This week in his Monday Musing, feature columnist Steve Mathes assesses the Buffalo Bills 75-man roster and picks his roster locks for the defense.
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.
Edge Defender (4)
Locks: Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, Tent Murphy, AJ Epenesa
Bubble Players: Daryl Johnson, Bryan Cox Jr., Mike Love
Let’s start with the most controversial of players, Trent Murphy. You can save $8 million dollars by cutting him, the Jaguars only wanted a 2nd round pick for Yannick Ngokoue, and Jedeveon Clowney is still unsigned. I have heard every valid reason in the book for cutting Trent Murphy, and yet I do not believe for one second that the Buffalo Bills will do it. Murphy was quietly one of the better defensive ends in football the back half of last season against the run. He knows the scheme and will be a fixture in the Buffalo Bills 2020 rotation. Remember, Chris Brown was suspended for reporting that Murphy was the first team left end in practice. (Sarcasm)
Johnson, Cox, and Love (wow that is quite a trio of last names) will vie for a possible fifth spot along the edge. Due to his upside and special teams ability, I believe Johnson would have the leg up in the competition. Cox and Love have flashed in camp. They will likely both wind up on the practice squad and be offered an opportunity to come back and compete again in 2021. Other than Epenesa, there isn’t any youth amongst the locks at this position.
Defensive Tackle (4)
Locks: Ed Oliver, Harrison Phillips, Vernon Butler, Quinton Jefferson
Bubble Players: Vincent Taylor, Tanzel Smart
Long Shot: Justin Zimmer
Taylor and Smart are the names to watch in this battle. It would not surprise me if the Bills decide to keep neither on the active roster to keep an extra edge defender like Daryl Johnson. Both Epenesa and Jefferson can flex inside and out along the line. Both Taylor and Smart could be placed on the practice squad and be ready at a moment’s notice.
Locks: Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, AJ Klein, Tyler Matakevich
Bubble Players: Tyrel Dodson, Vosean Joseph, Corey Thompson
Long Shot: Del’Shawn Phillips
The Buffalo Bills have brought in some free agents at linebacker to visit this training camp. To me, that is a sign they may not have faith in some of their depth options at the positions. The three starters are locked in and Matakevich is a lock due to his prowess on special teams. The rest is an absolute toss-up.
If I was a betting man, I would say the Buffalo Bills keep Tyrell Dodson who has reportedly had a solid camp as the 5th linebacker, and that’s it. It is arguably the Bills worst position in terms of depth. Keep an extra DB or Defensive Lineman like Johnson as opposed to a player like Vosean Joseph who hasn’t clicked yet and will be consistently inactive on game-day. Speaking of Joseph, the Bills could likely slide him or Thomspon onto the practice squad for depth and competition in 2021.
Boundary Cornerback (3)
Locks: Tre White, Josh Norman, Levi Wallace
Bubble Player: Dane Jackson
Long Shot: Brian Allen
It will be really interesting to see if the Bills keep Jackson or recent signee Brian Allen on the final roster due to the injury of Josh Norman. Both have had quiet camps and could easily be stashed on the practice squad. However, with Norman sidelined, the Bills find themselves painfully thin at this specific corner position.
Nickel Cornerback / Depth Safety (2)
Locks: Taron Johnson, Siran Neal
Bubble Players: Cam Lewis, Dean Marlowe
Despite his injury history, the Bills have invested too much draft capital in Taron Johnson to cut bait so soon. Neal is a lock to play “big nickel” and special teams. I was almost willing to make Marlowe a lock, but a strong camp by Cam Lewis makes me wonder if the Bills possibly choose him over Marlowe because he is more of a “traditional” corner.
Locks: Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, Jaquan Johnson
Long Shot: Josh Thomas
This situation is pretty obvious. What may be fun to watch is Johnson’s development. If he impresses the coaching staff do they consider putting him on the field at safety in certain packages and transitioning Hyde or Poyer to a nickel corner, “tight end stopper” type of role?
Lock: Corey Bojorquez
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