Buffalo Bills: Breaking Down the 53-Man Roster
The preseason is officially in the books, and that means NFL teams were required to make their final cuts to get down to the required 53-man roster. On Saturday afternoon, the Buffalo Bills did just that, and the team now knows what it has to work with when it game-plans for the Chicago Bears.
The final round of cuts had some surprises, as well as two additions to the roster. Overall, though, this is one of the most talented rosters this organization has had in a number of years. The following slides will break down the cuts—based on these reports from Friday and Saturday on BuffaloBills.com—and the state of each position.
Starter: EJ Manuel
Backup: Kyle Orton
Cut: Jeff Tuel, Jordan Palmer
The coaches were not happy with the quarterback position this preseason, specifically the backup quarterbacks on the roster. The team wanted to start fresh and cut the two quarterbacks listed above on Friday and Saturday, as well as Thad Lewis and Dennis Dixon earlier this week. The Bills then decided to bring in a quality veteran quarterback with the signing of Kyle Orton.
This was the best move the organization could have made and was long overdue. Last year the team tried to bring in a veteran when it signed Kevin Kolb, but he suffered a concussion in preseason that ended his time with the Bills. They addressed his absence with the likes of Thad Lewis, Jeff Tuel and Matt Leinart.
The other positive with the Orton signing is that the team doesn't necessarily need a third quarterback because of the type of player Orton is. This opens up a roster spot that now can be used at another position for additional depth.
Starters: C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Frank Summers (fullback)
Backups: Bryce Brown, Anthony Dixon
Cut: Evan Rodriguez
This has to be one of the deepest positions on the roster right now. The offseason brought the additions of Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon, both of whom have looked very strong running the ball this preseason. The team has three running backs who could be a featured back (Spiller, Jackson and Brown) as well as a power back in Dixon, who should be used primarily for short-yardage and goal-line situations.
The fullback position hasn't changed from a season ago with Frank Summers as the starter.
Starters: Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams
Bench: Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley
Cut: T.J. Graham, Caleb Holley, Naaman Roosevelt
There really is no surprise from this position either, as these six have been the team's top choices for the wide receiver corps. The biggest name cut from this group is former third-round pick T.J. Graham.
It never seemed to come together for the speedy wide receiver in Buffalo, and the organization has been prepared to move on for some time now. ESPN's Mike Rodak and Adam Caplan that Graham has been on the trade block for the past several months.
This group is talented but very inexperienced, with Mike Williams being the only player with more than one season in the NFL regularly playing the position. The team will need second-year wide receivers Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin to be major contributors in this offense behind Williams and rookie Sammy Watkins.
Starter: Scott Chandler
Backups: Lee Smith, Chris Gragg
Cut: Dominique Jones
Entering the offseason, some people thought the tight end position needed to be upgraded. The organization felt otherwise, as the Bills will be entering the 2014 season with the same group they had a season ago.
The one player who was expected to push for a role in this offense, Tony Moeaki, has battled injuries all preseason. This is not uncommon for Moeaki, who has only played 30 games since his rookie season in 2010. The Bills placed him on reserve/injured list on Friday.
Starters: Cordy Glenn, Chris Williams, Eric Wood, Erik Pears, Seantrel Henderson
Bench: Cyril Richardson, Kraig Urbik, Chris Hairston, Cyrus Kouandjio
Cut: Jared Wheeler, Antoine McClain, Doug Legursky
There weren't too many surprises along the offensive line with Doug Legursky being the biggest name cut. Legursky and Urbik battled for a spot over the final two weeks of preseason after the Bills decided to move Erik Pears inside to guard.
This forced Urbik out of the starting lineup and down the depth chart. The coaching staff tried him out at center the final two games to see if he could handle the responsibilities of the position. He played the position well enough and will be the backup center/guard.
The biggest concern for this group is the fact that the expected starting five have not played a single snap together. Communication along the offensive line is extremely important, and this does not happen overnight. This is something the O-line will have to learn as the regular season progresses.
Starters: Jerry Hughes, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Mario Williams
Bench: Jarius Wynn, Corbin Bryant, Stefan Charles, Manny Lawson, Jacquies Smith
Cut: Landon Cohen, Ike Igbinosun, Bryan Johnson
The biggest surprise of the final cuts may have been the team's decision to cut defensive tackle Landon Cohen. The sixth-year player was one of the bright spots this preseason, making play after play thanks to his ability to penetrate into the backfield. He looked deserving of a roster spot but was probably cut because of the depth already at the position.
The team had cut Alan Branch earlier in training camp but still had Corbin Bryant (26) and Stefan Charles (26). Both of these players are younger than Cohen (28) and have a little more potential. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Cohen end up on a team that is looking for help at defensive tackle.
Starters: Keith Rivers, Brandon Spikes, Nigel Bradham
Bench: Preston Brown, Ty Powell, Randell Johnson
Cut: Jimmy Gaines, Xavius Boyd
The Bills will enter the 2014 season with almost an entirely new linebacker group with Ty Powell being the only holdover from a season ago. The team won't be able to see exactly what it has with this starting group until Week 2 though, due to Nigel Bradham serving a one-game suspension to start the season. Rookie Preston Brown, who has played well this preseason, is expected to get the start in place of Bradham.
If there is one thing to take away from the preseason, it is that this group will be much better at stopping the run. The additions of Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers with the development of Bradham will make this a tough group to run on. Over the course of the five preseason games, the Bills defense only allowed 2.4 rushing yards per attempt, according to NFL.com.
Starters: Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin
Bench: Corey Graham, Nickell Robey, Ron Brooks, Ross Cockrell
Cuts: Kamaal McIlwain, Sam Miller
There were no surprises among these cuts, as it was pretty clear who the top six cornerbacks were on the roster. The one player who was on the bubble to start training camp, Ron Brooks, actually had a strong camp and earned his way onto this roster.
The team has great depth at this position, which could not be said a season ago when the Bills were decimated by injuries. The addition of Corey Graham should be a major boost to this secondary, allowing the Bills to line up effectively against four wide receiver sets.
Now that Jairus Byrd is gone, the Bills will be looking for Stephon Gilmore to take that next step toward being a top-tier cornerback and a leader in the secondary.
Starters: Aaron Williams, Da'Norris Searcy
Bench: Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks
Cut: Deon Broomfield, Kenny Ladler
The top four at the position have been pretty well set for most of the preseason, but the question was exactly who would start next to Aaron Williams. Right now, I would have to believe that Da'Norris Searcy will be lining up next to Williams against the Bears. Searcy had a strong camp and played well this preseason with 11 tackles and two interceptions.
I thought Kenny Ladler could have made this roster, but I understand the choice of Jonathan Meeks over him. Ladler seemed to make enough of an impression in camp, though, and if he clears waivers, he should return to the Bills on their practice squad, according to this tweet by ESPN's Mike Rodak.
Punter: Colton Schmidt
Kicker: Dan Carpenter
Kickoff Specialist: Jordan Gay
Long Snapper: Garrison Sanborn
Cut: Brian Moorman
The toughest decision the Bills had to make was cutting Brian Moorman. The veteran, while a fan favorite, just didn't show enough in preseason to hold onto the starting job. The team brought in Jordan Gay earlier in the week—presumably to challenge Moorman, but Marrone wants to see if he can become a kickoff specialist for this team.
This means that the team still needed to find a punter, and Buffalo did just that by signing Colton Schmidt on Saturday, according to BuffaloBills.com. Schmidt was waived by the 49ers after posting a net average of 46.7 yards on seven punts this preseason.
Schmidt is technically the 54th man on the roster, but with Nigel Bradham's suspension Week 1, the Bills have an extra roster spot. This should give the team time to evaluate Gay and whether it wants to keep him on the roster going forward.