Now that the Buffalo Bills are more than halfway through training camp at St. John Fisher College, some of the roster battles have started to clear themselves up as we get closer to the start of the preseason.
Players are jockeying for position at several positions, and a few tough cuts will need to be made by the Bills. So, with cut-down day a little less than a month away, how do the players stack up?
My pre-preseason 53-man roster projection:
Tyrod Taylor, EJ Manuel, Cardale Jones
- It certainly isn't like last year, and unless EJ Manuel makes critical error after critical error during an extended amount of time in the preseason, I would expect all three quarterbacks to make it to Week One of the regular season. The only other way anything changes is if Cardale Jones takes humongous strides forward over the last three weeks of August, and while he's shown strides, it's probably too much to ask from the rookie at this point in time.
Running Back (3)
LeSean McCoy, Reggie Bush, Mike Gillislee
*Karlos Williams on reserve/suspended list
- I will admit, the last man cut on this projection was none other than James Wilder, Jr. The way he's going to make this team is by showing a great deal of ability on special teams, but having other core special teams players on the roster as well does not help his case. He hasn't shown big ability on the playing field as a running back when the action has gone live, either. Williams was another consideration, but his lack of special teams prowess to this point hurts him significantly.
Cuts: Jonathan Williams, James Wilder, Jr., Boom Herron
- This is an open and shut case in my opinion. Gronkowski really hasn't done anything to stand out, and he needed to in order to unseat Felton. Plus, the financial benefit of cutting Felton just isn't worth it just to keep the cheaper Gronkowski on board.
Cuts: Glenn Gronkowski
Wide Receiver (6)
Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Greg Salas, Dez Lewis, Marcus Easley
*Kolby Listenbee on Non-Football Injury List
- The three veteran receivers (Little, Boykin, Hankerson) haven't shown enough to help improve their stock on the roster, and lacking on special teams impact certainly won't help their chances. Marquise Goodwin has taken a step forward over the rest of the candidates for the No. 3 role, and he's getting closer to securing his spot on the 53-man roster. Salas has been consistent and helps out on special teams, you just can't give up on Lewis' potential at this point even if he hasn't shown well at camp, and Easley is still a solid special teams player unless he proves otherwise.
Cuts: Leonard Hankerson, Greg Little, Jarrett Boykin, Walt Powell, Kain Colter
Tight End (3)
Charles Clay, Chris Gragg, Blake Annen
- It came down to the potential of Annen versus the blocking ability of Jim Dray, but at the end of the day I think Chris Gragg has turned himself into a good enough blocker to warrant that No. 2 tight end position. Gragg also provides a speed element that Dray clearly lacks, and in turn that makes the veteran tight end expendable. Annen is big and fast, and while they might try to sneak him on the practice squad, I wouldn't be willing to hope that he can stay off other team's radars.
Cuts: Jim Dray, Nick O’Leary
Offensive Tackle (3)
Cordy Glenn, Jordan Mills, Cyrus Kouandjio
*Seantrel Henderson on Non-Football Illness/Injury List
- Still with no word on Seantrel Henderson, Cyrus Kouandjio's only legitimate competition to take a roster spot from him is Chris Martin, a player the Bills signed in June. It's clear they want to give Kouandjio the benefit of the doubt, and they're also giving him ample time to prove himself at left tacke with the first-team offense as Cordy Glenn nurses an ankle injury.
Cuts: Chris Martin, Marquis Lucas, Justin Renfrow
Interior Offensive Line (5)
Richie Incognito, Eric Wood, John Miller, Fernando Velasco, Ryan Groy
- Cyril Richardson has shown well at times, but both Velasco and Groy are getting time with the first-team because of injury, and because they can both play center. Neither Velasco or Groy have been all that impressive, and I wouldn't doubt that the Bills will comb the waiver wire around the time of the final cut-down day in September. The offensive line depth has not been good in 2016 so far.
Cuts: Cyril Richardson, Jamison Lalk, Robert Kugler
Defensive Line (6)
Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Corbin Bryant, Adolphus Washington, Leger Douzable, Jerel Worthy
- The same as last time around, and Justin Zimmer was one of my final cuts from the roster. However, it's tough to justify a seventh defensive lineman being kept, and he'll likely need to beat one of the veterans to secure a spot. The only problem? Both Jerel Worthy and Leger Douzable have played quite well since training camp has started. Lavar Edwards has also shown well at times, but again, it's a numbers crunch with the deepest group on the roster.
Cuts: Justin Zimmer, Lavar Edwards, T.J. Barnes, Casey Walker
Rush Linebacker (4)
Jerry Hughes, IK Enemkpali, Manny Lawson, Eric Striker
*Shaq Lawson on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform List
- The major change to this roster projection is the inclusion of undrafted free agent rookie Eric Striker on the 53-man list. Simply put, I don't think you can cut a player that has that much speed, bend, and ability to get after the passer as he does. Even if he doesn't see the field on gamedays, Striker has proved throughout camp so far to be playmaker, and you can't get rid of that in today's NFL. Alexander barely misses the roster in favor of Randell Johnson, but he's right on the bubble.
Cuts: Max Valles, Bryson Albright
Inside Linebacker (5)
Preston Brown, Zach Brown, Brandon Spikes, David Hawthorne, Randell Johnson
*Reggie Ragland on Injured Reserve
- This is the position that can change things on the final 53-man roster, if the Bills think they need to keep Randell Johnson as a fifth linebacker and potentially cut one of their safeties -- and that's what I have them doing this time around. Johnson is squarely on the bubble, but there are some benefits to keeping him. The biggest: his versatility as both an inside and an outside linebacker.
Cuts: Jamari Lattimore
Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Kevon Seymour, Sterling Moore, Corey White
- Just the same as last time, except with a new addition to the 'cut' list: Jonathan Dowling, who is a bit of a safety/corner hybrid that plays more corner in practice. Seymour, Moore, and White have played well enough in camp to solidify their spot on the roster to this point.
Cuts: Mario Butler, Jonathan Dowling, Sammy Seamster
Aaron Williams, Corey Graham, Robert Blanton, Jonathan Meeks, Colt Anderson
- This time around I have the Bills parting ways with two of their safeties. Although solid at special teams, Colt Anderson may not provide enough defensively to warrant a spot on the roster -- especially when depth is already being tested on the team. Jonathan Meeks has been the best of the three bubble safeties (Meeks, Anderson, Duke Williams) on defense this summer, and needs to continue that in the preseason to solidify his spot. The Bills gave Meeks first-team reps this week for a reason. Anderson is squarely on the bubble, but makes the cut this time around.
Cuts: Duke Williams
- Carpenter shook off a shaky start at camp and has been on fire over the last three practices, successfully making 27 out of his last 28 field goal attempts. While Jordan Gay has performed a lot better at field goal kicking than he has previously, Carpenter has just been too good this summer. However, the Bills want to see him do it in games, first, and the idea of a kickoff specialist hasn't been ruled out just yet. But, the Bills would prefer to only carry one.
Cuts: Jordan Gay
Long Snapper (1)
- Some low snaps from Ferguson over the course of camp made this a pretty easy decision, as Garrison Sanborn continues his now eight-year hold on the Bills long snapping spot. Not bad for a former rookie tryout player.
Cuts: Reid Ferguson
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