Back in 2010, I remember looking at Buffalo’s training camp roster and thinking, “Man, I’m not sure there’s 40 NFL-quality players here, let alone the 53 you need.” And it was true: Chan Gailey inherited a pretty awful roster in his first season. It wasn’t a huge surprise when that team started 0-8.
That won’t be a problem in 2012.
Yes, the Bills will enter training camp this season with 90 athletes, and for once the vast majority of those players will look and perform like NFL players. There’s at least 70-80 guys who are probably good enough to play in the NFL. Chan Gailey and his staff are going to have a tough time cutting this roster down to 53. Some good players are going to be shown the door.
It’s way too early for this, but I’ll take a stab at what the 53-man roster will look like headed into Buffalo’s seasoning opening tilt in New Jersey against the Jets:
Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Vince Young, Brad Smith
There’s no way the Bills keep four QBs. Fitz is obviously a lock, and Smith is just too versatile and interesting for Gailey to give up on after one not-so-great season. The real competition will be between Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen for the #2 job. I’d definitely give the edge to Young just based on his history of success in the NFL, but Thigpen will get a fair shot and shouldn’t be counted out.
Running back: Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Tashard Choice
Jackson and Spiller will split 99% of the work on offense, but the Bills will carry three backs. Gailey seems to love Choice for whatever reason, so he’ll probably beat out Johnny White for the #3 role. White has a chance thanks to his value on special teams, however.
Fullback: Dorin Dickerson
Sorry, Corey McIntyre. The Bills just don’t use the traditonal fullback enough to justify McIntyre’s roster spot, and Dickerson can also line up at tight end. McIntyre’s an excellent special teams player, but that might not be enough to save him.
Wide Receiver: Stevie Johnson, David Nelson, T.J. Graham, Donald Jones, Marcus Easley
A brutal decision to make here, as there’s going to be 9-10 NFL-quality guys in camp. I would rather have Derek Hagan than Jones, but Jones has undeniable physical ability and the coaches like him. It wouldn’t shock me if the Bills carried six receivers, but that’s a lot of roster spots (especially when Brad Smith and C.J. Spiller have shown they can play WR in a pinch). It’s possible the Bills keep six if the rookie speedster Graham turns out to really not be ready for NFL action.
Tight End: Scott Chandler, Lee Smith
Chandler of course, and Smith gets the nod as the backup (over Mike Caussin and Kevin Brock) thanks to his blocking ability. Dickerson will also line up at TE as needed.
Offensive Line: Andy Levitre, Eric Wood, Erik Pears, Kraig Urbik, Cordy Glenn, Zerbie Sanders, Chris Hairston, Chad Rinehart, Michael Jasper
The starters outside of LT are pretty set, and it seems like Cordy Glenn impressed the coaching staff enough during OTAs that he’ll enter camp as the starter at LT. Rinehart is probably safe as the main backup guard. The rookie Sanders would need to be a disaster in camp not to make the team. If Hairston loses out to Glenn as the starter at LT, he’ll likely make the team anyway, as there’s really no other LT on the roster. Would the Bills keep anyone else? If they deciede to go with nine O-linemen, the enormous Jasper would have a shot as a backup guard. Or they could keep Colin Brown to make sure there’s a true backup center on the roster. Keeping 10 guys here isn’t out of the question with so much unproven depth.
See Page 2 for the defense!