The Buffalo Bills have one last chance to see players compete for a handful of roster spots when they travel to Detroit to take on the Lions this Thursday. With rosters being trimmed to 53 players by Friday, the Bills coaching staff have a lot of difficult decisions to make.
Quarterback Vince Young gave Buffalo false hope with a brilliant performance against the Vikings. The kid looked like he finally had a grasp of the offense and surely separated from Tyler Thigpen for the No. 2 spot. But a disastrous performance against the Steelers changed everything about the quarterback situation.
The Bills acquired Tarvaris Jackson from Seattle and cut ties with Young. Now they have four quarterbacks on their roster and face a dilemma. Ryan Fitzpatrick is obviously the starter and Brad Smith is locked in at the No. 3 quarterback spot. Jackson is a lock to make the roster, but will have to learn a complex system in a little more than a week.
Does Buffalo have the luxury of keeping four quarterbacks on the team? In the event of an injury to Fitzpatrick, Jackson would be lost on the field, to no fault of his own. Thigpen clearly does not deserve a roster spot, but does know the offense, even though he cannot execute it. If the Bills do in fact keep four quarterbacks until Jackson is comfortable in the offense, they are taking a very valuable roster spot from another player who actually has a chance to contribute.
If the Bills decide to keep kicker John Potter, his only role will be to kick the ball off. Potter has had a good preseason and has delivered on what is expected of him. But can the Bills afford the luxury of keeping a player just to kick the ball off?
This preseason has caused some worry, as the defense has looked vulnerable and the offense has looked flat. Reducing a 75 man squad into a 53 man roster is simply a numbers game. How many players at each position can Buffalo afford? How many role players and pure special teamers get a spot? Keeping Potter for a limited role takes an opportunity from a field player that can be used more often.
Keeping a guy like Thigpen can steal a roster spot from a player like Naaman Roosevelt or Johnny White. Roosevelt and White have both impressed coaches, but find themselves lost on the depth chart. Thigpen has looked horrible and doesn't deserve to make the team, but if Fitzpatrick gets hurt in Week 1, the Bills would be in big trouble. At the very least, Roosevelt and White can provide depth and make a play when their number is called.
Outside of dealing with the numbers game with Thigpen and Potter, the Bills face difficult choices at certain positions. Do the Bills keep a third tight end, like Dorin Dickerson, until Mike Caussin comes off the PUP? Or do they go with only two tight ends, Scott Chandler and Lee Smith, and hope for the best?
Do Dwan Edwards and Spencer Johnson keep their fairly hefty salaries to simply be role players off the bench? Does that really make sense for Buffalo? Or do they keep younger players who are less talented and try to develop them on the defensive line?
The Bills have a load of difficult decisions to make come Friday. How certain players perform against the Lions can certainly change their fate on the team, but time is running out.
The NFL cuts can be a cruel numbers game, but Buffalo must do what is best for its franchise. So if keeping a fourth quarterback or third kicker is something the team feels is necessary, then so be it. But it will be losing quality players in the process.