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Posted: Friday, 30 August 2013 6:32AM

Projecting the Bills 53-man roster: Final cut

(WGR 550) -- With the final preseason game in the rearview mirror, the Buffalo Bills and the rest of the National Football League must make their decisions as to who will stay on their roster and which players they deem expendable.

Constructing a roster is really an exercise that reflects on philosophy, scheme and personnel issues that may arise through training camp and the exhibition contests. In the Bills' case, injuries at key spots have left the team in a bind in which they must keep some players that they hadn't been thinking about at first.

That's the beauty of the entire operation. Things can change in a second and players that some thought didn't have a chance all of a sudden have new life.

How will this year's Bills shake out? Here's a projection considering all performances (camp and preseason), scheme and personnel issues.:

Quarterback (3): EJ Manuel, Jeff Tuel, Thad Lewis
Injured Reserve: Kevin Kolb
Cut: Matt Leinart

- In order for the Bills not to keep Thad Lewis, they would have to know for a fact by Saturday at 6 pm if either EJ Manuel were ready to play against the New England Patriots or if Kevin Kolb had a miraculous comeback from his most recent concussion. It's likely there won't be any certainty surrounding the Manuel situation, which would force the Bills to at least put Kolb on the Injured Reserve with the designation to return and keep Lewis. However, would the Bills really use their only designation to return on their backup quarterback that has no guarantee of making it back? The season-ending I-R might end up being the play.

Running Back (3): C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Tashard Choice
Cut: Kendall Gaskins, Zach Brown
- It was a valiant effort by Kendall Gaskins, but Tashard Choice has been a good enough player to wrap up the third and final running back spot on the roster. Gaskins is in contention for the practice squad.

Fullback (1): Frank Summers
Cut: Drew Smith
- The Bills will indeed keep a fullback and Frank Summers has been apart of the first-team offense since he walked in the door.

Wide Receiver (6): Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods, T.J. Graham, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Hogan, Brad Smith
Cut: Marcus Easley, Brandon Kaufman
- Despite his 79-yard touchdown reception against the Detroit Lions Marcus Easley still finds himself on the outside looking in. He had a bad drop on a slant in the red zone on 4th down that could have extended the drive against Detroit and had some drops throughout camp. From a consistency perspective, Hogan and Smith have been better. Smith won't be cut, unless his rib injury is rather serious, due to his value on special teams.

Tight End (3): Scott Chandler, Lee Smith, Chris Gragg
Cut: Dorin Dickerson, Nick Provo
- With the decision to keep a fullback, the Bills can only afford to keep three tight ends on the roster. Chris Gragg has shown enough promise to warrant a roster spot over the likes of Dorin Dickerson. More often than not teams will side with their draft picks when it comes to bubble players.

Offensive Tackle (4): Cordy Glenn, Erik Pears, Thomas Welch, Sam Young
Cut: Zebrie Sanders
- It's been a tough summer for Zebrie Sanders, the former fifth-round pick from Florida State. He's got potential but was beaten far too often throughout training camp and preseason to warrant a roster spot over the more consistent Sam Young. Sanders could be a prime practice squad candidate however.

Guard (3): Colin Brown, Kraig Urbik, Antoine Caldwell
Cut or IR: Doug Legursky
Cut: Zack Chibane

- The luckiest man on the roster Thursday night could have been Antoine Caldwell. Doug Legursky suffered what looked to be a serious injury that required him getting carted off the field. After the game, he was seen in an air cast on his left leg to keep his knee from bending. They can't hold a roster spot for him if he's going to be out a long time so the Injured Reserve might end up being the play for the Bills with Legursky. Caldwell, a former college center, has the ability to swing inside and has outperformed undrafted rookie Zack Chibane. Besides, if Eric Wood goes down with an injury it's more likely that Kraig Urbik shifts inside to center allowing Caldwell to take the right guard position.

Center (1): Eric Wood
Cut: David Snow
- David Snow struggled snapping the ball at times throughout the summer and hasn't stood out enough for the Bills to consider keeping him around.

Defensive Line (6): Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Alex Carrington, Alan Branch, Jay Ross, Corbin Bryant
Cut: Jarron Gilbert, Torell Troup, Izaan Cross
- The two spots in question go to Jay Ross and Corbin Bryant, who have flashed throughout training camp and preseason games. Jarron Gilbert made a strong push but wasn't better than Bryant, while Torell Troup never really stood out throughout his time. In fact, Izaan Cross outperformed both Gilbert and Troup in the final preseason game which made the decision that much easier.

Rush Linebacker (3): Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes, Jamie Blatnick
Cut: Kourtnei Brown
- Jamie Blatnick has performed well enough over the past few months to hook on to the 53-man roster. While Kourtnei Brown did some nice things as well, a numbers crunch at other positions likely make him one of the last to get cut. The Bills will hope to sneak Brown onto the practice squad.

Middle/Inside Linebacker (2): Kiko Alonso, Arthur Moats
Cut: None
- Nothing to see here.

Weakside/Inside Linebacker (2): Nigel Bradham, Bryan Scott
Cut: Brian Smith
- If Brian Smith stood out on special teams he had a fighting shot of making the roster. He didn't, so he might be on the outside looking in.

Strongside Linebacker (2): Manny Lawson, Marcus Dowtin
Cut: Keith Pough, Jamal Westerman
- The direct players that were hurt by Jairus Byrd's injury status were the two strongside linebackers trying to make a late push to get on the roster. Unfortunately for Keith Pough and Jamal Westerman, the Bills are now forced to keep all five safeties on the roster at the likely cost of both of them. Pough and the practice squad makes sense.

Outside Cornerback (4): Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Justin Rogers, Crezdon Butler
Cut: T.J. Heath
- Not only playing for a starting job with Stephon Gilmore injured, Crezdon Butler and T.J. Heath were competing for the final cornerback spot on the roster Thursday night. Heath was burned time and time again, and while Butler wasn't perfect, he did enough to survive.

Nickel Cornerback (2): Ron Brooks, Nickell Robey
Cut: Kip Edwards
- The Bills strongly like undrafted rookie Nickell Robey, as evidenced by the fact he didn't take a single snap on the defensive side of the ball to avoid injury. Kip Edwards had a quietly effective camp, but wasn't as solid as Brooks and Robey. Edwards, who has shown some ability as a blitzer, would be a nice option for the practice squad.

Free Safety (3): Jairus Byrd, Da'Norris Searcy, Duke Williams
Cut: Jordan Dangerfield
- Jairus Byrd's injury puts a new spin on the roster, not even allowing for the Bills to consider cutting Da'Norris Searcy or Jonathan Meeks

Strong Safety (2): Aaron Williams, Jonathan Meeks
Cut: None
- Two on the roster before cutdown day, two on the roster after cutdown day. Byrd's injury secures Meeks' spot.

Special Teams (3): K Dustin Hopkins, P Shawn Powell, LS Garrison Sanborn
Cut: None
- Florida State University reigns supreme in Buffalo on special teams.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

All photos courtesy of AP