This week in his Monday Musing, feature columnist Steve Mathes assesses the Buffalo Bills 75-man roster and picks his roster locks for the offense.
The Buffalo Bills have one of the deepest rosters in the National Football League. Over the next few weeks, you will see dozens of articles offering their take on a Buffalo Bills 53 man roster as well as predictions. This is not one of those articles. This article will examine each position group and who the “roster locks” are: the guys there is absolutely no chance the Buffalo Bills cut come early September. It can be used as a frame of reference when you are making your own 53-man roster predictions.
Locks: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley
Bubble Players: Jake Fromm, Davis Webb
Any thought of Matt Barkley losing his roster spot to Jake Fromm this week was put to bed Sunday morning when Josh Allen falsely tested positive for Covid-19. If this happened three weeks from now, he would have missed a regular-season game. There is no way McDermott and company are going to trust Jake Fromm or Davis Webb in a regular-season game on that short of a notice. Fromm and Webb could still make the active roster if the team decides to roll with three quarterbacks.
Running Back (3)
Locks: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, Taiwan Jones
Bubble: TJ Yeldon
Long Shot: Christian Wade
Zack Moss has become quite the conversation piece early in camp. My concern was that, due to a shortened off-season, Moss would not be ready from a mental standpoint early and Yeldon would be RB2. Through the first few days of camp, that concern has been absolved. Yeldon can still make this roster as an RB4, but more than likely he will be one of the Bills veteran exceptions on the practice squad and waiting in the wings if there is an injury.
Taiwan Jones is a lock, folks. He went down in practice today, so that may change things, but, if healthy, he is a lock. Special Teams Coach Heath Farewell said the combination of Jones and Neal could be “the best gunning duo in the league”.
Bubble: Patrick DiMarco, Reggie Gilliam
DiMarco has been nursing an injury that has opened the door for the UDFA Gilliam. Gilliam can play HB, FB, and TE. He is an ace special teamer. His versatility could win him a job over the veteran and former captain.
Wide Receivers (5)
Locks: Diggs, Brown, Beasley, Davis, Roberts
Bubble: McKenzie, Williams, Hodgins
Long Shot: Foster
Andre Roberts is making this team. He is one of the best return men in the league, and the Buffalo Bills have almost no legitimate options in the return game if Roberts is cut.
The final receiver spot is likely a battle between Duke Williams and Isaiah Hodgins to fill the “big slot” role. If the Bills decide to keep seven receivers there is a chance for Isaiah McKenzie. He is purely a gadget player, and the offense should evolve to a point where players like Diggs and Brown can do the things he does like jet sweeps.
Robert Foster is as good as gone. He may have a shot at the practice squad. He has missed most of camp with a concussion and cannot make a claim for the final spots. If Taiwan Jones is out for an extended period of time it could open up the door for Foster as the 7th receiver who is used almost exclusively as a gunner on special teams.
Tight End (2)
Locks: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft
Bubble: Lee Smith, Tommy Sweeney
Long Shot: Jason Croom, Nate Becker
Tyler Kroft restructuring his contract and practically guaranteeing his whole salary this year makes him an absolute lock as TE2. Lee Smith and Tommy Sweeney will battle it out for the final tight end spot with Sweeney most likely to be placed on the PUP list and miss the start of the season.
Croom doesn’t have the blocking chops to be TE3 and Becker still needs some seasoning. Both are candidates for the practice squad.
Offensive Line (6)
Locks: Dawkins, Spain, Morse, Ford, Nsekhe, Feliciano*
Bubble: Williams, Winters, Boehm, Bates, Boettger
Long Shot: Adams, Walton, Salako, Harrell
Jon Feliciano is likely to start the season on IR with a designation to return. In order to get that designation, he must make the initial 53-man roster. This means the Bills will likely have to waive a player and then bring them back after they designate Feliciano. My money is on Boehm. His contract has little to no guarantees to bring about dead cap, and he doesn’t have to clear waivers. The Bills can let him know in advance and bring him back the next day.
If Brian Winters cannot claim the starting right guard job I can see a situation where the Bills start the year with Ford there and Nsekhe at right tackle. We have seen both combinations at camp thus far. McDermott says the Bills will make a decision soon on the status of Ford, so we may know within the week. If Winters doesn’t secure a starting job, he could be cut, leading the way for Trey Adams to take the tenth offensive line spot. The Bills could also choose not to put Feliciano on IR if they think he can return sooner. We saw them do that with Kroft last season.
While it is likely the first eleven players I listed are locks, only the top six have it 100% wrapped up at this moment.
Bubble: Stephen Hauschka and/or Tyler Bass
Through the first week of training camp, neither kicker has stepped up and taken command of the job. While Bass has earned rave reviews for his big leg, he has lacked consistency. Hauschka has been fairly consistent from short range but struggled from a distance. Could the Buffalo Bills consider a two kicker system to start the season? I think they could.
Long Snapper (1)
Lock: Reid Ferguson
Everyone’s favorite long snapper returns for another season.
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