Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey has some tough decisions to make regarding the team’s final 53-man roster, and the time to make those decisions is quickly running out.
The Bills open up the 2012 regular season on September 9 against the New York Jets, which is just two weeks away. With just one preseason game left on the schedule, the remaining opportunities for players to make their marks are few and far between.
Carving out a final roster takes an endless amount of time, preparation and foresight. Players, too, put in so much hard work to prove they’re worthy of a coveted NFL roster spot. But at the end of the day, each team can only keep 53 players leading up to game day.
Buffalo has more depth this year than in recent seasons, which is a good thing when trimming the roster. However, that doesn’t take away the importance of deciding whom to keep and whom to let go.
Here are five players who will be the toughest for the Bills to cut heading into the regular season.
What could be tougher for an NFL team than to determine the fate of a hometown favorite?
Bills wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt isn’t only a native of Buffalo, NY; he was also born on Christmas Eve, making him one of those early gifts fans just want to see.
And it’s not like his is just a pity roster spot either. Roosevelt has exceptional hands and has always been one of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s favorite targets whenever he gets on the field. So he has something to offer.
The disadvantage for the hometown kid is that he isn’t especially gifted in any physical capacity. He’s not especially fast, not particularly big and doesn’t have the elusive agility that some receivers possess in the NFL.
However, there’s no denying the importance of running clean routes and catching the ball with consistency. This offseason, he continued his determined ways and leapfrogged Marcus Easley on the depth chart. And with the news on Sunday that the team has cut receiver David Clowney (per Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News), Roosevelt just got one step closer to a roster spot.
To lock up a coveted position on the final roster, he’ll need to convince the staff to keep him over players like Ruvell Martin and/or Kamar Aiken (with Easley likely gone).
It’s not out of the realm of possibility.
If it weren’t for the newfound depth along the defensive line, Kellen Heard probably would have already locked up a roster spot by now.
Unfortunately for the 6’6”, 340-pound defensive tackle, the position is pretty deep for the Bills this year.
Heard, who is still just 26 years old, has a lot of potential. He’s flashed some of that upside with the Bills, most notably in last year’s season finale, which saw him notch five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble against the New England Patriots in Foxboro.
But Buffalo already has Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus entrenched as the starters, leaving only two backup spots (presumably) in the team’s new 4-3 defense. Currently, it appears that veterans Dwan Edwards and Spencer Johnson have done enough to lead that battle, despite their hefty contracts for 2012.
The other option for the Bills is to keep someone like Johnson as a defensive end to make room for Heard. However, that would also mean the team would have to write off the likes of Kyle Moore, Robert Eddins and Jarron Gilbert.
Either way you cut it, Heard’s situation will be a tough one for the Bills. On one hand, they could take a chance on a young, hungry player like Heard on the cheap. On the other hand, they risk losing the veteran presence of someone like Dwan Edwards.
It won’t be long before the situation is resolved.
The Buffalo Bills selected offensive tackle Zebrie Sanders in the fifth round of this year’s NFL draft. Listed at 6’6” and 318 pounds, the former Florida State Seminole has prototypical size and length for an NFL tackle.
Buffalo selected Sanders knowing he was more of a developmental project on the offensive line. That proved to be true this offseason. While he’s played well at times, Sanders has struggled with consistency and has had some trouble with penalties.
The one thing working in Sanders’ favor is that starting right tackle Erik Pears has been slow to recover from hernia surgery. If he were to miss time, backup left tackle Chris Hairston would start on the right side, leaving the depth at the position a bit thin.
Journeyman Sam Young is expected to make the 53-man roster as a backup right tackle, so Sanders would need some luck and a terrific showing in the preseason finale to make a case. But as of now, the most likely scenario for the rookie is the practice squad.
Rookie kicker John Potter has had to do one thing this offseason to even have the slightest chance of making the final roster, and that is record touchbacks consistently on kickoffs.
Well, up until now, he hasn’t disappointed.
For a team like the Bills, keeping two kickers on the 53-man squad seems like a luxury. But when one of those kickers can ensure a touchback on every kickoff, that’s an asset for a team.
Potter has a big leg off the tee, but he’s still working on his power and accuracy on field goals. Clearly, that job belongs to Rian Lindell this year, who has been one of the most reliable kickers in Bills history.
So, the rookie has done what he does best, and that is blast the ball out of the end zone to prevent returns and provide an advantage in field position.
Nothing is guaranteed for him, and his roster spot will surely be one of the more difficult decisions Chan Gailey and his staff will need to make.
When Bills lead journalist Chris Brown broke word that Dorin Dickerson was making waves at Bills OTAs, most people were surprised.
Dickerson is an athlete—pure and simple. The problem for him in his brief time in the NFL thus far is that he doesn’t quite fit the mold of any one position. Fortunately for him, Chan Gailey knows how to utilize playmakers and work to players’ strengths, which is why the Bills took a chance on him in free agency.
Throughout the offseason, the Bills have been using Dickerson as an H-back, lining him up out of the backfield and occasionally on the line. Though he isn’t the strongest blocker at 6’2” and 227 pounds, he serves as a matchup nightmare lining up a fullback.
Dickerson’s biggest asset is his speed, which he uses to find open space on passing routes. He catches the ball well both on short throws and downfield. For a head coach like Gailey, who thrives on offensive creativity, his potential seems too good to let go.
For the 24-year-old, his biggest challenge for making the final roster is a numbers game. He’d likely serve as the team’s third tight end, which would mean the Bills would have to cut a superior blocking tight end like Kevin Brock or Lee Smith.
His fate also will be affected by what Buffalo decides to do at other positions, such as John Potter’s situation at kicker, depth at linebacker and how many receivers they ultimately keep.
Gailey will have to apply some of that play-calling creativity to his decisions on molding the final roster, because Dickerson seems like a useful player in Buffalo’s offensive scheme.