The Buffalo Bills are through with training camp, three preseason games, and have returned to Orchard Park for the remainder of the 2016 season. Over the last two-and-a-half weeks -- since my last roster projection -- we've seen injuries, a surpise release, a suspension to Marcell Dareus, and tons of roster movement at several different positions.
With only one game to go before the final cutdown day, there are plenty of changes that you'll notice from August 11 to today's projection on August 28.
My current 53-man roster projection:
Tyrod Taylor, EJ Manuel, Cardale Jones
- No surprises here, the only difference from last time to this time is that the Bills will have to cut a quarterback for the 53-man roster. Trainor is in purely for the fourth preseason game.
Cuts: Austin Trainor
Running Back (4)
LeSean McCoy, Reggie Bush, Mike Gillislee, Jonathan Williams
- Now that Karlos Williams is out of the picture, the running back group is completely cleared up. Rookie Jonathan Williams, who has impressed the Bills this summer in both practices and in preseason games, is a lock for the roster. I'd suspect both James Wilder, Jr. and Boom Herron get kept purely for the final preseason game as healthy running backs.
Cuts: James Wilder, Jr., Boom Herron
Jerome Felton, Glenn Gronkowski
- If you asked me two weeks ago if Glenn Gronkowski could make the team, I would have told you that there isn't a great shot of that happening. Now, with some major strides over the final week of training camp and showing off solid blocking in preseason, Gronkowski is making a case for the 53-man roster. Plus, you know Rex Ryan would love to have a Gronkowski on his roster -- specifically for the October 2 road game in New England during Week Four of the season. If Gronkowski were to make it, he'd be on the short list of getting waived to make room for the suspended Marcell Dareus in Week Five.
Wide Receiver (5)
Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Greg Salas, Walt Powell
*Marcus Easley on Physically Unable to Perform List, Kolby Listenbee on Non-Football Injury List
- Just the way that Marquise Goodwin and Walt Powell have played themselves on the roster with a great summer of work, Dez Lewis and Jarrett Boykin have played themselves off the roster with a lack of consistency. Greg Little was the biggest bubble player of the cuts, but without adding much value to special teams, there isn't a quantifiable reason to keep him on the roster for offense only. With Powell and Salas, they both give you special teams abilities along with some offensive pop. Getting rid of Little now also opens up room to add Marcus Easley after the first six weeks of the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Cuts: Dez Lewis, Greg Little, Jarrett Boykin, Kain Colter
Tight End (3)
Charles Clay, Jim Dray, Nick O'Leary
*Chris Gragg on Injured Reserve
- Charles Clay and Jim Dray are locks for the 53-man team, and with the season-ending injury to Chris Gragg, Nick O'Leary has a new lease on his roster life. On Sunday while speaking with the media, Rex Ryan downplayed O'Leary's fumble against Washington, and spoke very highly about both his ball skills, and his developing ability as a blocker. My best guess would be that they start looking for free agents both now, and on the final cutdown day to come in and be the third tight end in place of O'Leary. As for Blake Annen, his game has fallen off since having a strong spring.
Cuts: Blake Annen
Offensive Tackle (4)
Cordy Glenn, Jordan Mills, Seantrel Henderson, Cyrus Kouandjio
- Seantrel Henderson is back, and after showing the coaching staff that he's getting back to the player that he's been before he found out about his battle with Crohn's disease, he seems like a lock to make the team. Cyrus Kouandjio has also shown positive signs of life in his third summer, and is worthy of a roster spot. No surprises at this group, at all.
Cuts: Chris Martin, Marquis Lucas, Justin Renfrow
Interior Offensive Line (5)
Richie Incognito, Eric Wood, John Miller, Fernando Velasco, Ryan Groy
- Now, this is a bit of a surprise. Normally, keeping nine offensive lineman isn't an ideal practice, but with the Bills only using five roster spots on wide receivers, and only three on tight ends, that opened up an extra spot for both Fernando Velasco and Ryan Groy. Plus, in the event of an injury to any of their starting interior players (Incognito, Wood, Miller), they would still have a backup player that knows the offense -- rather than trying to force either Kouandjio or Henderson inside to guard.
Cuts: Cyril Richardson, Jamison Lalk, Robert Kugler
Defensive Line (5)
Kyle Williams, Corbin Bryant, Adolphus Washington, Leger Douzable, Jerel Worthy
*Marcell Dareus on Reserve/Suspended List
- After a strong push near the end of training camp, Lavar Edwards barely missed the 53-man roster. Even if he were to be kept, he would have been inactive on game day anyway. Plus, Marcell Dareus will be back after four weeks, so it may not make the most sense to keep him at this point. However, Edwards does have practice squad eligibility remaining and would likely be the first call-up in the event of an injury. Justin Zimmer is also a practice squad candidate for the Bills
Cuts: Justin Zimmer, Lavar Edwards, Casey Walker, Brandon Deaderick, Alameda Ta'amu
Rush Linebacker (4)
Jerry Hughes, Manny Lawson, Lorenzo Alexander, Bryson Albright
*Shaq Lawson on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform List
- This group has seen the most change since the last roster projection. IK Enemkpali suffered a season-ending injury, and since the time of that post, Eric Striker has become a complete non-factor at training camp and in the preseason. Striker is definitely on the outside looking on the 53-man roster. Really, this decision comes down to Kroy Biermann versus Bryson Albright. The Bills could probably sneak Albright on the practice squad, but after having the preseason that he's had, it might not be worth it to them to take that chance -- especially since Biermann hasn't shown much since being added to the team. If Biermann proves himself to be an extremely superior special teams player, that's his best shot of making the team. As for defense, though, Albright has been far better.
Cuts: Kroy Biermann, Max Valles, Eric Striker
Inside Linebacker (3)
Preston Brown, Zach Brown, Brandon Spikes
*Reggie Ragland on Injured Reserve
- I know what you're thinking: only three inside linebackers? Don't the Bills start two? They do, but, only three have proven themselves to be a lock for the roster. Both Randell Johnson and David Hawthorne are bubble players, but Johnson didn't get time on the field against Washington until late in the game -- which is not a great indicator of his standing on the roster -- and Hawthorne has struggled mightily in coverage over the past two weeks. For Hawthorne, as a weakside linebacker only, that is a humongous part of the job. The decision to only keep three linebackers will make more sense as you scroll down.
Cuts: Randell Johnson, David Hawthorne, Jamari Lattimore
Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Kevon Seymour, Sterling Moore, Corey White
*Jonathan Dowling to Injured Reserve
- This has been the same for some time now. Three established starters, one upstart rookie, and two dependable veterans to play special teams, and to backup in the event of injuries. This one is cut and dry.
Cuts: Mario Butler, Sammy Seamster
Aaron Williams, Corey Graham, Duke Williams, Robert Blanton, Jonathan Meeks, Colt Anderson
- Keeping six safeties is usually unheard of in the NFL, but for the Bills this year, it makes sense with how the roster is constructed. Aaron Williams and Corey Graham are the established starters, and Duke Williams has carved out his role as the No. 3 safety. For Robert Blanton, Jonathan Meeks, and Colt Anderson, all three players have their reasons to be kept on the team. Blanton and Meeks have both flashed playmaking ability on the defensive side, while Anderson is one of the best coverage players the Bills have on special teams. And by only keeping three inside linebackers, one of Duke Williams or Blanton could be used as the weakside linebacker if something were to happen to Zach Brown. Rex has raved about this group since the offseason, and not much has changed. So rather than cutting one just to keep the struggling David Hawthorne, it makes more sense to me to keep the best players as opposed to the accepted principles of roster building -- especially if there's some carryover there.
- Carpenter has won the field goal kicking job, and all that's left for the Bills to decide is if they'll keep a kickoff specialist once again. I think the Bills would like to bring it down to just one kicker.
Cuts: Jordan Gay
Long Snapper (1)
- Reid Ferguson has been getting some opportunities to snap in games, by Garrison Sanborn has been steady all summer long, whereas Ferguson has faltered a few times. Sanborn stays on as one of the longest-tenured Bills players.
Cuts: Reid Ferguson
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