Sifting Down to 53

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It’s the day of reckoning in the NFL. The day that undrafted free agents, late round draft picks, underperforming and aging veterans fear. By 9:00 tonight all NFL rosters must be cut down from 75 to 53, with an additional 8 that will be asked back to the practice squad to be tackling dummies for $60,000 (not a bad gig right?).

The Bills finished off the preseason with another throwaway performance against the Detroit Lions last night, falling 38-32 and finishing the exhibition season at an impressive 0-4 mark. The starting offense looked great on their one drive of the game as they drove down the field with an impressive mixture of C.J. Spiller running the ball and Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing 8-10 yard slants and ins. Some players stepped up last night but was it enough to avoid the turk’s hammer?

Here’s my projection of the 53 players that will comprise the active roster and 8 who will be brought back for the practice squad for the 2012 Buffalo Bills squad:

Quarterback (3): Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tavaris Jackson, Brad Smith
Cuts: Tyler Thigpen
Analysis: Thigpen looked serviceable against the Lions but benefited heavily from penalties and didn’t do enough to stay on the roster. There’s a chance the Bills keep Fitz, Jackson and Thigpen, moving Smith to wide receiver and wildcat quarterback but it would likely come at the expense of another receiver. Needless to say if (God forbid) Fitz goes down this season this team is royally screwed.

Running Back (5): Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Tashard Choice, Corey McIntyre, Dorin Dickerson
Cuts: Johnny White, Zach Brown
Analysis: White has been held back by injuries and while he’s shown flashes at times in the last two preseasons, he hasn’t done enough to beat out Choice. No explanation needed for Brown. Dickerson makes the team as an H-back and could be a serious threat in the red zone. I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen in the preseason and don’t think that he’ll only be utilized on special teams. He’s strong, has good hands and runs precise routes. Dickerson could be the breakout trash heap player ala Scott Chandler or David Nelson of 2012.

Tight End (2): Scott Chandler, Lee Smith
Cuts: Kevin Brock, Mike Caussin (PUP)
Analysis: The only lock at tight end is Chandler. Smith has done little to impress in training camp and the preseason and makes the initial roster by default. Don’t be surprised if Buddy Nix scours the waiver wire to find a legitimate number two tight end to pair with Chandler (don’t get your hopes up for Chris Cooley).

Wide Receiver (6): Stevie Johnson, Donald Jones, David Nelson, T.J. Graham, Derek Hagan, Kamar Aiken
Cuts: Marcus Easley, Ruvell Martin, Naaman Roosevelt
Analysis: After Easley’s kick return for a touchdown last night some might argue that he earned a roster spot but his play has been too spotty. After going into camp projected as the dark horse to win the number two job, he’s had trouble even seeing the field until the fourth quarter. In reality Aiken has done more to make this team. He has the ideal build at 6-2, 213 and plenty of speed. He also has shown a propensity to contribute on special teams as a blocker and coverage specialist which sets him apart from Roosevelt. In the end he may not be as reliable of a receiver as Roosevelt but his body-type and ability to contribute on special teams sets him apart and sends the former UB product packing. This certainly won’t be an easy decision and no one is going to like seeing Naaman leave but he’s just not big enough to justify a roster spot for another year with Aiken’s progression. Easley will likely be asked back to the practice squad but might get scooped by a wide receiver-starved team (cough, cough Miami).

Offensive Line (8): Cordy Glenn, Andy Levitre, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik, Erik Pears, Chris Hairston, Chad Rinehart, Zebrie Sanders
Cuts: James Carmon, Sam Young, Mark Asper, Colin Brown, Keith Williams
Analysis:
Besides receiver these might be the most difficult cuts for Nix and crew. The Bills can’t cut Sanders. He was arguably their biggest value pick in the draft this season and even though he’s looked shaky at times has serious potential to be a starter down the road. Young is an intriguing prospect and really hasn’t done much wrong this preseason but has practice squad eligibility left and will almost certainly be asked back. Asper just didn’t do enough to earn a roster spot and it would be surprising to see him asked back for the practice squad. Brown is versatile at guard and center but just didn’t stand out enough. Williams is another practice squad candidate.

Defensive End (5): Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Chris Kelsay, Kyle Moore,Jarron Gilbert
Cuts: Robert Eddins
Analysis: The top four of Williams, Anderson, Kelsay and Moore are pretty much set in stone. The Bills will likely keep 9 defensive linemen in all and I’m going out on a limb and saying they’ll keep 5 defensive tackles instead of ends. Gilbert is going to be a tough cut to make because he can play both tackle and end and has really had a nice preseason. If he makes the team he’ll likely be the 52 or 53 player to earn a spot. It’s highly unlikely that if he’s cut he’ll be brought back because there’s sure to be teams out there that will scoop him up in a heartbeat.
*****With Dwan Edwards being cut Gilbert is likely to make the team because of his versatility. It would be surprising to see the Bills keep Carrington over Gilbert at this point.

Defensive Tackle (4): Kyle Williams, Marcel Dareus, Spencer Johnson, Kellen Heard
Cuts: Alex Carrington, Dwan Edwards
Analysis: Williams and Dareus will form one of the most dominant interior defensive lines in football and Johnson is as solid as they come in terms of backups. Edwards getting cut is a bit surprising and may open the door for Carrington but I still say Heard makes it over him. Carrington has been supremely disappointing and will likely be the 6th member (including Easley) of Nix’s inaugural draft class to get the axe. Heard is a beast at 6-6’ 339lbs, and played very well in spot duty last season (21 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FF). Injuries set him back in camp and the preseason but he has serious potential as a run stuffer on goal line and short yardage situations. Troup likely would’ve gotten the axe as well if he wasn’t placed on IR.

Linebacker (7): Nick Barnett, Kelvin Sheppard, Arthur Moats, Bryan Scott, Nigel Bradham, Kirk Morrison, Tank Carder
Cuts: Scott McKillop, Chris White
Analysis: White officially punched his ticket out of Buffalo last night with multiple missed tackles, blown coverage assignments and his inability to run with running backs in coverage. McKillop is a bit perplexing. He looked great in the first two preseason games but saw his playing time cut in half when Morrison starting getting reps at the backup middle linebacker slot. Unless they use Edwards’ spot to keep an extra linebacker McKillop will likely be heading out of Buffalo.

Cornerback (5): Stephon Gilmore, Aaron Williams, Ron Brooks, Leodis McKelvin, Justin Rogers
Cuts: Isaiah Green, Terrance McGee (PUP Possibility)
Analysis: It’s gotten to the point where the Bills just can’t count on McGee anymore. He’s frequently injured and if the Pittsburgh preseason game is any indication, he’s lost a big step. The Bills might chose to put him on the PUP list or the conditional IR but I can’t see him taking up space on the bench and taking away a spot for someone who really deserves it.

Safety (4): Jairus Byrd, George Wilson, Da’Norris Searcy, Delano Howell
Cuts: Nick Saenz
Analysis: Saenz finished off a horrible preseason getting run over by the likes of Joique Bell and Mikel Leshoure. Howell was arguably the defensive MVP of training camp and the preseason. He’s proven that he’s a solid hitter, who can play special teams and has some coverage ability. Howell is built more like a strong safety but Searcy could always be used in a backup situation for Byrd if he were to go down. If a player like Howell who showed great production and growth throughout camp is cut at a position where the team needs an additional player, it just proves how USELESS the preseason is.

Kicker (2): John Potter, Rian Lindell
Analysis: Potter is a weapon and has earned a spot as a placekicker.

Punter (1): Brian Moorman
Cuts: Shawn Powell
Analysis: Powell challenged Moorman at the beginning of camp but no one is going to replace the most recognizable Bill of the 21st century. Moorman will be a Bill until he retires or dies, whichever comes first.

Long Snapper (1): Garrison Sanborn
Analysis: Sanborn is one of the best long snappers in the league. Enough Said.

Practice Squad (8): WR Marcus Easley, T Sam Young, G Keith Williams, LB Chris White, G/C Mark Asper, CB Isaiah Green, DE Robert Eddins, P Shawn Powell

There it is, agree or disagree I really couldn’t care less. The great thing is I’ll know how close I am in about 4 hours so I’ll try to do a follow up tomorrow. 

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