Now that the Bills have settled on a 53-man roster, let’s take a quick look at each position group.
Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyler Thigpen, Tarvaris Jackson, Brad Smith
We all know the deal with Fitz. This team will go as far as Fitz’s play lets them. The backup situation is pretty much a disaster. You have to believe Thigpen is only still on the roster until Jackson learns the offense. And T-Jack is still T-Jack, so he’s certainly not a franchise savior or anything. And what to make of Brad Smith? Can Chan Gailey wring anything out of him? To call me “concerned” about this group is a bit of an understatement.
Running back: Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Tashard Choice
Jackson is the workhorse. Spiller is the change of pace/home run hitter. Choice hopefully won’t touch the ball much. Not much to worry about here.
Fullback: Corey McIntyre, Dorin Dickerson
McIntyre will be McIntyre. Solid-to-very good special teams guy, and a passable fullback. The Bills don’t use many fullback sets, so his offensive limitations aren’t a huge concern. Dickerson will be an interesting guy to watch. He’s listed as a fullback, but he’ll fill a hybrid fullback/tight end/H-back role. We’ll see what Gailey has in store for him.
Wide Receiver: Stevie Johnson, David Nelson, T.J. Graham, Donald Jones, Ruvell Martin
This group could be pretty good or pretty underwhelming depending on how a few guys pan out. Stevie will be fine as long as Fitz can get him the ball. Nelson will be the solid slot receiver we know him to be. Martin’s basically a special teamer. The wild cards are Jones and Graham. The coaching staff continues to put a lot of faith in Jones, and he’ll start alongside Johnson. The rookie Graham had a very nice preseason. Will it carry over to the real games? If either (or both!) develop into any sort of decent compliment to Stevie, that would be a huge boost to this offense.
Tight End: Scott Chandler, Lee Smith
Chandler can catch and could be poised for a huge season if he stays healthy. Smith is basically a sixth offensive lineman when he’s on the field. Both are good in their roles.
Offensive Line: Andy Levitre, Eric Wood, Erik Pears, Kraig Urbik, Cordy Glenn, Chris Hairston, Chad Rinehart, Colin Brown, Sam Young
Levitre, Wood, Pears, and Urbik are somewhere between excellent and solid. Glenn is the X-factor. Can he play LT at an NFL level? The Jets will provide a really good Week 1 test. The depth scares the hell out of me. A few injuries here could be a disaster for this team.
Defensive Line: Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Chris Kelsay, Kyle Moore, Alex Carrington, Spencer Johnson
A bit surprising to see the team go with just eight guys here. The starters (M. Williams, K. Williams, Dareus, Anderson) have the potential to be the league’s best line. The backups are a bit concerning to me. Johnson will be fine in his usual rotational role, and his versatility is a virtue. Carrington hasn’t shown me much. Moore is a pass-rusher who hasn’t gotten to NFL QBs much. Kelsay is Kelsay (although the move back to the 4-3 should help.)
Linebacker: Nick Barnett, Kelvin Sheppard, Bryan Scott, Nigel Bradham, Kirk Morrison, Chris White, Arthur Moats
This is easily the unit that scares me the most on this team right now. Barnett is very good. If he gets hurt, the Bills are screwed. There’s also a lot riding on Sheppard – is he ready to be the man in the middle? The strong-side linebacker spot is a bit of a mess. Moats is the starter but didn’t impress in the preseason games. Morrison is a veteran but could be on his last legs. Perhaps the rookie Bradham will win that role eventually. I love his potential. Scott is valuable in his nickel LB role. White is a special teams guy.
Cornerback: Terrence McGee, Leodis McKelvin, Stephon Gilmore, Justin Rogers, Aaron Williams
Ooof….another scary spot. Hard not to like how Gilmore looks so far, but there’s a lot of pressure on him as a rookie. Williams is the other starter, and he’s looked pretty shaky in the exhibition games. We all know McKelvin’s past struggles. Maybe he’ll thrive in the nickel CB role. McGee and Rogers can’t seem to stay healthy. Rookie Ron Brooks could come back from injured reserve at some point to boost this unit.
Safety: George Wilson, Jairus Byrd, Da’Norris Searcy, Delano Howell
Love this group. Wilson and Byrd are among the better starting tandems in the league. Searcy is a very talented young player. Howell, an undrafted rookie, forced his way onto the roster with strong preseason play.
Specialists: Rian Lindell, Brian Moorman, Garrison Sanborn, John Potter
Nothing to worry about here. Lindell, Moorman, and Sanborn are steady veterans. Potter just has to blast kickoffs into the endzone.