In just 42 days, the Buffalo Bills will head into the next phase — and finally leave the offseason behind. On July 27, the Bills will officially practice in training camp for the first time, starting the march of the oncoming regular season.
Now with months of offseason workouts in the rearview mirror, we learned some things about the roster — as to how the depth chart stacks up in the eyes of head coach Sean McDermott and his staff.
So, in honor of the end of the offseason practices, it’s time for another way-too-early 53-man roster projection — this time with all that we’ve seen on the practice field in mind:
Tyrod Taylor, T.J. Yates, Nathan Peterman
- At this point in time, this decision seems pretty cut and dry for Sean McDermott, Brandon Beane, and the Buffalo Bills staff. The current regime has no ties to Jones, they drafted a quarterback of their own, and simply put, Jones just isn’t getting the kind of time in practice like either T.J. Yates or Nathan Peterman. Unless he has a great summer and forces the issue, I believe Cardale Jones will be on a different roster during the 2017 season.
Cuts: Cardale Jones
Running Back (5)
LeSean McCoy, Jonathan Williams, Cedric O’Neal, Patrick DiMarco, Mike Tolbert
- Really this decision comes down to Cedric O’Neal against Joe Banyard, and I gave the edge to O’Neal because of how well I thought he looked in understanding the scheme of the running offense. While Banyard is certainly quick, O’Neal has some juice in his legs, too. And another big deciding factor will be the age difference — Banyard is due to turn 29 this season, whereas O’Neal is only 23 years old. Before the pads go on, I think O’Neal is the choice — but things can shift dramatically at this position as we move along.
Cuts: Joe Banyard, Jordan Johnson
Wide Receiver (6)
Sammy Watkins, Zay Jones, Andre Holmes, Philly Brown, Brandon Tate, Dez Lewis
- Dez Lewis makes the roster just barely, and that’s mainly because Walt Powell will spend the first four games on the reserve/suspended list and not count against the roster. Lewis needs to prove a solid spring of workouts isn’t a fluke like it was in 2016, and show he can withstand the punishment of a physical training camp and preseason. Daikiel Shorts is another intriguing option that has made a lot of plays during the spring practices but will have to outperform Lewis almost on a daily basis to crack the roster.
Suspended: Walt Powell
Cuts: Rod Streater, Daikiel Shorts, Jeremy Butler, Brandon Reilly, Rashad Ross
Tight End (3)
Charles Clay, Nick O’Leary, Logan Thomas
- I thought about Jason Croom potentially cracking the 53-man roster, but with Patrick DiMarco also working into H-back positioning on the offense, keeping a fourth tight end was just a little too rich. I do believe Croom is a prime candidate for the practice squad, given his athleticism. I really love the spring Logan Thomas had, and now he needs to prove himself as a blocker. If he can do that this summer, I could even see him moving ahead of Nick O’Leary as the number-two tight end on the depth chart. O’Leary’s blocking ability in a run-based offense gives him the edge for now, but you cannot ignore Thomas’ athleticism. He moves incredibly well for a player his size.
Cuts: Jason Croom, Wes Saxton, Keith Towbridge
Offensive Tackle (3)
Cordy Glenn, Dion Dawkins, Jordan Mills
- Releasing Cyrus Kouandjio cleared up this position quite a bit, which means the biggest remaining question revolves around Seantrel Henderson. If the Bills wanted to, they can keep him on the reserve/suspended list without cutting him for the first five games of the regular season. However, Henderson just hasn’t looked right on the practice field during the spring workouts, consistently getting beaten by second and third-string defensive ends. In this rendition of the roster, I’ve got them releasing the former starting right tackle outright.
Cuts: Seantrel Henderson, Michael Ola, Cameron Jefferson
Interior Offensive Line (5)
Richie Incognito, Eric Wood, John Miller, Vladimir Ducasse, Ryan Groy
- This is an open and shut case. Richie Incognito and Eric Wood are defined starters, John Miller and Vladimir Ducasse are apparently locked into a battle to be the starting right guard, and Ryan Groy is the backup center to Wood. No tears need to be shed on this decision.
Cuts: Jordan Mudge, Zach Voytek, Greg Pyke
Defensive End (5)
Jerry Hughes, Shaq Lawson, Ryan Davis, Max Valles, Marquavius Lewis
- The top three seem to be fairly locked in, but it’s the final two — Max Valles and Marquavius Lewis — that are new additions to this 53-man roster projection as opposed to last month’s projection. Valles worked in as the second-team defensive end consistently throughout the practices and was actually getting heat on the quarterback. I liked his spring. I kept Lewis on board this time around because the Bills are working him in at two different positions: defensive end and defensive tackle. We all know how much McDermott craves versatility in defenders, so the long-limbed Lewis can certainly fit right into that mold. If not kept on the 53-man roster, this is another great practice squad candidate.
Cuts: Eddie Yarbrough, Jake Metz, Ian Sean
Defensive Tackle (4)
Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Jerel Worthy, Adolphus Washington
- Unless someone gets hurt or the Bills sign someone, these four names are pretty close to 'lock' territory — with Jerel Worthy as the primary backup to both Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams. The only question is if they’ll end up keeping a fifth defensive tackle.
Cuts: Deandre Coleman, Nigel Williams
Lorenzo Alexander, Preston Brown, Reggie Ragland, Ramon Humber, Matt Milano, Tanner Vallejo, Gerald Hodges
- By skimping on the defensive backfield, the Bills afford themselves the opportunity to keep seven linebackers on board. I’m still not completely convinced that Gerald Hodges will make the 53-man roster because he didn’t work in with the second-team defense whatsoever during mandatory minicamp, but you also have to consider that he’s been in the defensive playbook a lot less time than the others. I gave Hodges the benefit of the doubt this time around.
Cuts: Carl Bradford, Abner Logan, Jacob Lindsey, Anthony Harrell
Tre’Davious White, Ronald Darby, Leonard Johnson, Kevon Seymour, Shareece Wright
- Through the spring, Tre’Davious White has established himself firmly with the starting unit — as has Ronald Darby. The true battle for playing time will be between Leonard Johnson and Kevon Seymour, to see who will be the starting nickel corner. Through minicamp, Johnson was the man taking all the reps at that position. Shareece Wright makes the team as a veteran presence and for depth, and I haven’t seen much else from the other cornerbacks to warrant serious roster consideration. Charles James probably has the best case of the bunch.
Cuts: Charles James, Bradley Sylve, Marcus Sayles, Greg Mabin
Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Colt Anderson, Shamiel Gary
- The safety position for the Bills is one of the thinnest on the roster. Colt Anderson is essentially a shoe-in at this point for his ability on special teams, but the Bills will need to choose a fourth safety that shows some ability in the defensive scheme. Shamiel Gary has worked in with the second-team defense this spring, so he gets the nod for now. However, that fourth safety spot is wide open and up for grabs.
Cuts: Joe Powell, B.T. Sanders, Trae Elston
Special Teams (3)
Stephen Hauschka, Colton Schmidt, Reid Ferguson
- I went with the status quo for the special teams unit, but you can make a serious case for Austin Rehkow. The undrafted rookie is vying for the punting job, and also has an ability as a kickoff guy — something that Schmidt isn’t known for. If the Bills want to take some pressure off of Hauschka during games to focus solely on field goals, a compelling case could be made for Rehkow, but he has to do one thing first: outperform Schmidt in training camp and the preseason.
Cuts: Austin Rehkow