Buffalo Bills: Players in Heated Competitions Who Must Step Up
The first set of NFL cuts are on August 28, when teams must reduce their squads to 80 players. This is when the "obvious" cuts occur. The under-performers, long-shots and incapable players will not survive to August 29th.
The second and final set of cuts on August 31st means an 80 man team will be reduced to a 53 man roster. And this set of cuts is more of a personnel decision rather than a talent factor.
As does every NFL team each year, the Bills have a number of players on the bubble of making the roster. With two preseason games gone and two remaining, these are make-or-break opportunities for a majority of players on Buffalo's roster.
This list looks at five players who have a lot to prove if they intend on surviving the dreaded cut-down day. These players all have talent, but talent doesn't always materialize into a roster spot. Veterans and rookies are all in the same spot as nothing is guaranteed.
If these five players want to make the 2012 Buffalo Bills and keep their NFL dreams alive, they must step up their game and prove their worth.
Vince Young was one of the few bright spots in the preseaosn loss to the Vikings. He made a spectacular throw to T.J. Graham that may have given him the edge over Tyler Thigpen. Young needs these two games to lock in his spot. He is on the verge of being the No. 2 quarterback, but Thigpen is more familiar with the offense.
The more reps Young gets, the more opportunities he will get to show why he is a two-time Pro Bowler. He actually is the most accomplished quarterback on the roster, but he must show Buffalo why. If Young slips or has a letdown, the Bills will simply go with the safer quarterback option in Thigpen.
Young's next two games will be a heated battle with Thigpen, and only Young's play dictates whether he will remain a Bill.
Naaman Roosevelt has over-performed from the time he first put on a Bills helmet. He is from Buffalo, went to the University of Buffalo and was signed by the Bills.
But the NFL isn't always about heart-warming stories. Roosevelt has to earn his spot in a tight wide receiver battle.
He was twice cut by Buffalo, but is still in the mix to earn a spot. Last season, Roosevelt caught 16 passes for 257 yards and a touchdown in 10 games. He has impressed the coaches in training camp and makes plays on the field.
But his chances of making the team remain slim at this point. Roosevelt is potentially the sixth string receiver. Above him on the depth chart are Stevie Johnson, Donald Jones, David Nelson, Derek Hagan and T.J. Graham. Marcus Easley and Ruvell Martin are also still in the mix for the last wideout spot.
Roosevelt needs these two games to show that he can not only contribute as a receiver but also on special teams. The competition is tight and the practice squad is no longer an option for Roosevelt. He needs as many snaps as possible to make the hometown hero reality come true. Any mistake or drop will hurt his chances, and if he can't play on special teams, he might as well pack his bags now.
With Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller locked in as the team's top two running backs, the battle for the No. 3 spot is between Tashard Choice and Johnny White.
Choice is the experienced NFL player who played for Chan Gailey at Georgia Tech. White was a 2011 Bills draft pick and can still grow as a player.
If the Bills stay with Choice, they know what they are getting. They can keep White and try to develop him into a stud. There are pros and cons to keeping both players but the deciding factor may be special teams.
Quite frankly, the Bills won't have many opportunities for the No. 3 back to make plays. Anything short yardage will probably go to Brad Smith. Though Choice is the better back at the moment, White is be the superior special teams player, making this roster spot a true battle.
This leaves the Bills with a difficult decision to make. Do they go with the better runner or the better special teams player? Though White would play more on special teams than Choice would play at running back, there will always be more special teams players available.
The spot is up for grabs and Choice is playing fairly well as of late. White needs these two games to explode on the ground and to make plays on special teams if he wants to remain a Bill.
Danny Batten spent all of 2010 on the injured reserve list but returned and started four games in 2011. The coaches like Batten but a disappointing preseason has No. 57 in some trouble.
The talent at linebacker includes Nick Barnett, Kelvin Sheppard, Arthur Moats, Kirk Morrison, Bryan Scott, Nigel Bradham and Tank Carder. Though Bradham and Carder are rookies, the Bills will keep both players considering where they were drafted.
Getting into the mix will be harder to do in Buffalo's new 4-3 defense, as there are capable players ahead of Batten on the depth chart. He will be battling Scott McKillop, Chris White and potentially Bradham and Carder for the reserve spots.
Assuming the rookies make the team, the battle appears to be between McKillop and Batten. Batten had limited playing time against the Vikings and the lack of reps will end up hurting him. McKillop has been impressing coaches and is the superior special teams player.
Batten is struggling now but has impressed in the past. He must dig down, focus and take advantage of every snap if he wants to stay a Bill. Ultimately, special teams will be the life or death of him.
There simply may not be a spot for Torell Troup on Buffalo's loaded defensive line.
Troup was the second pick of the Chan Gailey/Buddy Nix era, selected with the 41st pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. However injuries have limited him to 20 games in two seasons and may be costing him his career as a Bill.
He has been in pain for eight months and has failed to make an impact on the field. He has yet to appear in the first two preseason games and very well needs the next two to possibly save his career.
Troup needs to fight through the pain and make plays if he wants to stay a Bill. A lot was invested into Troup as a high draft pick, and he has done little to reward the Bills for their trust.
Unless Troup can pull himself together, stay healthy and make plays, he will be out of town soon.