Well, the preseason is (finally) behind us, and we’re just over a week away from real Bills football. That’s certainly a beautiful thing, but there’s one piece of unpleasant business that must be taken care of first: final roster cuts. In all the excitement of the dawn of the new season, it’s easy to forget that 27 guys are going to get some devastating news sometime before 6 p.m. Saturday, and for some this will be the end of their NFL dream.
In any case, here’s my projected final 53-man roster. Some very tough decisions here. I don’t envy Chan Gailey and his staff. Hopefully some of the young guys will find their way to the Buffalo practice squad. (If you’re curious, here’s the list of Bills eligible for the practice squad.)
QB (3): Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyler Thigpen, Brad Smith
Cut: Levi Brown
Nothing unexpected here. Brown made a late push in the Detroit game, but I think the staff is set on Thigpen as the #2, and there’s really no point in keeping three QBs and Brad Smith. Brown has practice squad eligibility left, and will probably land somewhere.
RB (3): Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Johnny White
Cut: Bruce Hall
A tough break for Hall, who I think can play at the NFL level. White hasn’t looked good in the preseason, but he’s gotten no blocking whatsoever. No reason to cut him yet.
FB (1): Corey McIntyre
Cut: Jehuu Caulcrick
There’s been some conjecture that the Bills could jettison McIntyre for the cheaper Caulcrick, but I don’t see the point. McIntyre makes less than a million bucks. Caulcrick could land on the practice squad.
WR (6): Stevie Johnson, Donald Jones, Roscoe Parrish, David Nelson, Naaman Roosevelt, Marcus Easley
Cut: Ruvell Martin, Craig Davis, Kamar Aiken, Felton Huggins
Probably the toughest cuts come here, where there’s ten guys who can play NFL football. I feel the worst for Huggins, who has been hanging around the practice squad forever, and was a fluke injury away from making the squad last season. Late additions Martin and Davis just didn’t show enough to unseat the guys already entrenched with the Bills. Undrafted rookie Aiken is not done in the NFL. He was simply too impressive this preseason to not land somewhere. If he’s not on Buffalo’s practice squad, he’ll be with some team. And don’t be too shocked if Gailey decides to keep him at the expense of Roosevelt.
TE (2): Scott Chandler, Mike Caussin
Cut: Shawn Nelson, Zach Pianalto, David Martin
I’m going out on a bit of a limb here by only keeping two tight ends, but it’s really not a high priority position in this offense.Nelson is a tragic case: a lot of talent, but no ability to make good decisions or stay healthy. Gailey’s clearly sick of him. I struggled a bit with the others. Chandler is on the team and will start. Other than that? Your guess is as good as mine. I wouldn’t mind David Martin going away – he’s never impressed me much. But he’ll likely make the team. I think Caussin played his way onto the team as well. I like Pianalto, but between having no offseason workouts and suffering an injury during camp I simply don’t think he had enough time to prove himself to the coaching staff. He’s a likely practice squad candidate.
OT (5): Demetrius Bell, Erik Pears, Ed Wang, Cordaro Howard, Chris Hairston
Cut: Jason Watkins
Five is a lot of tackles to keep, but I don’t think the coaches want to rush Hairston onto the field. He might be inactive for a few games at the start of the year. He’s a project. Howard isn’t great, but his versatility maybe saves him for now, as he can fill in at guard as well. But if anyone gets cut from this group, it’s him. I have no faith in Wang either. Ugh. Let’s hope Bell and Pears don’t get hurt.
G/C (5): Eric Wood, Andy Levitre, Chad Rinehart, Kraig Urbik, Geoff Hangartner
Cut: Mansfield Wrotto, Michael Switzer, Colin Brown
There’s been a ton of speculation that Hangartner is going to get cut, but Mansfield Wrotto has been so bad this preseason I’m not sure how in the world you could justify keeping him over Hangartner. Wrotto needs to go away. Hangartner can back up at all three interior spots and is well worth keeping around. Rinehart could be a surprise cut.
DE (5): Marcell Dareus, Dwan Edwards, Spencer Johnson, Kellen Heard, Alex Carrington
Cut: Lionel Dotson, T.J. Langley
This could be one of the strongest positions on the team. Dareus and Edwards will start and should do well. Johnson had a fantastic camp and should see a lot of time. Carrington, one of the team’s most improved players, will play some outside linebacker as well. Heard is a massive human being who will see action in run downs. He could also slide over to tackle if needed.
NT (2): Kyle Williams, Torell Troup
Cut: Michael Jasper
It kills me to cut Jasper (who is a great guy and gave us a wonderful interview last week), and I really hope I’m wrong. But this is my prediction, not “what Brad wants to happen.” Personally, I’d keep Jasper and cut elsewhere – one of the offensive lineman maybe. If he’s cut, Jasper will land on his feet either on Buffalo’s practice squad or somewhere else in the NFL. Williams and Troup will make for a very good duo at tackle. Troup has really improved since his somewhat disappointing rookie campaign.
OLB (4): Shawne Merriman, Chris Kelsay, Danny Batten, Antonio Coleman
Cut: Robert Eddins, Jammie Kirlew
Another tough call here. Merriman and Kelsay will start, and Batten has locked down a job, leaving three guys for (probably)just one spot. I think Coleman saved his job with a pretty good performance against Detroit, but don’t be surprised if the undrafted rookie Eddins – who turned heads all preseason – or Kirlew take the spot instead. I wouldn’t mind having any of the three on the roster.
ILB (5): Nick Barnett, Kirk Morrison, Andra Davis, Arthur Moats, Kelvin Sheppard
Cut: Brandon Hicks, Chris White
Barnett, Morrison, and Sheppard are locks. I thought Davis was in trouble headed into camp, but I think he’ll split time with Morrison for now, with Davis taking “run” situations and Morrison taking “pass” situations. Moats still hasn’t looked comfortable at inside linebacker and could get the ax, but I think the unlucky one will be White. White missed a big chunk of camp with an injury and didn’t look great against the Lions. He’ll be on the practice squad if no one scoops him up off waivers.
CB (5): Leodis McKelvin, Terrence McGee, Aaron Williams, Drayton Florence, Justin Rogers
Cut: Reggie Corner, Doyle Miller
Someone’s gotta go, and I think the odd man out will be Corner. Don’t be surprised if it’s Rogers though. The other four are locks.
S (4): Jairus Byrd, George Wilson, Bryan Scott, Da’Norris Searcy
Cut: Jon Corto, Joshua Nesbitt, Sidney Glover
It’ll be sad to see Corto go, as he’s an overachiever with a great story. But he just doesn’t offer enough on defense, and I can’t see him sticking just on his special teams ability. Scott’s an expensive backup, but a good one. Nesbitt is a near lock for the practice squad. He can play about 2343242 positions and Gailey loves him.
Specialists (3): Rian Lindell (K), Brian Moorman (P), Garrison Sanborn (LS)
Cut: Danny Aiken (LS)
Moorman beat back a challenge for his job this preseason, and I think Sanborn has done the same. Sanborn’s been pretty amazing during his time in Buffalo – I’ve literally never even heard of him screwing up a snap. Not in games, not even in practice. I don’t see the guy getting replaced.
So will I be right on my projections? We’ll find out Saturday by 6 p.m. Feel free to add your own in the comments.