With the regular season just a little over two weeks away, the Buffalo Bills have some big decisions to make for the depth along their roster. With positional battles and a numbers crunch seemingly everywhere, who makes the cut and who doesn't?
Here are my earliest set of projections as to whom I believe will make the roster as of August 23, 2012:
Quarterback (3): Ryan Fitzpatrick, Vince Young, Brad Smith CUT: Tyler Thigpen
- No surprises here. Vince Young has outplayed Tyler Thigpen, and Chan Gailey reaffirmed the team's position that Brad Smith will be the third-string quarterback.
Running Back (3): Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Tashard Choice CUT: Johnny White, Zach Brown
- As of right now, I give the edge to Tashard Choice over Johnny White mostly because the latter has been dealing with an ankle injury for much of camp. Should White come in and outplay Choice in the final two weeks, I could see the former Cowboys runner being the one that gets the pink slip. It's a closer spot on the roster than most are giving credit.
Fullback (2): Corey McIntyre, Dorin Dickerson CUT: None
- Dickerson was number 52 to make it on the 53-man roster, and he makes it for his overall versatility if called in to action. I expect his name to be amongst the inactives early on in the year.
Wide Receiver (5): Stevie Johnson, Donald Jones, David Nelson, Derek Hagan, T.J. Graham CUT: Ruvell Martin, Naaman Roosevelt, David Clowney, Marcus Easley, Kamar Aiken, Derek Session
- There's a chance the Bills keep six, but with Brad Smith on the roster already I'm leaning only towards five. If one of the players listed amongst the cuts would have really stood out, they could have stolen the final spot on the roster. Ruvell Martin is just too inconsistent as a pass-catcher and I find it hard to believe they'll dress six receivers every week just for him to be the gunner in punt coverage. Naaman Roosevelt, while catching everything in his area, does not have the body or physicality to be in on kick or punt coverage. Marcus Easley has been so disappointing that he's been relegated to the scout team. Meanwhile David Clowney, Kamar Aiken and Derek Session have done little to stand out.
Tight End (2): Scott Chandler, Lee Smith CUT: Kevin Brock, Fendi Onobun, Mike Caussin
- This one is pretty cut and dry. I think they do like Kevin Brock, but he's still got some eligibility left for the practice squad.
Offensive Tackle (4): Cordy Glenn, Erik Pears, Chris Hairston, Zebrie Sanders CUT: Sam Young, James Carmon
- Sanders has failed to be consistent against players he should be beating, and also moving before the snap. There are some natural abilities to work with however, but he could very well be relegated to the practice squad. It all depends on if they think they can sneak him on there without getting snatched up by another team. Sam Young still has practice squad eligibility remaining, but has outplayed Sanders in training camp. It's a very tough call in my opinion, and one that I believe could side with the more highly-heralded Sanders. That's solely based on Young having a reputation around the league from his time in Dallas, despite the fact that he's been the better player in the month of August.
Offensive Guard (4): Andy Levitre, Kraig Urbik, Chad Rinehart, Colin Brown CUT: Keith Williams, Jake Vermiglio, David Snow
- Colin Brown was the 53rd and final player to make the squad. The part of his case that wins out is his versatility if the Bills find themselves in a predicament. He likely won't dress every week, but is an insurance policy if Eric Wood has any setbacks and Kraig Urbik has to go in at center.
Center (1): Eric Wood CUT: Mark Asper
- Asper hasn't done much to show he should stick around with the 53-man roster.
Defensive End (5): Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Chris Kelsay, Kyle Moore, Jarron Gilbert CUT: Robert Eddins, Sean Ferguson
- Moore's spot on the roster was all but assured with the release of Shawne Merriman. I think the Bills like Jarron Gilbert enough to not risk losing him on waivers when they have to make their cuts. He's been a bit of a revelation since being moved to defensive end, and possesses some natural skills Dave Wannstedt likes from players at that position. Gilbert also offers versatility to play defensive tackle if there are injuries there as well. He was one of the last to make the squad for me.
Defensive Tackle (4): Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Dwan Edwards, Spencer Johnson CUT: Torell Troup, Alex Carrington, Kellen Heard, Jay Ross
- It's a farewell to two of the Bills' first three selections in 2010. The early part of that class, outside of C.J. Spiller has been a huge swing and a miss for different reasons. Torell Troup can't get past all of his injuries and Alex Carrington just hasn't shown he has any special abilities to warrant a roster spot. Kellen Heard could have had a shot had he not been injured all throughout training camp. The emergence of Moore and Gilbert are the reasons the trio gets cut. However, I would not rule out the idea of the Bills putting Troup on Injured Reserve with all his back problems, especially with Johnson and Edwards in the final year of their respective contracts. Maybe one last chance for the second round pick in 2013. (EDIT: Three hours after this was posted, the Bills placed Troup on Injured Reserve)
Linebacker (7): Nick Barnett, Kelvin Sheppard, Arthur Moats, Bryan Scott, Nigel Bradham, Kirk Morrison, Tank Carder CUT: Scott McKillop, Chris White, Danny Batten
- The first man left off the roster is Scott McKillop. The reserve middle linebacker has seen his reps reduced over the past couple of days with Kirk Morrison starting to get some time at that position. Also, the roster spot given to John Potter ideally eliminates the need for some players that specialize in kick coverage -- namely McKillop.
Cornerback (6): Stephon Gilmore, Aaron Williams, Leodis McKelvin, Terrence McGee, Ron Brooks, Justin Rogers CUT: Prince Miller, Isaiah Green
- I think Prince Miller has had a nice camp, and with one year of practice squad eligibility remaining he seems like an ideal candidate.
Safety (3): Jairus Byrd, George Wilson, Da'Norris Searcy CUT: Delano Howell, Nick Saenz, Nick Sukay
- Delano Howell has really come on strong near the end of training camp and is pushing to make the roster. Unless the Bills have an injury in the later stages of the preseason though, I can't see them keeping Howell outright. He'll be one of the first men asked back to the practice squad, however.
Kicker (2): Rian Lindell, John Potter CUT: None
- John Potter has demonstrated his powerful leg in game situations. He has earned a spot on the roster so far.
Punter (1): Brian Moorman CUT: Shawn Powell
- Shawn Powell has a big leg, but both his net yardage and hang time in training camp have been bested by Brian Moorman.
Long Snapper (1): Garrison Sanborn CUT: None
- It wasn't even necessary to bring in competition for Garrison Sanborn. He's one of the best in the business.
Since the practice squad garners many questions from fans in the preseason, here is a list of the eight players I think are the likeliest to get asked back. They are listed in order that I think the Bills would like to keep them around. It does not account for other players released around the NFL.
Practice Squad (8): WR Marcus Easley, T Sam Young, S Delano Howell, LB Chris White, CB Prince Miller, G Keith Williams, TE Kevin Brock, DE Robert Eddins
Projected Cuts that are also eligible for the practice squad: Zach Brown, Kamar Aiken, Derek Session, Fendi Onobun, Mike Caussin, James Carmon, Jake Vermiglio, David Snow, Mark Asper, Sean Ferguson, Jay Ross, Isaiah Green, Nick Saenz, Nick Sukay, Shawn Powell.
Projected Cuts not eligible for the practice squad: Tyler Thigpen, Johnny White, Ruvell Martin, Naaman Roosevelt, David Clowney, Alex Carrington, Kellen Heard, Scott McKillop, Danny Batten.
There you have it. As Jeremy White coined it Thursday morning, there is a look at 'Buscagliatology.' I'll be doing another set as we get closer to the actual cut-down day in September.