Last night was our first look at the 2011 Buffalo Bills, and despite the Bills losing 10-3 to Chicago there were a lot of positives. In particular, the first string as a whole looked decent. But there’s only so much you can take away from watching the starters in a preseason game – those guys know they’re making the team, and it’s simply a way of getting ready for the season.
More interesting to me is watching the second- and third-stringers in action. Now here we have guys playing for their careers. Each NFL team is carrying 90 guys this preseason, but only 53 per team can realize their dreams and make the final roster.
By my count the Bills have about 40 players more or less guaranteed to make the roster barring injury/trade/suspension/arrest/whatever. That leaves some 13 or so spots up for grabs. So which “fringe” players helped themselves last night in their quest to make the Bills’ roster?
WR Naaman Roosevelt – You might say Roosevelt was already a lock, but if he wasn’t he surely moved closer to lock status last night. He made a couple of tough catches in traffic for first downs. This man can play.
NT Kellen Heard – This is a large, large man who is trying to make the team as a backup nose tackle. He certainly made a good impression last night. His best play was busting through the Bears’ line and drilling the quarterback before even finished his dropback.
LB Chris White – White showed his speed and athleticism last night when he broke up a pass some 30 yards down the field that was intended for Bears WR Earl Bennett. White can move, and I think he’ll find his way onto this roster. I’m sure he can help on special teams as well, which can only help his chances.
OLB Robert Eddins – I have no idea if Eddins (an undrafted rookie) is in the plans of the Bills’ coaching staff at all, but his name seems to keep showing up in practice reports as a guy who is always making plays. He can rush the passer and had a great play where he broke through the line to hit a running back for a loss. We’ll keep listening for his name.
OLB Danny Batten – Batten racked up two sacks and clearly has some pass rush ability. I think he was pretty close to a lock already, but I think it’s safe to say he’s on the roster now.
DE/OLB Alex Carrington – I don’t think he was in any real danger of not making the team, but if he was he’s not anymore. Carrington looked very good last night, including getting a tough sack while getting blocked. This man is a physical specimen.
QB Levi Brown – Brown desperately needed a good night if he was going to convince the Bills to keep him around as a 3rd “traditional” QB. (Brad Smith is really his own category.) Brown didn’t deliver. You can blame the pass rush in his face if you want, but Brown made some awful decisions, including an interception that never had a chance of reaching its intended target. He’ll be gone after camp barring an injury or a miracle.
WR Marcus Easley – Pretty tough night for Easley, Buffalo’s 4th-round draft pick last year. After missing his entire rookie season to injury, I’m sure he was dying to make a good impression in his first NFL action. It didn’t happen. He didn’t do anything on offense and really messed up on a kickoff return, picking a bouncing ball up right next to the sideline rather than just letting it go out of bounds.
DT Michael Jasper – Jasper actually looked okay last night from what I noticed, but he just didn’t stand out like Heard did. I do think Jasper will get on the practice squad no matter what.
OL Mansfield Wrotto – All of the Bills’ backup linemen weren’t great last night, but Wrotto stood out as extra bad. I really hope the Bills can bring in some free agents from somewhere to upgrade here.
OLB Aaron Maybin – Predictably, Maybin made absolutely no impact last night. Batten and Eddins each made more plays just last night than Maybin has in his entire career. I can’t see him sticking around. The Bills will probably just cut their losses.
TE Shawn Nelson – Nelson didn’t play last night…and that’s a problem. I think Chan Gailey is sick of him, and Nelson needs to play and play well if he’s going to make this team. Nelson can’t stay healthy, so he’s probably a goner.