No question about it, Fred Jackson is the heart and soul of the Bills' team
Okay, it means another thing too. The Bills, like every NFL team, have 37 too many players on their roster, and those Bills fans fortunate enough—or unfortunate enough, depending on one's personal feelings toward preseason football—not to have the game blacked out will see a heavy dose of those lower 37 in the game's second half.
What other sport's teams operates as those of the NFL do?
Every year, they bring in dozens of great athletes for about a month in real-life American Idol situations in which each guy is trying to achieve his dream despite having all odds stacked against him, because so often the final cut is full of guys who have been groomed (and trained) for the NFL since grade school.
You have to believe that the no-names on the Bills' current active roster look at the top 53 of recent years and think they too have shots, with all the undrafted, lowly drafted and scrap-heap players in prominent positions like starting quarterback and No. 1 receiver the Bills have mined in recent years.
But this team is a bit different than in previous years. It's suddenly deeper, more talented.
Here's a quick and fun look at the roster alphabetically with a question, comment or stupid joke for each.
He's got a name that would fit really nicely in a novel. But can he fit into one of the five WR spots on the final roster? Probably not.
Extremely generic name, but allow me to extend a warm welcome to Buffalo from Bills fans everywhere. How do you feel about being able to go after your old teammate Tom Brady?
We would love to see some of that.
Rookie guard with practice squad written all over him. Would that be okay with you, Mr. Asper?
You know, the guy who made us all forget Poznansky or whatever his name was. (I already forgot.) You know, the guy we all wanted Kawika Mitchell to just shut up and be.
I'd like to know what kind of role Barnett's playing in grooming the younger LBs on the roster, the Sheppards, Carders and Bradhams.
Defensive end on the bubble due to the new depth up front. He's been good on special teams, but so will be rookie LBs Nigel Bradham and Tank Carder.
The NFL's a cruel, cruel league with no minor leagues. I feel as though if the NFL had a minor league, Batten could have a really nice little career. He'd make a great name in a baseball league, wouldn't he? That's a question, by the way.
Looks like a prototypical NFL linebacker already. Mean as hell. We'll see what kind of role Bradham will settle into as a rookie. My gut tells me he's something good.
First-year TE out of Rutgers, but where the hell did he come from? Does anyone know this guy? Has he been practicing with the team, or is this just a fictional ruse dreamed up by the Bills?
Please comment or back channel. Is Kevin Brock real?
Something again tells me this guy is a football player. Like, if football were as old of a sport as, say, boxing, every male up his ancestral line would have been a football player.
Being fast and excelling in the SEC will do that, I suppose.
Colin is a second-year backup center/guard who is probably fighting rookie Zebrie Sanders for the eighth spot on the line should the Bills only keep eight. But they might keep nine.
Will they? Let's hope it won't make a difference.
Kraig Urbik appears set as the backup center should Wood go down, with Chad Rinehart poised to then take Urbik's spot.
The Bills just signed the former Pitt RB to a tryout contract to possibly push Johnny White and Tashard Choice for the third running-back spot. Let's hope that competition won't have any bearing on the season, aside from special teams.
Can this guy cover an onside kick? That's a good question.
If you were a safety, why would you ever choose to be a strong safety when you could be a free safety? Who wouldn't rather be free than strong? Go back to 1992, and ask Mike Tyson; I think he'd give you an honest answer.
Okay, that's pretty stupid. Byrd's got the potential to be the best free safety in the division, possibly beyond.
The former Horned Frog/BMX biker extraordinaire should find himself in the same boat as Nigel Bradham.
Whether he sees significant minutes outside special teams and what he does with those minutes, are well, the fun of watching a rookie.
Again, no offense to Mr. Carmon, but I don't know how he got on the team or whether he's real or not. I guess I'll just take the Bills' word on this. Something tells me he was a seventh-round pick.
Let's see...nope. Undrafted.
And Google even assumed I was searching for Titanic director James Cameron.
The third-year DT and former third-round pick finds himself on the bubble after two underwhelming seasons and with the undrafted Kellen Heard threatening him for the ninth spot on the D-line.
If the Bills cut him, will anyone carrington that much?
Whom do you see as the Bills' fifth receiver?
If this guy were your cousin, can you imagine trying to explain to someone that? "My cousin Mike Caussin is a tight end in the NFL."
Big, slow, terrific Scott Chandler. I can just feel Fitzpatrick drooling over Chandler's 6'7'' and David Nelson's 6'5" frames when he dreams of short-yardage passing downs.
For the life of me, I could never figure out why Choice ever got the ball when either C.J. Spiller or Fred Jackson was available last season. It never seemed to be a good choice, and I'm not hearing this whole "rest" argument.
This guy never looked better than a third-string backup thrown in for an ineffective "change of pace."
Tough spot for David Clowney, as he's probably in the same boat as Kamar Aiken and Naaman Roosevelt. There'll be five receivers duking it out over the preseason for the fifth WR spot.
Them's not good odds.
I feel as though Dareus has the chance to go down as one of the most likable Buffalo athletes in a long time. The guy has charisma and humor for days. And men as absurdly large as Dareus already have an upper hand in the humor department.
I think 2012 will see Dareus emerge as leader on the field and team favorite.
Here's an honest go by the Bills to find a role for an H-back like Dickerson. For the uninitiated, the H-Back is a fullback/tight-end/receiver-hybrid type of player who is mainly installed to catch passes.
We'll see if it sticks.
He's got an outside chance at nudging Corey McIntyre out of his fullback spot or making the cut as the third tight end.
Probably Easley's last chance to continue his career as a Bill. Tons of talent as a receiver, tons of potential.
A project that emerged out of last year's training camp that made the practice squad unexpectedly. Still, it's hard to see Eddins making the team unless the unexpected occurs again.
How'd they know I was just thinking about this guy?! It would be a good idea to keep Edwards and his capable play and experience around, but that didn't count for peanuts last year when the Bills cut Geoff Hangartner in a transparent salary-dump move.
Edwards is due to make even more than Hangartner.
I'm sure his agent is aware.
Nothing personal, but I got nothing for ya, Sean. Good luck!
Forget about everything else, I want to know what the plan is with the beard. To grow or not to grow, Fitzie.
I'm sorry, I just don't like how similar this guy's first name is to Dick Jauron.
In whom do you feel more confident starting Week 1 at left tackle?
I'm always forgetting this guy is on the roster and should start right away. And every time I remember, I think, "Oh yeah, Gilmore! He's gonna be friccin' great! This team's gonna win some friccin' games, aren't they?!' And then I think, "I love when people with all that hair are that fast!"
I don't think I've ever been this excited about a cornerback prospect.
The Bills' new 343-pound movable mountain at left tackle. There's a hundred good questions about how this rookie is going to handle life in the NFL, like Aaron Maybin in Week 1, for example.
But what I really want to know is what these guys eat every day in training camp.
How amazing is that the the Bills' first-, second- and third-round picks fall onto their roster alphabetically in exactly the same order? Someone call on of those 1-800 psychic numbers and get to the bottom of this. Share results in the comments.
One more amazing number: 163. That's the difference in pounds between Glenn and Graham.
Glenn's almost a Graham and a Moorman put together.
DB. Maybe the NFL will soon find a better two letters to put together to refer to defensive back. That's all.
I think this guy might be pretty good. Stevie, Jones, Nelson and Graham are locks at WR.
The fifth spot has to be between Easley and Hagan, with Roosevelt, Clowney and Aiken looking in.
Part of me feels a little bad for Hairston. He played way beyond expectation in his rookie year at left tackle, and GM Buddy Nix gave him a vocal vote of confidence heading into the draft but then drafted his replacement when Cordy Glenn fell into the second round.
But if Glenn starts at LT, the Bills will have something they haven't had much of in recent years: proven OL depth.
I'm done feeling bad.
Really liked this guy's beastly play last year. I think he may be responsible for Nix's first draft-class holdover disappointments, Troup and Carrington, getting shown the door on cut-down day.
Named after Buffalo's former Parks Commissioner. Next.
No question about it, Jackson is the competitive heart and soul of this team.
A great story, an intriguing prospect and an incredible body girth at 375 pounds. But he's got less than a 50-50 shot at making the team as a guard.
If Carrington or Troup make the team, chances are it will come at the expense of this veteran DE turned LB turned DE again.
He's been a capable player, but will anyone miss him?
When Lee Evans departed somewhat unexpectedly during last preseason, Johnson lamented the loss, as Evans had been a type of mentor through his development. 2012 is the time for Johnson to mature and pass the mentorship torch onto the the younger players.
The Bills and Ryan Fitzpatrick have a lot of nice things to say about #19. But I'd call his career in a Buffalo uniform underwhelming. Waiting for him to take that next step and I'm still unconvinced he has the speed needed to be that deep threat.
What a long, strange trip it's been with the Bills during Kelsay's tenure. If the Bills make the playoffs, Kelsay's No. 1 on my cry list.
Don't ask him to be center. He's a Pro-Bowl caliber guard.
With the shortened kickoffs and Lindell's aging, wimpy and accurate leg, might the Bills be tempted to cut him in favor of John Potter?
Not bad on special teams last year, but I don't see him making the team.
He's No. 2 on the cry list should the Bills make the playoffs.
I suppose the Bills will keep Leodis around and try to play him as a slot corner in nickel and dime packages.
Don't discount the connection between this former Pitt LB and former Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt, who is currently the Bills defensive coordinator.
I wonder if Light Out himself is tired of the speculation over whether he'll ever be healthy again. I know I am. Good thing the Bills don't need to depend on him.
That worked out great last year.
I wonder how many guys in their 20s named Prince were conceived to the soundtrack of Purple Rain.
Will the man who put Favre's career out of its misery find a way to bridge his talents over the moat of mediocrity?
I don't know who this man is or where he came from. I'm going to place a call right now to see if he is real...The call mysteriously drops every time I ask One Bills Drive if he exists.
How many other punters out there are represented by fan jerseys at home games? Yeah, our punter punts the s$*& out of that ball!
Veteran guy, useful player, but there's no way around thinking he's probably the weakest link on the defense.
Just when I began wondering whether the Bills would ever have a guy who could catch a pass 10-20 yards deep in the middle of the field, this beautiful man answered my prayers.
I knew this guy was toast when my brother-in-law called me raving about his fourth-quarter performance (in the Wildcat?) last year during the preseason.
Having a good fourth quarter in the preseason is like signing your own contract for obscurity.
How could you not root for a guy with a name like that?
It's pronounced "peers" and not to be mistaken for "pears" which is how the name is spelled. Erik "appears" to have provided the Bills with stability at the right-tackle position.
He's got more leg than Misty May-Treanor. We'll see if the Bills think it's worth using a roster spot on it so they can ensure a season's worth of boring kickoffs.
It's hard to believe that Moorman's punting duties are really under any threat.
Based on recent injury vibes on the O-line, what's the over-under on number of weeks before Rinehart is installed as a starter? Three? Four?
He's currently penciled in as the No. 1 kick returner and No. 5 cornerback.
Improved receiver depth and Roosevelt's ineligibility for the practice squad are shaping this preseason up to be the Buffalo native's swan song as a Bill.
Great hands, poor speed, and you can't fix slow.
He's No. 71B. No. 71 is being worn by Sam Young. No one needs to know any of this.
I wonder how he feels about the Bills publicly searching to add a fourth safety that's not named Nick Saenz.
Long snapper. My favorite position in football.
I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that this rookie tackle's name is pronounced "Zebra." If so, how soon can this guy start? If not, my full apologies to the Sanders family.
The OLB in nickel and dime, presumably. Scott's as solid of a tackler as it gets, and he always seems to play above his ability. Which just means that he's a lot better than he ever gets credit for being.
Strong safety. He'd rather be strong than free, and that's admirable. Showed a lot of potential in his rookie season last year.
Another receiver! Seriously, just cut him now, and save him the tease!
He's the biggest question mark on defense. He'll be the "mike man" relaying the plays to the defense, reading offensive formations. A lot of responsibility for the former third round pick out of LSU.
I really wonder whether the Bills might cut their expensive gadget QB. If they want to run a Wildcat, wouldn't Vince Young be a better option?
Something tells me that Young running out of the Wildcat would unleash his inner Tebow.
Not the Cubs' closer of the '80s but Chandlers probable backup at tight end.
The rookie from Texas is competing for the practice squad.
I would love to see Spiller being used in the passing game more effectively. Spiller's ready to make big plays and justify where he was drafted.
Kudos to him for never complaining about his role under Fred Jackson. It can't always be easy.
An unfortunate last name for a guy with "cut" written all over him.
Signature moment as a Bill was a thrown warm-up ball hitting him in the head when his neck was turned. Never forget.
We'll see if Thigpen can hold off the ever raw and still-learning-the-system Vince Young.
Even when Fitzpatrick had a cracked rib and was throwing interceptions like Mardi Gras beads, the Bills refused to use Thigpen last season. What does that tell you?
Similar situation as Merriman, yet more disappointing because he was drafted directly ahead of Rob Gronkowski. It's high time this fella did something.
Might be the Bills' best 21st-century waiver-wire addition. And unlike Levitre, he can snap the ball in shotgun if need be.
Sorry, don't think so.
In an uphill battle to keep a spot on the team going into his second year. He better pray he doesn't pull a Nesbitt and dominate in a preseason fourth quarter.
Is this guy so bad we have to keep enduring Tashard Choice? Really?
Showed flashes of competence when healthy as rookie. He should get plenty of chances this year to usurp Terrence McGee's hold on the No. 2 cornerback spot.
I heard he showed up because the Bills were paying big money to anyone named "Williams."
He's looking for one of those epic bounce-back-from-an-injury-and-now-I'm-gonna-just-freaking-kill-it years.
He looks like the kinda guy who might take a bite out of a guard if it weren't for that cumbersome face mask.
I think a lot Bills fans are expecting the second coming of Bruce Smith and will re-learn just how special of a player Bruce was, and then Bruce will respond with a demand for half of Mario's salary because Bruce never made money anything close to that and he's a big reason why any defensive end is making anything these days.
Mario won't be Bruce, but he'll be a problem, and he'll make everyone else on the defense look a hell of a lot better.
Another willful strong safety. I still get goosebumps thinking about how he baited Tom Brady into a throw and executed a huge interception to help put the Bills over the New England losing-streak hump last year.
He's chock full on intangibles, and I hope his age won't start to slow him any.
I don't know anything about this young man, but I'm sure I would like him. It's tight out there for the offensive tackles is all I'm saying.
As I mentioned earlier under "Smith, Brad," I wonder if the Bills are at all tempted to put Young in a Tebow-like role in a Wildcat formation and excise Smith's roster spot in the process.
The battle for backup QB will probably be one of the most compelling thing for fans to watch in preseason games, if watching preseason games is your thing.
If you've read to the bottom here, I think I'm safe in guessing you already have the DVR programmed.