Buffalo Bills 2012: Agonizing over Final Roster Cuts
We are only two days away from the Buffalo Bills announcing who has made the final 53-man roster for the upcoming 2012 season.
As things stand now, there is a group of about 10 players that are "on the roster bubble" that could result in them making the team, going to the practice squad or being released from the team, based on how many players the Bills front office wants to stock for every position on the team.
For the purposes of this presentation, we will break down the Bills roster into their position groups and attempt to narrow down the options of who will make the final roster.
We are going to ask our Bills fans on Bleacher Report to get involved on this project. I will narrow the list down to 55 players, asking our readers to make a case for who should be the final two players waived from the team.
Should be a very interesting and agonizing next two days for the Bills front office, the coaches, the players and the fans.
Practice Squad Eligible Players
With thanks to Chris Brown at BuffaloBills.com, here is a list of the various Bills players that are still eligible for the practice squad, should they not make it past final cuts.
With roster reductions taking place this week, a factor in some of that decision making is the practice squad eligibility of players. Here are the players on Buffalo’s roster that still have practice squad eligibility:
WR Kamar Aiken
G/C Mark Asper
LB Nigel Bradham
CB Ron Brooks
RB Zac Brown
LB Tank Carder
OT James Carmon
TE Mike Caussin (on Active/PUP)
FB/TE Dorin Dickerson
WR Marcus Easley
DE Robert Eddins
DE Sean Ferguson
DL Jarron Gilbert
CB Stephon Gilmore
OT Cordy Glenn
WR T.J. Graham
CB Isaiah Green
S Delano Howell
CB Prince Miller
DE Kyle Moore
TE Fendi Onobun
K John Potter
P Shawn Powell
DT Jay Ross
S Nick Saenz
OT Zebrie Sanders
WR Derek Session
C David Snow
S Nick Sukay
OL Jake Vermiglio
LB Chris White
OL Keith Williams
OT Sam Young
The Bills blog on the team website laid out the following conditions for who exactly is eligible for making the practice squad:
1. Players who do not have an Accrued Season of free agent credit; or
2. Players who have one or more Accrued Seasons, but who were on the Active List for fewer than nine regular season games during each of such Accrued Seasons (Note: any player who has an Accrued Season during which he was on the Active List for nine or more regular season games is not eligible for the Practice Squad).
A player may serve on a Practice Squad a maximum of three seasons. However, a player who has served two seasons on a Practice Squad, as defined below, is permitted to serve on a Practice Squad in a third season only if the team by which he is employed that season has 53 players on its Active/Inactive List during the entire period of his employment
Quarterbacks projected to keep (3): Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tarvaris Jackson and Brad Smith
Buffalo has its starter in Ryan Fitzpatrick and now has a competent backup in Tarvaris Jackson. Brad Smith is still on board to run the Wildcat offense and serve as the emergency third-string quarterback.
While some people might prefer to see the Bills keep Tyler Thigpen for the first few weeks until Jackson learns the offense, I see that move as a waste of a valuable roster spot.
If Fitzpatrick goes down or needs to come out for a series or two, the Bills still have 10 days to prepare Jackson for that and can still run Smith in there to hold down the fort until Fitzpatrick would be ready to come back in.
What I am saying is that I don't place much value in Tyler Thigpen compared to the other key players on the roster bubble.
Who Wound Up Making the Final Cuts: Fitzpatrick, Thigpen, Jackson and Smith. Kept all four.
Running Backs (4)
Running Backs Projected to Keep (4): Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Tashard Choice and Corey McIntyre.
Based on this projection, that means the Bills would be cutting Johnny White and Zach Brown from the roster. White has been hampered by injuries during training camp and has been limited in both practices and the preseason games, which allowed Choice to beat him out for the final running back slot.
White simply didn't get enough touches to show what he could do and stay healthy enough to capitalize on his chances when he was supposed to be getting them.
Who wound up making final cuts: (4) Jackson, Spiller, Choice and McIntyre.
Wide Receivers (6)
Wide Receivers Projected to Keep (6): Steve Johnson, David Nelson, Donald Jones, Derek Hagan, Naaman Roosevelt and T.J. Graham. If you want to call Brad Smith one-half of a receiver, we could then bump up the WRs to 6.5.
I think that Naaman Roosevelt has saved his roster spot based on how well he flashed as a punt returner in the preseason games. We all have seen Leodis McKelvin as a punt returner, and he is far too inconsistent for my liking.
Having Roosevelt as a receiver also gives the Bills a reliable returner if McKelvin is getting too indecisive in his return choices or if he gets dinged up.
This means that the Bills would be releasing Marcus Easley, Kamar Aiken and Ruvell Martin.
If the wide receiver group actually played out like this, I think the Bills would look to put both Easley and Aiken on the practice squad, hoping that Easley wouldn't be picked up by another team. He still has time to develop, but clearly he seemed to take a step backwards from where he was at this time last year.
If Martin is deemed too valuable for special teams, then it might be Roosevelt that gets the pink slip. Either way, this is a highly competitive group, and it will be a very tough decision for Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix to make.
Who wound up making final cuts (4): Johnson, Nelson, Jones and Graham.
Tight Ends (3)
Tight Ends Projected to Keep (3): Scott Chandler, Dorin Dickerson and Lee Smith. We should also note that the Bills have tight end Mike Caussin on the PUP list, so he will not be ready for the beginning of the season.
I am not 100 percent sold on Dorin Dickerson yet, but I do like what I have seen from him so far. It is just that I haven't seen him play enough snaps to form an opinion with more conviction.
The Bills would be releasing Kevin Brock under the above scenario, who isn't eligible for the practice squad. The Bills have already released Fendi Onobun, and Onobun is eligible to come back to the team to develop on the practice squad.
Now if the Bills want to bring in Chris Cooley, who was just released by the Washington Redskins this week, I would be in favor of finding how much he has left in the tank. Why should the Patriots be the only team with two great tight ends to worry about in the AFC East?
Who wound up making final cuts: (3) Chandler, Dickerson and Smith.
Offensive Line (9)
Projected Offensive Linemen Kept (9): Eric Wood, Andy Levitre, Cordy Glenn, Erik Pears, Chad Rinehart, Chris Hairston, Colin Brown, Sam Young and Kraig Urbik.
By keeping the above group, that means the Bills decided to release rookie Mark Asper, Keith Williams, David Snow, Zebrie Sanders and James Carmon. It is conceivable that the Bills could ask the two players they drafted, Asper and Sanders, to come back to the practice squad.
With so many offensive lines around the NFL being banged up right now, it is not out of the question that one of them could be scooped up when they hit the waiver wire. Some teams are desperate for help on the line.
We don't know if the Bills will keep nine linemen or go with only eight. Based on the injury history of Eric Wood and the groin injury to Erik Pears, the Bills might want to go with an extra lineman in the first two or three weeks to make sure that these guys are healthy enough to hang in there for the long grind.
Who wound up making final cuts (9): All nine players we projected were kept. Sanders was placed on I.R.
Defensive Line (9)
Projected Defensive Linemen to Keep (9): Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Mark Anderson, Chris Kelsay, Dwan Edwards, Spencer Johnson, Kyle Moore and Kellen Heard.
Two to three months ago, we were openly speculating that either Spencer Johnson or Dwan Edwards or both of them would have to go due to the depth of the Bills' defensive line.
That was before we came to learn that the Bills would be releasing Shawne Merriman and putting Torell Troup on IR. Those two moves very well may have saved jobs for both veterans in 2012.
As it is, the Bills still have some talented players to release, and right now I think that includes Alex Carrington, Robert Eddins and Jarron Gilbert. Perhaps the Bills can turn one of these players into a draft pick by trading them to another team. After all, Carrington was a third-round draft pick in 2010.
If Carrington is released, that means that the only active players left from the 2010 draft class would be Spiller and Moats. Not a very productive haul for Buddy Nix or the Bills organization.
Some may question keeping Heard, but he is a player that I really like. He has size, strength and a good, constantly running motor. He is huge to move off the line on short yardage situations, so I would like to see the Bills keep him if at all possible, especially since Troup is on IR.
Eddins and Gilbert are eligible to come back to the practice squad.
Who wound up making final cuts (8) Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Mark Anderson, Chris Kelsay, Spencer Johnson, Kyle Moore and Alex Carrington.
Projected Linebackers to Keep (8): Nick Barnett, Nigel Bradham, Kirk Morrison, Kelvin Sheppard, Tank Carder, Scott McKillop, Arthur Moats and Bryan Scott.
The number of linebackers that make the final roster is always a little deceiving because some of them will be purely kept for special teams purposes. Rookies Bradham and Carder and veteran McKillop could all fall into that specialization.
The Bills have good depth at linebacker thanks to re-signing Morrison and having landed athletic rookies in Carder and Bradham. McKillop has impressed at camp and in preseason games making plays.
Sheppard will take a step up this year, and all of the linebackers who take snaps on defense will benefit from the much-improved defensive line that is opening up lanes right in front of them to whoever has the ball.
By keeping these eight, that means that Chris White would be released. White has made some nice plays on special teams, so it is possible that White could be switched with either McKillop or one of the rookies.
The depth at linebacker should keep the unit fresh throughout the year and allows for the Bills to sub in players that have better pass coverage skills for those that don't. It also means that the Bills can take a hit from an injury standpoint and not be decimated by losing a key starter.
Who wound up making final cuts: (7): Barnett, Bradham, Morrison, Sheppard, Moats, Scott and White.
Projected Secondary to Keep (9): Jairus Byrd, Ron Brooks, Stephon Gilmore, Terrence McGee, Leodis McKelvin, Aaron Williams, George Wilson, Justin Rogers and Da'Norris Searcy.
The members of the secondary that project to be released include Isaiah Green, Delano Howell and Nick Saenz. From this group, the only player I had reservations about was Howell, as he has been impressive so far in the preseason and showed that he can really hit out of the safety role.
Buddy Nix has made overtures that he would like to keep four safeties, and if that is still the case and he opts to keep Howell, then that means we have to come up with three players to release from my current projections.
I still have the Bills keeping McGee in the secondary, but if his injury doesn't show much improvement, he could be one of the final agonizing cuts that has to be made.
As it is, the Bills secondary offers a very athletic unit that is coming around. They should be able to capitalize on the improved pass rush and come up with a strong number of interceptions this season.
Who wound up making final cuts: (10): All nine players we projected above made the team, plus Howell.
Special Teams Specialists (4)
Projected Special Teams Specialist to Keep (4): Rian Lindell, Brian Moorman, Garrison Sanborn and John Potter.
The only other player in camp is punter Shawn Powell. From the first evening practice I attended at St. Johns Fisher, Powell didn't come close to matching Moorman, so I would be surprised if the Bills kept him over the veteran.
So that is it for the positional breakdown. On the next slide, I will present an overview of the current 55 players I projected, so you can scan the list to see which choices you like and which ones you don't.
Who wound up making final cuts: (4) All four we projected wound up making it.
Here Is a 55-Man Projection, Cut Two from This Group
This slide is an overview of the 55-player roster that I project. Obviously the Bills can only keep 53 players. So, your job is to now go over this list and find the two names that you think don't belong on the final roster.
Please go ahead and leave your suggestions in the comments section. If you see other changes you want to make to my options, go ahead and share those with all of us as well.
Quarterbacks (3): Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tarvaris Jackson and Brad Smith.
Running Backs (4): Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Cory McIntyre and Tashard Choice.
Wide Receivers (6): Steve Johnson, David Nelson, Donald Jones, Derek Hagan, Naaman Roosevelt and T.J. Graham.
Tight Ends (3): Scott Chandler, Dorin Dickerson and Lee Smith.
Offensive Linemen (9): Eric Wood, Andy Levitre, Kraig Urbik, Chad Rinehart, Erik Pears, Cordy Glenn, Chris Hairston, Colin Brown and Sam Young.
Defensive Linemen (9): Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Dwan Edwards, Spencer Johnson, Kellen Heard, Chris Kelsay and Kyle Moore.
Linebackers (8): Nick Barnett, Nigel Bradham, Kirk Morrison, Kelvin Sheppard, Tank Carder, Arthur Moats, Scott McKillop and Bryan Scott.
Secondary (9): Stephon Gilmore, Aaron Williams, Jairus Byrd, George Wilson, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Terrence McGee, Da'Norris Searcy and Justin Rogers.
Special Teams Specialists (4): Rian Lindell, Brian Moorman, Garrison Sanborn and John Potter.
Thanks for checking out our presentation.