Making the Call on the Buffalo Bills' Hardest Remaining Cuts
After over a month of training camp at St. John Fisher College, the Buffalo Bills had their final camp practice Thursday.
It was an eventful end to training camp, as head coach Doug Marrone blew a gasket after fights broke out for the second straight day. Per Matthew Fairburn of Syracuse.com, Marrone stopped practice and went on an expletive-laden rant about how fighting is detrimental to the game.
As punishment, Marrone made the whole team run sprints, which Jerry Hughes did not appreciate. Hughes voiced his displeasure, which led to an exchange of words between Hughes and Marrone. After practice, Fairburn wrote, Marrone talked to Hughes and told him he likes the energy he brings to practice.
After spending so much time in close quarters, emotions are bound to boil over at some point. It was a good move by Marrone, though, to take over and show that kind of behavior won't be tolerated any longer. As long as the frustrations don't carry over to the regular season, the team should be fine.
With the Bills hitting the road back to Orchard Park for their preseason home opener, it's that time again to examine some players on the roster bubble. Not everyone can get a spot, despite their hard work during training camp. Let's predict what will happen to five players on the bubble for the Bills.
Heading into training camp, it would have seemed like a long shot for Alan Branch to miss the roster cut. Just a few weeks later, it looks like Branch's job could be in jeopardy.
Branch's performance thus far has been subpar to say the least, which led ESPN.com's Mike Rodak to lay out the financial impact of cutting Branch. Since the Bills just signed him to a three-year extension in the offseason, it would seem like an expensive move to send him packing already.
However, Rodak said it would basically only cost the Bills the $3.1 million signing bonus they paid to Branch to cut him before the season. In addition, the team would have $1.55 million in dead money on next year's cap.
Inking Branch started to look like a mistake almost immediately. He skipped voluntary workouts and then proceeded to fail the conditioning test upon his arrival at training camp, per Rodak. Since then, Branch has been toward the bottom of the depth chart, and during preseason games he has played in the fourth quarter.
In doesn't help Branch's case that some of his competition at defensive tackle has been playing extremely well. Stefan Charles, Corbin Bryant and Landon Cohen (more on him later) have all had strong camps, which means there may not be room for Branch on the roster.
Unless Branch has a remarkable turnaround in the next few weeks, his days in Buffalo could be over soon.
It's not just because of Branch's uninspired training camp that his roster status is in doubt. Other players have been standing out and making a case to stick on the final roster. One such player is Landon Cohen, who has made the most of the opportunity afforded by Branch.
One of the best ways to earn a roster spot is to make a play when the spotlight is on. In the Bills' first few preseason games, Cohen put on a show. His most attention-grabbing play came on a fumble he picked up and returned 59 yards against the Steelers.
Cohen also added a tackle for loss against Pittsburgh as well as two more in the Hall of Fame Game against the Giants. Cohen looked like a disruptive force at times, blowing up plays in the backfield almost as soon as the ball was snapped.
Per Zac Sweeney of BuffaloBills.com, Doug Marrone said that Cohen "just needs to show he can make more plays" to have a shot at making the team. If he continues to make the announcers call his name in the final two preseason games, Cohen may just find himself suiting up on September 7.
Verdict: On the roster
It looks like the end of the road for T.J. Graham in Buffalo.
When the Bills were thinner at wide receiver, Graham was able to make the roster and earn some playing time. Now, however, the Bills have several skilled pass-catchers who are crowding the depth chart and making Graham's path to the final roster more of an uphill battle.
Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin are all locks to make the team. Throw in Marcus Easley, who is a special teams stud, and that would likely leave only one more roster spot available to a receiver. Unfortunately for Graham, Chris Hogan has been one of the camp standouts, and there's almost no way he gets cut in favor of Graham.
Hogan has been so good in camp that he was in the slot with the first-team offense against the Giants and Panthers. Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 said Hogan's roster status has been "getting closer to lock territory." It's hard to see Graham catching Hogan at this point.
Here's another player whom no one would have expected to be on the bubble when training camp began. But unless Thad Lewis steals some talent from another player Space Jam style, the Bills might be in the market for a third quarterback at camp's end.
To say Lewis has had a rough camp would be an understatement. His struggles led Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 to name him training camp's least valuable player. Buscaglia said Lewis has "struggled mightily to get on the same page with his receivers." Buscaglia also noted Lewis "has been inaccurate for the majority of camp practices and has thrown more interceptions than any of the quarterbacks."
ESPN.com's Mike Rodak is in sync with Buscaglia, as he doesn't have Lewis on his projected final roster. After the stinkbomb Lewis set off against the Steelers (1-of-6, 18 yards and a pick), it's hard to disagree with Rodak.
Unless Lewis starts slinging it around like Peyton Manning, it's hard to foresee him avoiding the ax.
It usually is a struggle for seventh-round rookies to crack the 53-man roster. But this has been an out-of-the-ordinary year for the Bills, which means that we should continue to expect the unexpected. By the time the Bills touch down in Chicago for the season opener, there could be two seventh-rounders on the roster.
Seantrel Henderson doesn't have to worry about much. In fact, he will probably end up starting at right tackle. But Randell Johnson, the other seventh-round pick, hasn't been as much of a sure thing until recently.
Mark Gaughan of The Buffalo News thinks Johnson "is in good shape" to crack the final roster. Gaughan said Johnson has been running with the second-team defense for all of camp and has "not looked lost" in preseason games.
Also helping Johnson's case is the fact that Stevenson Sylvester injured his knee and landed on injured reserve. According to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, Sylvester was a special teams ace for Pittsburgh in his time there. He probably would have had the same role in Buffalo, which is where Johnson will be looked to contribute.
The Bills will also have an extra roster spot available for Week 1 because Nigel Bradham will be serving a one-game suspension. That could open the door for Johnson to get some extra playing time and earn his spot for the long haul.
Verdict: On the team