In a little over three weeks the Buffalo Bills will head east towards Rochester, and set up shop for the start of training camp at St. John Fisher College.
The majority of the roster is set, but the offseason workouts during the spring proved that there are still plenty of depth positions up for grabs with a good performance in the upcoming summer. Plenty has happened since my last version of the 53-man roster projection -- which was nearly two months ago.
How have things shifted? My newest way-too-early roster projection for the 2016 Buffalo Bills:
Tyrod Taylor, EJ Manuel, Cardale Jones
- The only thing that could change this situation would be if Cardale Jones takes huge strides forward this summer during training camp. Even then, the Bills may still just choose to have him concentrate on developing his skills as opposed to preparing to backup Tyrod Taylor in 2016. If we were to judge the situation based on the spring workouts, Jones has quite a ways to go and usurping the number-two job might just be a little too much to ask of the fourth-round pick. EJ Manuel, in the final year of his contract, is slated to be the backup to Taylor and can fill in if need be.
Running Back (4)
LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams, Mike Gillislee, Jonathan Williams
- The key difference in this group from two months ago to now? Dri Archer decided he'd rather not call anyone than to try and make the Bills roster as a return man. Different strokes for different folks, it would seem. That said, it opened a roster spot and fifth-round rookie Jonathan Williams fills the void at the present moment. He'll need to take to special teams quite well to warrant a roster spot, but he got a ton of work with the team during spring workouts due to absences and injuries. Don't rule out James Wilder, Jr., but the numbers game caught him this time around.
Cuts: James Wilder, Jr., Boom Herron
- This is a pretty easy decision, unless Gronkowski really stands out during the summer at training camp. The coaching staff loves Felton, and he's got his past results in the NFL backing him up that he can do the job quite well for the Bills in 2016, even if he was just average during last season.
Cuts: Glenn Gronkowski
Wide Receiver (6)
Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Greg Salas, Leonard Hankerson, Dez Lewis, Marcus Easley
- Besides Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, this group has a clear lack of definition in who will be on the roster. The three strongest performers from the spring were Dez Lewis, Greg Salas, and Leonard Hankerson, and that reflects in the depth chart. Marcus Easley gets kept on this version, despite his injury, because of how well he played on special teams over the past few years. Greg Little, Jarrett Boykin, Kolby Listenbee, and Marquise Goodwin will all factor into the discussion as well, but due to some strain at other positional groups, I couldn't keep more than six receivers this time around.
Cuts: Kolby Listenbee, Marquise Goodwin, Greg Little, Jarrett Boykin, Walt Powell, Davonte Allen, Gary Chambers
Tight End (3)
Charles Clay, Chris Gragg, Jim Dray
- The tight end group will be a quietly interesting position to track this summer, mostly due to the spring performances of two players among them. Free agent signing Jim Dray was brought on to be the blocking tight end, but he wasn't getting near as much time with the top unit in two-tight end sets as one would think. His roster spot could be in jeopardy without a strong training camp and preseason. The athletically-gifted Blake Annen made some strides in spring workouts and caught nearly everything thrown his way. He's a sneaky candidate to make the 53-man roster, especially if he performs well on special teams. Will he be a spring warrior and that's all, or can he capitalize on a strong offseason to help secure a roster spot? We'll certainly find out.
Cuts: Blake Annen, Nick O’Leary
Offensive Tackle (3)
Cordy Glenn, Jordan Mills, Cyrus Kouandjio
*Seantrel Henderson on Non-Football Illness/Injury List
- We still haven't gotten any update on the potential playing status of former starting right tackle Seantrel Henderson, and until that changes, I'll leave him on a projected reserve list to start the regular season for now, which opens up a roster spot. If he can play, that likely spells the end for Ryan Groy -- at least in this set of projections. With Henderson still up in that air, that's great news for Cyrus Kouandjio. If that doesn't change, not only is he likely to make the roster, but it gives him a lot of practice time to prove to the coaches that he can be the full-time right tackle. If he can't it's Jordan Mills' job, as it has been all spring.
Cuts: Chris Martin, Marquis Lucas
Interior Offensive Line (5)
- Richie Incognito, Eric Wood, John Miller, Fernando Velasco, Ryan Groy
- The biggest change to this group from the last projection is the addition of Ryan Groy. With Henderson's uncertain status, Groy is the next best offensive lineman on the roster and the sweet spot for players along the line kept is usually at eight. Under these circumstances, Groy's biggest competition to make the team will be Chris Martin.
Cuts: Cyril Richardson, Jamison Lalk, Robert Kugler
Defensive Line (6)
Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Corbin Bryant, Adolphus Washington, Leger Douzable, Jerel Worthy
- The addition of Leger Douzable to the roster gives the Bills yet another versatile odd-man front defensive lineman, and also puts even more pressure on Jerel Worthy to have a good summer to earn a roster spot. Worthy got a lot of first-team time during spring workouts and did well with it. He'll likely get more time to prove that he deserve one of the 53 spots. Of the players on the cut list, be mindful of undrafted free agent Justin Zimmer, who worked at both nose tackle and defensive end during the spring. With who the Bills have on the roster already, a practice squad spot is the likeliest outcome, but he's played well during spring workouts and at least has a shot.
Cuts: Justin Zimmer, Lavar Edwards, T.J. Barnes, Cedric Reed
Rush Linebacker (4)
Jerry Hughes, IK Enemkpali, Manny Lawson, Lorenzo Alexander
*Shaq Lawson on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform List
- Still without any new information about Shaq Lawson's shoulder surgery and a more definitive timetable, the rumors from some national media members are that Lawson could be destined for the PUP list to start the year. That would give him time to get back to 100-percent health, and give the Bills a roster spot to start the year. With that spot, IK Enemkpali had a strong enough spring to warrant a roster look, and maybe even a role to start the year without the rookie involved. If Lawson isn't put on the PUP list, Enemkpali, Manny Lawson, and Lorenzo Alexander all could be in jeopardy of being released.
Cuts: Max Valles, Bryson Albright
Inside Linebacker (4)
Reggie Ragland, Preston Brown, Zach Brown, Jamari Lattimore
- Reggie Ragland and Preston Brown are definitively on the roster, Zach Brown is a solid bet, and then it comes down to Jamari Lattimore versus Randell Johnson. Both players have similar backgrounds, having been college defensive ends that had to convert to linebacker in the NFL, and players that both could provide versatility at all four linebacker spots in Rex Ryan's defense. However, with Lattimore (6-foot-2, 229-pounds) having as much experience as he does not only on defense, but on special teams, that gives him the leg up over the more genetically gifted Randell Johnson (6-foot-4, 245-pounds).
Cuts: Randell Johnson, Kevin Reddick, Eric Striker
Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby, Nickell Robey, Kevon Seymour, Sterling Moore, Corey White
- This group remains the same from the last projection, with rookie Kevon Seymour moving up the depth chart a bit. Sterling Moore and Corey White will provide the veteran depth the Bills were lacking at the start of the offseason.
Cuts: Mario Butler, Javier Arenas, Sammy Seamster
Aaron Williams, Corey Graham, Robert Blanton, Colt Anderson, Duke Williams
- Rex Ryan has been quite complimentary of both Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks this offseason, but due to the ability he flashed on special teams last season, Duke Williams gets the nod for the fifth and final safety spot in this projection. The Bills could even opt to keep only four safeties and instead bring four tight ends on the initial 53-man roster
Cuts: Jonathan Meeks, Jonathan Dowling
- I think 2016 is the year that the Bills will shift back to being a one kicker team, which doesn't bode well for Jordan Gay's chances of making the roster. Marshall Morgan has a live leg, and could certainly challenge Dan Carpenter for the job. However, Carpenter had a solid spring, and the coaching staff believes he can get back to where he needs to be on both extra point attempts and field goal attempts.
Cuts: Jordan Gay, Marshall Morgan
Long Snapper (1)
Cuts: Reid Ferguson
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