round. Had he not been a second-round pick and instead a fifth, sixth, or seventh-round selection, Cyrus Kouandjio’s chances of making the roster would be slim. The Bills are between a rock and a hard place here, though. They can’t subject either player to the open market and need the tackle depth behind Cordy Glenn and Erik Pears. Don’t be surprised if the Bills experiment with Henderson at right tackle once Glenn proves to be ready to return, but he’ll have to show quite a bit in a short amount of time to unseat Pears. Chris Hairston saw his roster spot vanish when his move inside to guard early in camp failed.
Offensive Guard (3) Chris Williams, Cyril Richardson, Kraig Urbik Cuts: Antoine McClain, J.J. ‘Unga, Jared Wheeler
- The Bills thought both Antoine McClain and J.J. ‘Unga had some upside to them heading into training camp, but neither have been able to show more than that potential. Cyril Richardson has played his way on to the 53-man roster, but whether or not he starts at right guard at the beginning the season is up for debate. They might opt to continue to work with Richardson over the course of the first few weeks either until he’s deemed ready, they need to replace Kraig Urbik in the starting lineup due to poor play, or a combination of the two.
Center (2) Eric Wood, Doug Legursky Cuts: Macky MacPherson
- It’s safe to say that Doug Legursky wasn’t exactly a fan favorite after starting the majority of games in 2013 at left guard. Regardless, he’s the only player on the roster with significant experience at all three interior positions. For that reason, he sticks.
Defensive End (4) Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes, Manny Lawson, Jarius Wynn Cuts: Jacquies Smith, Ike Igbinosun, Bryan Johnson
- The final chop off the roster was to remove Jacquies Smith from the 53. He has had a very solid camp, but up against the other final spot finalist (who we’ll get to shortly), Smith has not been nearly as productive. With this quartet, the Bills have two sets of defensive ends that are similarly built. Mario Williams and Jarius Wynn are the bigger ends that can set the edge and hold their ground, while Jerry Hughes and Manny Lawson are more of the smaller, quick-twitch players.
Defensive Tackle (5) Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Stefan Charles, Corbin Bryant, Landon Cohen Cuts: Alan Branch, Damien Jacobs
- The most notable part of this roster projection is defensive tackle Alan Branch not being included on the roster. There are certain facts regarding his 2014 that one can’t ignore, however. First, he signed a contract extension early on into the offseason. After that, though, Branch has not necessarily been in the good graces with the coaching staff. He didn’t show up to any offseason workouts, which led to head coach Doug Marrone publicly saying that they haven’t even heard from him through the process. Then, at the start of training camp, Branch failed his conditioning test and couldn’t practice for the first few days. To top it all off, he has fallen behind on the depth chart to Stefan Charles, Corbin Bryant and Landon Cohen, and didn’t get his first action in Saturday’s game until the fourth quarter after all of the aforementioned three got some time. Marrone all but confirmed Branch might be in trouble by saying after the game that the defensive tackle is competing for a spot on the roster. With how disruptive both Charles and Cohen have been, Branch is on the outside looking in. Cohen was the last one in, beating out Jacquies Smith for the final spot.
Linebacker (5)* Brandon Spikes, Keith Rivers, Preston Brown, Stevenson Sylvester, Randell Johnson Cuts: Ty Powell, Jimmy Gaines, Xavius Boyd
- Due to Nigel Bradham’s one game suspension, he will not count against the roster until the week after the team’s first game. With that in mind, both Stevenson Sylvester and Randell Johnson make the cut. Sylvester hooks on perhaps only on a temporary basis. They need a fifth linebacker without Bradham available, and Sylvester can be that depth they need. Once available, a flip of Sylvester for Bradham on the active roster isn’t out of the question. Rookie Randell Johnson makes the team because of his raw tools and athleticism, but he'll be one of the most common inactives throughout the season.
Cornerback (6) Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Nickell Robey, Corey Graham, Ross Cockrell, Ron Brooks Cuts: Mario Butler, Bobby Felder, Kamaal McIlwain, Sam Miller
- Cornerback joins running back as one of the more straight forward positions to predict. The only one in doubt heading into training camp was Ron Brooks, but he has had quite a strong summer.
Safety (4) Aaron Williams, Da’Norris Searcy, Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks Cuts: Kenny Ladler, Deon Broomfield, Jajuan Harley, Derek Brim
- Although he has plenty of college accolades, Ladler’s pair of injuries combined with the roster squeeze prevents him from making the roster. The practice squad isn’t out of the question, though.
Kicker (1) Dan Carpenter Cuts: Dustin Hopkins
- Dustin Hopkins is doing exactly what he can’t afford to: sitting out of practices and a game due to an injury. He needs to prove that he can be an asset in the kickoff department, and he isn’t doing that by being on the sideline. This week is a big one for Hopkins.
Punter (1) Brian Moorman Cuts: Jake Dombrowski
- The only way Jake Dombrowski will unseat Brian Moorman, who is a longtime fan favorite, will be if the younger punter has vastly outperformed Moorman throughout camp and in games. That hasn’t happened, so Moorman’s stay with the Bills continues.
Long Snapper (1) Garrison Sanborn Cuts: None
- The team experimented with both Lee Smith and Mike Caussin as a long snapper at times, but they don’t get much better than Garrison Sanborn.