It was a tale of two seasons for the Buffalo Bills in 2011. Early in the season, the Bills were one of the NFL's hottest teams, posting a 5-2 record after Week 8. Unfortunately, injuries and depth issues derailed the team and the Buffalo Bills ended the year with a 6-10 record.
Bills players and fans alike are full of optimism in regards to the 2012 season. First, key players such as Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson are healthy. Free agent additions Mario Williams and Mark Anderson bolster the Bills defensive line and strengthen the Bills greatest weakness—getting to the quarterback. Throw in a draft where the Bills picked up talented players at positions of need, and it's easy to see why many feel this is the year the Bills end their playoff drought.
Do the Bills have what it takes to return to the postseason? Let's take a look and find out!
Late draft picks are no longer safe to receive a roster spot
The Buffalo Bills have made their finals cuts and the roster now sits at 53 players. Below are the Buffalo Bills who were released per Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com as well as one player moved to the injured reserve.
OL Zebrie Sanders to IR: Sanders had a rough training camp and preseason for the Bills. He must have shown the Bills enough potential to place him on the injured reserve. The Bills hope that Sanders can be their swing tackle of the future.
RB Zach Brown- Zach Brown will have trouble catching on elsewhere. He was brought onto the Bills late in training camp after the Bills released Chris Douglas. He is not likely to catch on elsewhere.
RB Johnny White- White was simply outplayed by Tashard Choice. The second year running back, did not do enough to prove he was worthy of a roster spot with the Bills. He is young enough that he could catch on with another team.
WR Kamar Aiken- Kamar Aiken is a talented young WR that the Bills like. He has practice squad eligibility so I would not be surprised if the Bills gave him a spot.
WR Marcus Easley- It was a tale of too little, too late for Marcus Easley. While he had a great outing against the Lions in the preseason finale, Easley was buried on the Bills depth chart. He is the only other wide receiver with practice squad eligibility so I think the Bills will try to place him on their practice squad and give him one last opportunity to make the team in 2013.
WR Derek Hagan- On August 2nd, Chan Gailey called Hagan a near lock to make the roster. Hagan, was beyond impressive in training camp, but his performance did not carry over to the preseason. Needing to cut the roster down, Hagan was let go. Hagan has a great chance to catch on elsewhere.
WR Ruvell Martin- Martin as a receiver is not anything special. Martin's greatest asset is his special teams play. Due to John Potter's ability to kick the ball through the end zone, Martin was not needed by the Bills. Martin will catch on with another team on special teams.
WR Naaman Roosevelt- Roosevelt has great hands and is another talented special teams player. Unfortunately, Roosevelt was buried on the Bills depth chart and with the Bills only keeping five wide receivers, he didn't stand a chance to make the team. Roosevelt has a chance to catch on elsewhere as wide receivers are a position that teams are always looking to upgrade at. His special teams play will also help his cause.
TE Kevin Brock- Brock was the third tight end on the team, so his chances of making the team were slim. The Bills are keeping their starting two tight-ends as well as Dorin Dickerson, an H-Back. Mike Caussin is also on the PUP/Reserve list. Brock has a chance to catch on elsewhere in a reserve role.
OL David Snow- David Snow was an obvious cut choice. He did nothing to stand out for the Bills and his chances of catching on elsewhere are not great.
OL Mark Asper- Asper, one of the Bills 2012 draft picks, was very inconsistent for the Bills. His release should not come as a surprise. That said, he is young and raw as an athlete so he has a chance to be signed by another team.
OL James Carmon- For every good play Carmon made, there were two or three poor plays. Carmon is another raw athlete who is young and has practice squad eligibility. I'm not sure that the Bills keep him around, but if a team is looking for a project player, Carmon would be a good choice.
OL Keith Williams- Williams did not have much of a chance to make the team. His inconsistent play did him no favors and he may have trouble finding work elsewhere.
DE Robert Eddins- The Bills only planned on keeping four defensive ends and it was no secret that Kyle Moore was the favorite to win the job. Eddins did a nice job with the Bills so I would not be surprised if he was placed on the team's practice squad. Eddins has a good chance of being signed elsewhere if the Bills do not keep him around.
DT Dwan Edwards- Edwards had a big salary and was a backup on the Bills defensive line. The Bills saved four-million dollars by releasing Edwards so the move made plenty of sense. Edwards is best suited for a 3-4 defense and will definitely be signed by another NFL franchise.
DT Jarron Gilbert- Gilbert played very well for the Bills and I'm sure he was a tough player to cut. Gilbert has practice squad eligibility, so I wouldn't be surprised if the Bills kept him around as a reward for his solid play.
DT Kellen Heard- Everything I said about Jarron Gilbert, I could say about Heard. Everything except the part about having practice squad eligibility. The Bills cannot keep Heard around, but there is no doubt he'll be signed by another NFL franchise.
LB Tank Carder- Carder, another rookie drafted by the Bills, was surprising to many Bills fans. Carder was solid at the start of training camp, but as camp moved on, Carder lost a lot momentum. Today Carder tweeted that it wasn't "the right fit." Carder's tweet implied that he didn't expect to even make the Bills practice squad. I will admit that I am surprised the Bills do not plan on inviting Carder to their practice squad. Carder has a great chance to catch on with another NFL team.
LB Scott McKillop- Once Carder tweeted that he was released, I thought McKillop's job was safe. He had a great training camp and preseason. It was rather surprising to hear that the Bills kept Chris White in favor of McKillop, but White must have done enough to impress the Bills. McKillop's impressive off-season will result in another team signing him.
DB Nick Saenz- Saenz was competing for a safety spot, but was far behind Delano Howell. His release is not a surprise, but he may catch on with another team, most likely on a practice squad.
DB Isaiah Green- Green was a late addition to the Bills, but he made the most of his opportunity. Unfortunately, he was the odd man out in terms of the Bills defensive backs. Green has practice squad eligibility and I think the Bills will offer him a spot.
P Shawn Powell- Powell finished the preseason strong, but Brian Moorman is one of the best punters in the game. Powell didn't have a real shot here in Buffalo, but his preseason play may earn him a look with another team.
Prince Miller was released Sunday, August 26th
Entering Sunday, August 26th, the Buffalo Bills roster held 84 players. The Bills had to trim their roster to 75 players by Monday, August 27th at 4 pm.
The Bills made their cuts 24 hours ahead of time. As of Sunday, August 26th at 4 PM the Bills roster now sits at 75 playesr. Here is the full list of the Bills releases per Tim Graham of the Buffalo News on Twitter:
Bills cuts: WRs David Clowney/Derek Session, TE Onobun, OL Vermiglio, DLs Ferguson/Ross, LB Danny Batten, CB Prince Miller, S Nick Sukay
— Tim Graham (@ByTimGraham) August 26, 2012
There are not many surprises on this list.
Wide receiver David Clowney was brought in as a speed option. Clowney did not impress at training camp and rookie T.J. Graham fills this role. There are plenty of injuries at wide receiver every year but Clowney has not played in a regular season game since 2010. His time in the NFL may be coming to an end.
Wide receiver Derek Session was brought in as an undrafted free agent out of Maine. Session's chances of making the team were slim. He has practice squad eligibility but he is not likely to be on the Bills practice squad.
Tight end Fendi Onobun is entering his third season in the NFL, but his chances of making the Bills were always slim. Onobun was listed behind starter Scott Chandler and backup Lee Smith. The Bills have another tight end, Mike Caussin, who will begin the season on the Bills PUP list. The Bills may keep Dorin Dickerson as an H-Back as well. The numbers game simply caught up with Onobun. He is likely to land on another roster due to his 6'6" frame.
Offensive lineman Jake Vermiglio was signed to the Bills practice squad in December of 2011. He was signed as a reserve/future signing in January of 2012 but did not play well in training camp. His release is far from a surprise and he may have trouble finding a spot on another team's practice squad.
Defensive tackle Jay Ross was signed to the Bills practice squad in October of 2011. Ross played well for the Bills in training camp, but the Bills have a lot of talent at interior defensive line so his odds of making the team were not likely. Ross should catch on with another team.
The Bills brought in defensive end Sean Ferguson in July of 2012 after cutting Lionel Dotson. The Bills only plan on keeping four defensive ends and three spots are already locked up. Kyle Moore has the inside track for the fourth spot, so Ferguson's release comes as no surprise.
Linebacker Danny Batten is probably the biggest "name" on the Bills list of cuts. Batten was drafted in the 6th round of the 2010 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills. Batten was brought in at a time where the Bills were transitioning to a 3-4 defense. Batten could play in both a 3-4 or 4-3 defense but is better suited in a 3-4. He has a good chance to catch on with a 3-4 team at some point this season.
Cornerback Prince Miller was a player to watch entering training camp this season. Miller looked good early in training camp and looked like he had a chance of making the team. The numbers game just caught up to Miller. Don't be shocked if the Bills stash Prince Miller on their practice squad. That being said, it wouldn't come as a surprise if another team signed Miller to their respective roster.
The final cut by the Buffalo Bills was safety Nick Sukay. Sukay was an undrafted rookie free agent out of Penn State. Sukay showed some ability at safety but he was far behind fellow undrafted rookie free agent Delano Howell on the Bills depth chart. The Bills are hoping to keep four safeties, but even Howell's roster spot is not guaranteed.
UPDATE: The Bills have officially traded for QB Tarvaris Jackson. To make room for Jackson on the 75 man roster, QB Vince Young was released. Young will likely be picked up by another team looking for a veteran backup.
Kelvin Sheppard is the only MLB listed on the Bills depth chart
(4) QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyler Thigpen, Tarvaris Jackson, Brad Smith
(3) RB: Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Tashard Choice
(2) FB: Corey McIntyre, Dorin Dickerson
(4) WR: Stevie Johnson, Donald Jones, David Nelson, T.J. Graham
(2) TE: Scott Chandler, Lee Smith
(4) OT: Cordy Glenn, Chris Hairston, Erik Pears, Sam Young
(3) OG: Andy Levitre, Kraig Urbik, Chad Rinehart
(2) C: Eric Wood, Colin Brown
(4) DE: Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Chris Kelsay, Kyle Moore
(4) DT: Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Spencer Johnson, Alex Carrington
(6) OLB: Arthur Moats, Nick Barnett, Kirk Morrison, Bryan Scott, Nigel Bradham, Chris White
(1) MLB: Kelvin Sheppard
(6) CB: Stephon Gilmore, Aaron Williams, Leodis McKelvin, Terrence McGee, Justin Rogers, Ron Brooks
(4) S: George Wilson, Jairus Byrd, Da'Norris Searcy, Delano Howell
(4) ST: Rian Lindell, John Potter, Brian Moorman, Garrison Sanborn
Zach Brown, RB
8/31/2012: The Bills trimmed their roster by releasing the following players: RB Zach Brown, RB Johnny White, WR Ruvell Martin, WR Naaman Roosevelt, WR Derek Hagan, WR Marcus Easley, WR Kamar Aiken, TE Kevin Brock, OL Mark Asper, OL James Carmon, OL David Snow, OL Keith Williams, DE Robert Eddins, DT Jarron Gilbert, DT Dwan Edwards, DT Kellen Heard, LB Tank Carder, LB Scott McKillop, DB Nick Saenz, DB Isaiah Green, P Shawn Powell
8/31/2012: OL Zebrie Sanders was placed on the injured reserve
8/27/2012: The Buffalo Bills completed a trade for QB Tarvaris Jackson and released QB Vince Young to make room on the 75 man roster.
8/26/2012: The Buffalo Bills released the following players: WR David Clowney, WR Derek Session, TE Fendi Onobun, OL Jake Vermiglio, DE Sean Ferguson, DT Jay Ross, LB Danny Batten, CB Prince Miller and S Nick Sukay. TE Mike Caussin was also placed on the Reserve/PUP list.
Stevie Johnson Returns Following Back to Back 1,000 Yard Seasons
QB (4): Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tarvaris Jackson, Tyler Thigpen, Brad Smith
RB (5): Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Tashard Choice, Johnny White, Zach Brown
FB (2): Corey McIntyre, Dorin Dickerson
WR (9): X Position: Stevie Johnson, Derek Hagan, T.J. Graham, Kamar Aiken, Ruvell Martin
Y Position: Donald Jones, David Nelson, Marcus Easley, Naaman Roosevelt
TE (3): Scott Chandler, Lee Smith, Kevin Brock
LT (3): Cordy Glenn, Chris Hairston, James Carmon
LG (2): Andy Levitre, Keith Williams
C (4): Eric Wood, Colin Brown, Mark Asper, David Snow
RG (2): Chad Rinehart, Kraig Urbik
RT (3): Erik Pears, Zebrie Sanders, Sam Young
LDE (3): Mario Williams, Chris Kelsay, Robert Eddins
LDT (3): Marcell Dareus, Alex Carrington, Jarron Gilbert
RDT (3): Kyle Williams, Dwan Edwards, Kellen Heard
RDE (3): Mark Anderson, Kyle Moore, Spencer Johnson
LOLB (3): Arthur Moats, Kirk Morrison, Nigel Bradham
MLB (3): Kelvin Sheppard, Scott McKillop, Tank Carder
ROLB (3): Nick Barnett, Bryan Scott, Chris White
LCB (4): Aaron Williams, Terrence McGee, Justin Rogers, Isaiah Green
RCB (3): Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks
SS (2): George Wilson, Da'Norris Searcy
FS (3): Jairus Byrd, Delano Howell, Nick Saenz
K (2): Rian Lindell, John Potter
P (2): Brian Moorman, Shawn Powell
LS (1): Garrison Sanborn
KR (3): Justin Rogers, T.J. Graham, Brad Smith
PR (3): Leodis McKelvin, C.J. Spiller, T.J. Graham
With the roster as it currently is, here are the five players most at risk of losing their jobs.
P Shawn Powell is likely to be cut early by the Buffalo Bills. Powell has not provided Brian Moorman with much competition at training camp and just doesn't look like he belongs in the NFL.
RB Zach Brown was recently signed by the Buffalo Bills, but he'll likely be cut early on by the Bills. The Bills have two above-average RBs on their roster as well, a veteran in Tashard Choice and young Johnny White.
OG Jake Vermiglio is last on the depth chart at right offensive guard. The Bills have Kraig Urbik and Chad Rinehart in front of him, both of whom played well in 2011, and while rookie Mark Asper is listed as a center, he's also practicing at the guard position.
LDE Sean Ferguson is another recent signing by the Bills who will likely be one of the first players to lose their job. The Bills are deep on defensive ends, so Ferguson is likely to be cut early.
CB Isaiah Green is at another position where the Bills have plenty of talent. Look for Green to be among the first players to be released on the Bills.
Former Bills RB Chris Douglas
8/22/2012: The Buffalo Bills have waived S Josh Nesbitt. Nesbitt was signed to the Bills practice squad in 2011 before being called up to the main roster in November.
8/22/2012: The Buffalo Bills waived CB Cris Hill. Hill was injured for most of training camp. The UDFA was a long shot to make the team.
8/20/2012: The Buffalo Bills released DE Shawne Merriman. The Bills feel that Merriman is a better fit in a 3-4 defense. The release of Merriman should open a roster spot for Kyle Moore.
8/13/2012: The Buffalo Bills released OL Michael Jasper. Jasper had struggled to learn his assignments so the move is not a total surprise.
8/2/2012: The Buffalo Bills waived RB Chris Douglas. Douglas was injured during practice on July 31st, and cut to make room for UDFA Zach Brown.
QBs on roster: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Vince Young, Tyler Thigpen, Brad Smith
Projected starter: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Offseason additions: Vince Young
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Vince Young, Brad Smith
The Buffalo Bills currently have four quarterbacks on their roster and it's safe to say at one of them will be released. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the clear-cut starting quarterback for the team. Fitzpatrick was playing brilliantly up until cracking his ribs against the Washington Redskins. Following the Redskins game, Fitzpatrick had a quarterback rating of 97.8, and a 14/7 TD/INT ratio. After cracking his ribs, his play plummeted. While Fitzpatrick may not look like a traditional QB, his intelligence can take the Bills a long way.
Brad Smith will be playing quarterback out of the wildcat. He may not see many snaps, but the Bills can use him accordingly. Smith will also probably see some time as a wide receiver. This leaves one roster spot open for Vince Young or Tyler Thigpen.
In terms of talent, Vince Young is heads and shoulders above Tyler Thigpen. That being said, Young is struggling to learn the Bills' offense. Chan Gailey wants his backup QB to know the playbook inside and out, so if Vince Young is cut, this would be the main reason. Young has struggled in training camp, but is starting to turn the corner on the field.
Tyler Thigpen knows Chan Gailey's offense inside and out. Thigpen's biggest problem is his performance on the field. During training camp, Thigpen has underperformed and he has not given Chan Gailey any reason to keep him as the backup QB. The writing seemed to be on the wall for Thigpen last season when he did not start any games after Ryan Fitzpatrick cracked his ribs in a week eight game against the Redskins. Heading into the preseason, Thigpen is listed as the Bills #2 QB.
At the end of the day, Vince Young should win the backup spot. The talent gap between Young and Thigpen is large. Even if Young does not have the playbook mastered, his talent on the field can go a long way in helping the Bills if he is called into duty.
RBs on roster: Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Johnny White, Tashard Choice, Zach Brown
Projected starter: Fred Jackson
Offseason additions: Zach Brown
Roster cuts: Chris Douglas
Projected final roster: Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Johnny White
Fred Jackson was averaging 93.4 yards per game before going down to a fibula injury in week 11. There were few better in the NFL during this time and Jackson was getting the majority of snaps due to his success. Jackson will still be the lead back going into 2012, but look for C.J. Spiller to get more carries this season.
When Fred Jackson went down to injury, Spiller stepped in and did an excellent job. Spiller averaged 5.2 yards per carry in 2011 and showed Bills fans why he was selected in the first round of the 2010 draft. Spiller knows that Jackson will be the starter, but he also knows that he'll get more carries this season. Spiller and Jackson are both willing to share the load and Spiller has gone on record and said,
“We both understand that we both can’t be selfish,” Spiller said. “And if we’re both playing at a high level, then it will elevate our team. It’s exciting.”
Johnny White didn't make much of an impact as a rookie in 2011. White suffered a concussion during a December game against the Dolphins, but he had only carried the ball four times to that point. This year at training camp, White has been running hard and looks much improved. Look for Johnny White to secure the third running back spot.
Tashard Choice was claimed off of waivers from the Redskins in 2011. Chan Gailey was familiar with Choice so the addition made sense. That said, Choice wasn't particularly impressive in 2011 and he hasn't stood out in training camp. That being said, Choice is currently listed as the third RB heading into the preseason. He has a shot to beat out White, but I think White's youth wins the spot in the end.
Zach Brown was recently added to the team, but he has virtually no shot of making the team. If he shows the Bills enough in practice, he could be eligible for the practice squad.
With the season approaching, the Bills feel pretty good about their running back situation. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller make for one of the best 1-2 RB duos in the NFL and opposing teams will have to game-plan accordingly.
Corey McIntyre's Role is Going to Expand in 2012
FBs on roster: Corey McIntyre, Dorin Dickerson
Projected starter: Corey McIntyre
Offseason additions: Dorin Dickerson
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Corey McIntyre, Dorin Dickerson
Corey McIntyre has been with the Bills since 2008. The Bills haven't used him much during this time, but now they are looking to expand his role. McIntyre has been catching a lot of passes out of the backfield this training camp and the fullback position seems to be a new wrinkle for the team.
Dorin Dickerson was brought in to play H-back for the Buffalo Bills. Dickerson has excellent speed and can catch the ball well. Dickerson has been up and down in training camp, but look for him to secure a role with the team due to his ability to play special teams and his uncanny attributes.
Donald Jones hopes to hold off other WRs vying for his job
WRs on roster: Stevie Johnson, Donald Jones, David Nelson, T.J. Graham, Derek Hagan, Marcus Easley, Kamar Aiken, Naaman Roosevelt, Ruvell Martin, David Clowney, Derek Session
Projected starters: Stevie Johnson, Donald Jones, David Nelson
Offseason additions: T.J. Graham, Derek Session
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Stevie Johnson, Donald Jones, David Nelson, T.J. Graham, Derek Hagan, Marcus Easley
After being benched in the 2011 season finale, Stevie Johnson thought that the Bills would not bring him back. On the situation, Johnson said:
"At that point, I was thinking I was done with Buffalo," Johnson told Yahoo! Sports' Michael Silver. "I was like, 'They benched me? Really?' I figured I'd go back to Hunter's Point (to play for the 49ers). But the (Bills) stepped up and paid me. And it felt so good to be wanted."
Johnson became the first Bills wide receiver to record back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons and has looked great in training camp. Look for Johnson to continue to thrive based upon his strong chemistry with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Donald Jones won the second wide receiver job in 2011, but inconsistent play and ankle injuries derailed his campaign. He'll get another chance to win the job this season, but Chan Gailey didn't give him a glowing endorsement.
"Donald'll start there, but we're looking at everybody," Gailey said. "We've not ruled anybody out at this point at that spot."
David Nelson had a stellar sophomore season out of the slot position. He finished the season with 61 receptions for 658 yards. Nelson has sure hands and Fitzpatrick uses him often as a safety valve. Nelson should continue to produce well out of the slot.
T.J. Graham was drafted in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft and is known for his blazing speed. Graham's speed has been on display, but that's not all he brings to the table. Graham has also shown the ability to run crisp routes and make some outstanding catches. Graham's effort has not gone unnoticed, as he's seen some reps with the first team offense.
Derek Hagan ended the 2011 season against the Patriots with seven receptions for 89 yards and has come into training camp with a mission: win the starting job opposite of Stevie Johnson.
According to the Bills first depth chart, Derek Hagan is among the top four wide receivers on the depth chart.
Marcus Easley was drafted in 2010 and has yet to see the field for an NFL game. In 2010, Easley had season ending surgery on his left knee and last season, Easley had a heart ailment that ended his season. Easley was cleared to return and has been impressive in training camp. Easley has been making some impressive catches and has also worked with the first-team offense. Look for him to win the final starting job.
If Easley does not snag the final wide receiver spot, don't be surprised if you hear the name Kamar Aiken. Aiken has developed into a decent wide receiver and the Bills may give him an opportunity to make the team.
Scott Chandler is a red zone threat
TEs on roster: Scott Chandler, Lee Smith, Fendi Onobun, Kevin Brock, Mike Caussin
Projected starter: Scott Chandler
Offseason additions: None
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Scott Chandler, Lee Smith
Scott Chandler was one the biggest surprises for the Bills last season. Claimed off of waivers in 2010 from the Dallas Cowboys, Chandler emerged as a red zone threat for the Bills. He ended the season with 38 receptions for 389 yards and six touchdowns. The Bills hadn't seen this kind of production out of a tight end since Jay Riemersma. Scott Chandler has sure hands and excellent chemistry with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Chandler signed a two-year deal in the offseason to remain with the Bills and is looking to build off of his 2011 season. Chan Gailey feels that Chandler should have an even better 2012 season.
"I don't see any reason he shouldn't have a better year this year than he had last year," Bills coach Chan Gailey said during minicamp. "He and [Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick] have a great feel for each other at this point in time."
Lee Smith was claimed off of waivers by the Patriots early in the 2011 season. Smith is known for being a top-notch blocker and he'll see some playing time in the 2012 season. Tight end coach and former Bills TE Pete Metzelaars says that Smith is an elite blocker.
"Lee Smith is a powerful man," Metzelaars said. "You've got to love what he does. You can stick him in and say, ‘We're gonna run behind him, I don't care who they line up over him.'"
The Bills should be content with Chandler and Smith as tight-ends. Fendi Onobun could win the role of third tight end if Dorin Dickerson, an H-back, is released.
Cordy Glenn is battling to become starting LT
OTs on roster: Chris Hairston, Cordy Glenn, James Carmon, Erik Pears, Zebrie Sanders, Sam Young
Projected starters: Chris Hairston and Erik Pears
Offseason additions: Cordy Glenn, Zebrie Sanders, James Carmon
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Chris Hairston, Erik Pears, Cordy Glenn, Sam Young
The Bills run a quick-read offense where tackles aren't expected to fend off defensive ends for long periods of time. Due to this, the players on the Bills roster are more than capable of playing tackle.
Chris Hairston and Cordy Glenn are competing for the starting LT spot. Hairston, a fourth round pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, started in seven games in 2011. He played both LT and RT. Hairston was very inconsistent but showed promise, especially at the right tackle position. He'll get another opportunity this season.
Cordy Glenn, a second round pick of the 2012 NFL draft, is the player with the best offensive tackle pedigree. Glenn—projected my many as a first round pick—was a steal for the Bills in round two. In OTAs, Glenn took all reps at left tackle. That said, Glenn has struggled as of late in training camp.
On the other side of the offensive line, Erik Pears does not have much competition. Pears signed a three year extension in the offseason and is excited about coming back to the Bills.
"I feel great," Pears said after practice today. "I’ve enjoyed my time here and I’m happy to be here for three more years, I couldn’t be more excited. ... I can’t thank the organization enough for giving me a real opportunity to get in there and show them what I could do. I feel I really took advantage of the offseason and came in prepared to do the job."
Pears had offseason hernia surgery but is ready to go for the 2012 season.
The last OT spot will likely go to Zebrie Sanders or Sam Young. Young has been more impressive in training camp, but Sanders is viewed as a swing tackle with the Bills. It will be interesting to see who is kept, but I give Sanders a slight edge over Young. James Carmon, an undrafted free agent, has been very inconsistent at training camp. He's played well at times, but has been beaten often. Carmon would be an excellent candidate for the practice squad.
Levitre is playing for a new contract
OGs on roster: Andy Levitre, Michael Jasper, Keith Williams, Chad Rinehart, Kraig Urbik, Jake Vermiglio
Projected starters: Andy Levitre and Kraig Urbik
Offseason additions: None
Roster cuts: Paul Madsen, Michael Jasper
Projected final roster: Andy Levitre, Kraig Urbik, Chad Rinehart
Andy Levitre is by far the Bills best offensive lineman. His versatility and ability helped the Bills grade out as the seconnd best team in pass rank and 12th best in terms of running the ball, according to Pro Football Focus. Levitre is entering a contract year, but the Bills have had preliminary talks with his agent.
Chad Rinehart played as the starting right guard after Kraig Urbik went down to an injury in 2011. Rinehart played just as well if not better than Urbik. Look for Rinehart to start the season as the teams starting right guard, with Urbik close behind.
The Bills have done an excellent job of picking up players off of waivers the last few years. Kraig Urbik was claimed off of waivers in 2010 and started the 2011 season as the Bills OG. Urbik did a great job against the run, but needs to improve in the passing game. He has a chance to start, but Rinehart is still favored.
Keith Williams was on the Buffalo Bills practice squad last year, and has a chance to return there this season. He is still a raw athlete and it never hurts to have these types of players on the practice squad. Jake Vermiglio faces an uphill battle to make it onto the Bills roster, even as a practice squad player. He's likely to be cut early.
Eric Wood's health is important to the Bills success
OCs on roster: Eric Wood, Colin Brown, Mark Asper, David Snow
Projected starter: Eric Wood
Offseason additions: Mark Asper, David Snow
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Eric Wood, Colin Brown
When healthy, Eric Wood is just as good of an offensive lineman as Andy Levitre. Unfortunately, Wood has had trouble staying healthy. In 2009, Wood suffered a broken leg (watch at your own risk), in 2010 Wood missed two games with a minor knee injury, and in 2011 Wood tore his ACL nine games into the 2011 season. Wood is participating in team drills and will be healthy to start the season, and if he plays a full season, the offensive line will be even better than last season.
Colin Brown played in eleven games for the Bills in 2011 and started one game. He and Asper will be battling for a spot and Brown winning the job wouldn't surprise me. Brown was average when he played, but the Bills are somewhat comfortable with Brown as a backup option.
Mark Asper was drafted by the Bills in round six of the 2012 NFL draft. He is no lock to make the team, but he has a chance to win a spot over Colin Brown. Asper played as a guard and tackle at Oregon, but the Bills are hoping he can be their backup center.
David Snow was brought in as an undrafted free agent and has virtually no chance of making the team. If Asper is cut, he'd be eligible for the practice squad and should get the nod over Snow.
After Eric Wood there isn't much depth. Wood's health is imperative to the Bills making the playoffs. Without him, there will be a noticeable drop-off in talent.
Mark Anderson hopes to win the RDE role
DEs on roster: Mario Williams, Chris Kelsay, Robert Eddins, Sean Ferguson, Mark Anderson, Shawne Merriman, Spencer Johnson, Kyle Moore
Projected starters: Mario Williams and Mark Anderson
Offseason additions: Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Sean Ferguson
Roster cuts: Lionel Dotson, Shawne Merriman
Projected final roster: Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Chris Kelsay, Kyle Moore, Spencer Johnson
The Buffalo Bills made a huge splash in free agency signing Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. Mario Williams was the defensive prize of free agency and his addition immediately bolstered a defensive line that struggled to get to the quarterback. Mario Williams will play as a left defensive end, the same position he played in college. Going against right tackles, it's not too far fetched to imagine Williams getting 15 sacks.
Sports Illustrated's Don Banks thinks the Bills defensive line has a chance to become dominant. In an interview with Banks, Mario Williams said:
"I feel like we could be as good as anybody,'' Williams said, minutes after a Sunday night full-pads session under the lights at St. John Fisher College in suburban Rochester. "That's just how I see it. We're going to bring everything we got. Put it that way. Just us four alone. I'm not talking about any others. Us four alone. When we hit the field running, we're going to go full speed.''
Across from Mario Williams, it appears that Mark Anderson is going to get the starting nod. Anderson signed a four-year, $19.5 million deal in the offseason, and that is starting defensive end money. While Anderson has been a situational-pass rusher, he's been great in training camp. The offensive lineman has taken notice of Anderson.
"I saw it playing him last year against the Patriots," said tackle Chris Hairston. "He has that quick twitch. He has that great first step off the ball, he gets side-to-side. He's showing that explosiveness."
Anderson was listed as the starting right defensive end, according to CBSSports.com depth chart.
Chris Kelsay, whether starting or backing up is great depth for the Bills. Kelsay is the best defensive end in terms of playing against the run, so he'll see his fair share of snaps on defense. Kelsay will be productive regardless of his role on the defensive line.
Shawne Merriman was released on August 20th by the Bills. The Bills did not see the burst they were hoping to see out of Merriman. The release of Merriman should open a roster spot for Kyle Moore. Moore, a 4th round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009, was not a good fit in Tampa stating:
"We were playing a lot of 3-4 defense," Moore said of the '09 season. "I was up to 285 pounds. Me playing at that weight, being a rookie in the league, it was a lot against me that year. It was real crazy. We fired our offensive coordinator in the beginning of the year then our defensive coordinator in the middle of the year and put a new defense in. I got hurt - my meniscus (in his knee) - from carrying all that weight. My rookie year was a rough one."
Moore has shown good explosiveness and has a great chance to make the team.
Rounding out the defensive line will be Spencer Johnson. Johnson has played well for the Bills as a backup, and his versatility as a defensive end and defensive tackle will most likely earn him a spot on the roster. Johnson may not play much, but when he does, there will not be a noticeable drop-off.
Marcell Dareus plans to build off of an impressive rookie season
DTs on roster: Marcell Dareus, Alex Carrington, Torell Troup, Jarron Gilbert, Kyle Williams, Dwan Edwards, Kellen Heard, Jay Ross
Projected starters: Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams
Offseason additions: Jay Ross
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Alex Carrington, Kellen Heard
Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams have to be excited about the signings of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. Both players will see one-on-one match-ups, and should cause plenty of problems for opposing teams interior lineman. If everyone on the defensive line performs up to expectations, the sky will be the limit for the Bills.
Marcell Dareus had an impressive rookie campaign. Dareus's season ended with 43 total tackles and 5.5 sacks. His stats should continue to improve in his second year, and Dareus has the ability to be one of the best defensive tackles in football.
Kyle Williams' 2011 season ended in November with bone spurs irritating his Achilles tendon. Williams should return to his 2010 form where he was the best player on the Bills defensive line. He ended the 2010 season with 77 total tackles and 5.5 sacks. Williams hasn't been mentioned as much as his other defensive line counterparts, but he doesn't seem to mind.
"Nah, that doesn’t bother me; I don’t care," Williams told the AFC East blog. "I hope people talk all about them so teams can go [double-team] them," Williams said.
Alex Carrington isn't a guarantee to make the team. When cutting the roster down, I had it down to who performed better between Carrington and Torell Troup in training camp and the preseason. Troup is a better fit in a 3-4 defense, but Carrington has been able to stay healthy and play in the NFL so he receives the nod. Carrington getting cut shouldn't come as a surprise if it does occur.
Dwan Edwards is another player on the roster bubble. Edwards has the eighth highest cap hit on the team and is better suited to play in a 3-4 defense. That being said, Coach Chan Gailey has praised Edwards:
"He has played really well for us in years past," coach Chan Gailey said. "And I do not see any reason that he will not be right in the mix this year."
If the Bills release Dwan Edwards, don't be surprised if Kellen Heard is kept. Heard is a natural DT and comes at a much lower price tag than Edwards. Heard played respectfully in a limited role in 2011.
Nick Barnett is an obvious OLB starter
OLBs on roster: Nick Barnett, Bryan Scott, Danny Batten, Chris White, Arthur Moats, Kirk Morrison, Nigel Bradham
Projected starters: Nick Barnett and Arthur Moats
Offseason additions: Nigel Bradham
Roster cuts: Garrick Williams
Projected final roster: Nick Barnett, Bryan Scott, Arthur Moats, Kirk Morrison, Nigel Bradham
Nick Barnett will start as one of the two Bills outside linebackers in 2012, but the other spot is still up for grabs. Barnett signed with the Bills after being released in Green Bay and performed very well in 2011. Barnett finished his 2011 campaign with 130 total tackles, three sacks, three interceptions, one forced fumble and a touchdown. Barnett's stats came as an inside linebacker, but his play should not drop off much from last season.
Arthur Moats is my predicted starter as the second outside linebacker for the Bills. Moats has played in various roles with the Bills since being drafted in 2010. He's played defensive end as a pass-rusher, played as an inside and outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense last season, but this year Moats has been asked to play one role, outside linebacker.
"I'm feeling more comfortable now. The OTAs was the first time out there so it was kinda new for me," Moats said, referring to the spring organized team activity practices. "But as OTAs went on and we got to minicamps I felt real comfortable. Now we have the pads on and you see it in speed and I'm feeling better."
Moats has performed well at training camp and Chan Gailey has noticed.
"We finally settled him into one role as an outside backer for us," Bills coach Chan Gailey said after a recent practice. "I think he has handled that very well. He has gotten a lot better in the OTAs and the minicamp. It made so much of a difference for him to have that. It is unbelievable. I feel good about where he is right now. He has been very impressive thus far."
Moats's competition for the starting job is Kirk Morrison. Morrison was signed in August of 2011 and finished the season with seven tackles in limited time. Morrison's lack of playing time was due to signing so late in the pre-season and the emergence of Kelvin Sheppard. Morrison is best suited as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense and Dave Wannstedt wanted him back this season.
Bryan Scott, formerly a safety, was moved to outside linebacker and will likely start the 2012 season as a backup. Scott was not surprised by the move as a former head coach envisioned him as an outside linebacker.
"Dick Vermeil said 'I see you playing linebacker before your career's over,'" Scott said.
"I don't know if he figured the game was going to evolve to where a big corner would be the size of a linebacker. But he called it."
Rounding out the OLB core is rookie Nigel Bradham. Bradham was drafted in the fourth round and has played well in training camp. He doesn't really have a shot to start the season, but look for him to get more playing time as the season wears on.
Danny Batten and Chris White are the odd men out with the Bills. Batten and White are both young players, but aren't great fits in a 4-3 defense. It wouldn't surprise me if they caught on elsewhere as backups in a 3-4 defense.
Kelvin Sheppard is poised for a big year
MLBs on roster: Kelvin Sheppard, Tank Carder, Scott McKillop
Projected starter: Kelvin Sheppard
Offseason additions: Tank Carder, Scott McKillop
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Kelvin Sheppard, Tank Carder
Kelvin Sheppard is looking like he's poised for a breakout year. Sheppard finished his rookie season with 70 tackles and should thrive as a middle linebacker. After sitting out of training camp for a few days with undisclosed health issues, Sheppard returned to the field August 3. Middle linebackers in Dave Wannstedt's defenses have an important role and rack up plenty of tackles. Look for Sheppard to do the same.
Tank Carder was drafted in round five, but has looked great in training camp. Coach Chan Gailey has been impressed with the former TCU standout.
“He has gotten his hands on more passes defensively than maybe any other player to this point, which has been pretty impressive,” Gailey said. “It would be hard not to notice him on the field.”
Carder isn't likely to see much playing time as an inside linebacker as a rookie, but he will be an important contributor on special teams.
Scott McKillop was brought in to Buffalo as Dave Wannstedt was very familiar with McKillop's talent. Wannstedt coached McKillop at Pitt and has high praise for the middle linebacker.
“He’s an exceptional player,” said the veteran coach. ”He graduated in three and a half years so he’s a smart kid. He was a first team All-American; he led the nation in tackles. [He's a] tough guy that can play outside or inside. As a rookie he led the 49ers in tackles on special teams.”
McKillop is not likely to win a roster spot with the Bills, but could return if an injury occurs. Realistically, Nick Barnett would likely slide into the MLB role if Sheppard is out for any extended period of time.
Stephon Gilmore has been impressive in training camp
CBs on roster: Aaron Williams, Terrence McGee, Justin Rogers, Cris Hill, Isaiah Green, Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Prince Miller
Projected starters: Stephon Gilmore and Aaron Williams
Offseason additions: Stephon Gilmore, Ron Brooks, Cris Hill, Isaiah Green
Roster cuts: Cris Hill
Projected final roster: Stephon Gilmore, Aaron Williams, Terrence McGee, Leodis McKelvin, Justin Rogers, Ron Brooks
Stephon Gilmore, the Bills first round pick of the 2012 NFL Draft ,has been exceptional in training camp. Gilmore has been matched up primarily with Stevie Johnson and has held his own. Johnson has given Gilmore high praise for the job he has done thus far.
"Everything I see in [Darrelle] Revis, I see in Gilmore…” Johnson then went on to say about the 21-year old rookie, “He’s going to be a shutdown corner. You definitely can tell.”
From the second Gilmore was drafted, it was a given that he'd be a starter. After such an impressive camp, it'll be exciting to see just how good Gilmore can become.
The other cornerback position is still for the taking, but look for Aaron Williams to lock up the spot. Williams, a second round draft pick from the 2011 draft, played well in his rookie season and should improve in his sophomore campaign.
The Bills team website believes that Williams will win the starting job. Chan Gailey has seen improvement in Williams during training camp.
“I think he is a much more confident player this year than he was last year,” said Gailey. “He was feeling his way through some of the time last year.”
Terrence McGee is fighting for the opposite starting role, but he may end up fighting for his roster spot. When healthy, McGee is an above-average cornerback. McGee hasn't practiced much in training camp due to coming back from torn patellar tendon in his knee, and admits he is worried about his job.
Leodis McKelvin is another veteran playing for a roster spot. McKelvin is likely to remain on the roster and play in the slot, but his career as a whole has been a disappointment. In a contract year, McKelvin needs to put everything together. He can cover well, but struggles to play the ball. Regardless of what McKelvin does this season, it's hard to envision him in a Bills jersey in 2013, unless it is at a discounted rate.
Justin Rogers enters his second season with the Bills, and played well in limited time as a cornerback. Rogers is a talented kick returner, which should help him secure a role with the team. Ron Brooks, a rookie, will also make the team and play on special teams. He will see a few snaps in certain situations on defense, but don't expect too much out of Brooks this season.
If McGee or McKelvin are cut, look for Prince Miller to stay on. I had a hard time cutting Miller, as he has been impressive at training camp. If the Bills truly want to have a youth movement at the cornerback position, Miller could stay on. Cris Hill and Isaiah Green may win a job on the practice squad, but neither will make the starting roster to begin the season.
Byrd is in a contract year
Safeties on roster: George Wilson, Da'Norris Searcy, Josh Nesbitt, Nick Sukay, Jairus Byrd, Delano Howell, Nick Saenz
Projected starters: George Wilson and Jairus Byrd
Offseason additions: Nick Sukay, Delano Howell, Nick Saenz
Roster cuts: Josh Nesbitt
Projected final roster: George Wilson, Jairus Byrd, Da'Norris Searcy, Delano Howell
The safety positions are locked in with George Wilson at strong safety and Jairus Byrd at free safety. Safety is one of the Bills strongest positions at starter, behind running back and defensive line. It's the depth behind the starters which raises concerns.
George Wilson played in thirteen games in the 2011 season and finished with 106 tackles, four interceptions, and two forced fumbles. Wilson has emerged as a great strong safety and a leader in the locker room.
Jairus Byrd is entering his last season under contract with the Bills, and has turned into a complete player at the strong safety position. Resigning Byrd should be a priority for the Bills, along with OL Andy Levitre.
Byrd has high expectations for the 2012 season.
“I always want to continue to do what I do, get my hands on balls,” he said. “I want to score when I get interceptions. I want to get more turnovers and punch the ball out, but I think the mental part of the game is big. Anytime you start progressing the thing that separates you is just anticipation and just the mental part of the game. That can develop along with the physical stuff, but the mental game is what takes you over (the top).”
The only other safety who is a guarantee to stay on the roster is Da'Norris Searcy. Searcy has played well in training camp and will be backing up George Wilson. If Byrd leaves at the end of the season, it is expected that Searcy would slide over to free safety.
Delano Howell has had an excellent preseason and has a fair chance of making the final 53 man roster.
The Bills are looking to add another safety as Jim Leonhard was recently in for a try out. Leonhard left without a contract, but the Bills will continue to monitor Leonhard, as well as other players released.
Lindell is ready to come back after an injury ended his 2011 season
Kicking Specialists on roster: Rian Lindell, John Potter, Brian Moorman, Shawn Powell, and long snapper Garrison Sanborn
Projected starters: Rian Lindell, Brian Moorman, Garrison Sanborn
Offseason additions: John Potter and Shawn Powell
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Rian Lindell, Brian Moorman, Garrison Sanborn
Rian Lindell signed a four-year extension in the offseason and looks to regain his form after sustaining a shoulder injury in the 2011 season. Lindell has a career field goal made average of 80.9, and has done an excellent job for the Buffalo Bills.
Brian Moorman is the elder statesman of the Buffalo Bills. Moorman has been with the Bills since 2001 and is one of the best punters in the NFL. His punt average of 48.2 yards in 2011 was the highest of his career.
Garrison Sanborn is a lock to make the team as he is the only long snapper on the team. Sanborn is good at what he does and signed a three-year extension in the offseason.
John Potter was the final cut I made when cutting the roster down to 53. He has had a great training camp and is known for his powerful leg. Potter could win a job as the kickoff specialist, but it is hard to justify carrying two kickers on the roster. Lindell struggles to kick the ball into the endzone, so Potter has a chance.
Shawn Powell has not been impressive at all in training camp. He looks out of place and has not given Brian Moorman any competition. Powell will probably be one of the first players to go.
Justin Rogers was impressive as a KR late in the 2011 season
Return Specialists on roster: Justin Rogers, T.J. Graham, Brad Smith , C.J. Spiller, Leodis McKelvin
Projected starters: Justin Rogers, Leodis McKelvin
Offseason additions: T.J. Graham
Roster cuts: None
Projected final roster: Justin Rogers, Leodis McKelvin, T.J. Graham, Brad Smith, and C.J. Spiller
Justin Rogers is my favorite to win the kick returner job. Rogers showed a lot of potential late in the 2011 season and I see him building off of it in 2012. Rogers showed big play ability and this is exactly what the Bills need with a kick returner.
T.J. Graham will also get an opportunity to return kickoffs for the Bills. Graham has blazing speed and look for him to return kicks in the preseason. Graham and Rogers returning kicks could cause a lot of problems for opponents special teams coverage. Graham may also get an opportunity as a punt returner.
Brad Smith started 2011 as the Bills kick returner but looked slow on the field. Perhaps he was waiting for his blocks, but Smith didn't show the burst that I was looking for in a kick returner. He may return a few kicks in the preseason, but don't look for him to win the starting job.
Leodis McKelvin was given an opportunity to return punts again in 2011 and did well. Late in the 2011 season, McKelvin was bursting with confidence.
“I told the guys before 'if you give me three times with the ball in my hands, I guarantee one ball will go to the end zone,'” said McKelvin. “They gave me a great opportunity to return the ball this week and everything happened for a reason.”
McKelvin's biggest issue is ball security. He is going into the 2012 preseason listed as the team's starting punt returner.
C.J. Spiller is a very talented punt returner, but the Bills may not use him as a punt returner due to his role in the offense. Keeping Spiller fresh should be a priority for the Bills. Spiller will probably see a few punt returns in the preseason, but the job is McKelvin's to lose.