We’ve made it, Bills Mafia! We are now just two days away from the start of the 2022 NFL season, as the Bills and Rams kick things off Thursday night at 8:20 pm ET. After a busy offseason for Brandon Beane and company, which included signing 10 offensive and defensive linemen, drafting a starting cornerback, trimming the roster down to 53 players by August 30, and then having to suddenly find a punter, let’s take a look at the 2022 depth chart before the season gets underway. But first let’s also enjoy for a moment that some of the best sports betting sites in the US have the Bills as Super Bowl 57 favorites to start the season.
*Note: Depth chart via buffalobills.com.
|WR||Gabe Davis||Jake Kumerow|
|LT||Dion Dawkins||Tommy Doyle|
|LG||Roger Saffold||Bobby Hart|
|RG||Ryan Bates||Greg Van Roten|
|RT||Spencer Brown||David Quessenberry|
|QB||Josh Allen||Case Keenum|
|RB||Devin Singletary||Zack Moss||James Cook||Taiwan Jones|
|TE||Dawson Knox||Quintin Morris||Tommy Sweeney|
|SWR||Isaiah McKenzie||Jamison Crowder|
|WR||Stefon Diggs||Khalil Shakir|
|LDE||Greg Rousseau||Boogie Basham|
|DT||Ed Oliver||Jordan Phillips|
|DT||DaQuan Jones||Tim Settle|
|RDE||Von Miller||A.J. Epenesa||Shaq Lawson|
|WLB||Matt Milano||Terrel Bernard||Baylon Spector|
|MLB||Tremaine Edmunds||Tyrel Dodson||Tyler Matakevich|
|NCB||Taron Johnson||Cam Lewis|
|CB||Kaiir Elam||Christian Benford|
|SS||Jordan Poyer||Jaquan Johnson|
|FS||Micah Hyde||Damar Hamlin|
|CB||Dane Jackson||Siran Neal|
|PR||Khalil Shakir||Jamison Crowder|
|KR||Isaiah McKenzie||James Cook|
|QB Matt Barkley||RB Duke Johnson||RB Raheem Blackshear||TE Zach Davidson|
|WR Isaiah Hodgins||WR Tavon Austin||WR Tanner Gentry||OL Greg Mancz|
|OT Alec Anderson||OT Ryan Van Denmark||DE Mike Love||DT Brandin Bryant|
|DT C.J. Brewer||LB Joe Giles-Harris||CB Ja’Marcus Ingram||CB Kyler McMichael|
|CB Tre’Davious White (PUP)||OG Ike Boettger (PUP)||WR Marquez Stevenson (IR)||LB Andre Smith (SUS)|
This roster is deep. Like, really deep, and it doesn’t even include one of the best cornerbacks in the league. A lot of Bills fans were sad to see guys like Isaiah Hodgins and Raheem Blackshear not make the 53-man roster, but, considering the Bills were able to retain them on the practice squad along with veterans Duke Johnson, Tavon Austin, Greg Mancz, and Matt Barkley, I’d say it was the best case scenario. Considering the 69th guy could contribute in a meaningful way shows how far the pipeline of talent goes on this team. I’d argue that the Buffalo Bills even have the best practice squad in the league.
Breaking Down the Depth Chart
This was the most surprising position group to me, since the Bills decided to keep three tight ends (four if you count Reggie Gilliam), and one of them was not O.J. Howard. Quintin Morris and Tommy Sweeney both beat out Howard, in large part due to their position flexibility. The Bills love versatile players who can contribute on special teams, and that is what Sweeney and Morris bring to the table.
I also think that Morris’ emergence as a receiver and as a run-blocker was another reason why the Bills decided to move on from Howard and have now listed the former undrafted free agent from Bowling Green as TE2 on their depth chart.
I just hope that the Bills can get more production out of their TE2 position this year. This is the second year in a row where Buffalo signed a tight end in free agency and then cut him (last year it was Jacob Hollister). Tommy Sweeney, Knox’s backup last year, had just nine receptions for 44 yards (4.9 yards/catch) and one TD in 2021.
The Bills decided to keep six WRs, going with Jake Kumerow over Isaiah Hodgins as WR6, again, because of special teams. Stefon Diggs is WR1, Gabe Davis is WR2, and it looks like Isaiah McKenzie will be the starting slot receiver (WR3). Brandon Beane said back in April that Khalil Shakir is WR4, meaning that he is the first backup to come in off the bench, either on the outside or in the slot. But we can’t forget about Jamison Crowder, who was brought in as Cole Beasley’s replacement to exploit zone coverages in the same way McKenzie should exploit man coverage. So I’m almost wondering if the Bills will use a slot-receiver-by-committee approach, with McKenzie being WR3a and Jamison Crowder being WR3b, depending on which defense they are playing.
There wasn’t anything too surprising here, as the RB room was just too full to keep Duke Johnson and/or Raheem Blackshear. The one thing that does surprise me though is that Zack Moss is listed ahead of James Cook on the Bills’ official depth chart. It seems as though Moss put together a great summer now that his ankle is fully healed and his confidence is back. But I wouldn’t expect Cook to be on the bench for long. He was drafted high for a reason; his speed, shiftiness, and pass-catching abilities offers an element to the offense that no other (Bills) player has. The Buffalo Bills said they are going to slowly integrate Cook into the offense, getting him involved as the games go.
The way I see it unfolding, Cook can be a glorified version of C.J. Spiller, back when the Bills used Spiller and Fred Jackson as a committee and had the screen game working to their advantage. I think Moss’ role will be handling short-yardage situations, especially since the Bills want to preserve Josh Allen’s body. Allen putting his head down and running may be Buffalo’s best play sometimes, but the Bills have to be careful to not expose him too much as he gets older. Reggie Gilliam could also be used in this capacity, as he can also line up as a tight end to help in the passing game.
Again, there weren’t too many surprises here as the Buffalo Bills went with nine offensive linemen while Ike Boettger recovers from his torn Achilles. Maybe the biggest surprise, aside from Beane finessing a fifth-round pick from the Cardinals for Cody Ford, was that Bobby Hart, a guy who had a 33.7 PFF grade last season, made this roster. As much as Bills fans may not like it, all reports indicate that Hart has looked a lot better on the inside as a guard during training camp. Now that Ford is gone, Hart could become Aaron Kromer’s new project. Who knows, maybe BBB can somehow get a day-three draft pick for Hart once Boettger is ready to return.
The biggest question on the OL right now is who is going to start at RT with Spencer Brown recovering from offseason back surgery. David Quessenberry is a solid backup, but it seems like the second-year tackle may be ready for Thursday night.
And for quarterback, Josh Allen beat out Case Keenum for QB1, so that competition is now over with…
Moving over to the defense, the Bills decided to keep nine defensive linemen this year as opposed to 11, like they did last year. But considering they have Von Miller now, they clearly don’t have to rely on as many guys to step up anymore. Miller’s presence alone already makes the young linemen that much better. Not to mention the other veteran guys they brought in: Tim Settle, DaQuan Jones, Jordan Phillips, and Shaq Lawson. This defensive line is going to wreak havoc all season long, as Buffalo finally found some proven finishers.
The Buffalo Bills were tied for 11th last season with 42 sacks, but they couldn’t come up with the big sack when they needed it. Not to mention, there were games where teams (Colts and Patriots) ran all over them. So Beane made it a point to revamp the DL, bringing in one of the best pass rushers in the league, some of the best run defenders in the league, and two fan-favorites in Phillips and Lawson, who always bring the juice.
McBeane decided to keep six linebackers, which is interesting considering they play a nickel defense with just two linebackers on the field at all times. But again, special teams were a big factor here. Tyler Matakevich is a special teams ace, and Baylon Spector flashed a lot of talent in the preseason as well (as a LB and on ST). I think the big questions here are: How will Tremaine Edmunds perform this season? Will the Buffalo Bills re-sign him? And what is the plan with Terrel Bernard, who has learned both the mike and the will positions? Without getting into Edmunds’ contract situation, I want to say that I think he will have a big season regardless with a revamped defensive line in front of him, as they will open up more lanes for him to get to the QB without getting sucked up by blockers.
This is probably the biggest question going into the season: How will the cornerbacks play while Tre White is out? The Bills have already said that Dane Jackson is CB1 until Tre comes back, so that means it’s up to rookies Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford to hold the fort down on the other side. Both are athletic, physical, and play aggressive, so I am confident that they will perform well, even if the first seven games are the hardest part of the schedule.
The one interesting note here is that the Bills listed Siran Neal as Jackson’s backup on the outside and Cam Lewis as Taron Johnson’s backup on the inside. I thought that it would be the other way around with Neal on the inside and Lewis on the outside. But let’s hope that all goes well and we don’t have to find out what the backup plan is.
And then at safety, the top safety duo in the NFL is ready for another All-Pro season together as it appears both Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde will be good to go Thursday night after sustaining injuries over the summer. Having those two up top will help the rookie corners if they do happen to get beat in coverage.
And finally, the Buffalo Bills were able to snatch up arguably the best free agent punter available last week, as they signed Sam Martin to a one-year contract. (I had him ranked as my 10th-best punter in my article that came out earlier that day.) And it seems Martin is happy to be in Buffalo, working alongside Tyler Bass and Reid Ferguson.
Well, there you have it Bills Mafia. A breakdown of what I think is the best depth chart in the league before we start in with records, stats, standings, fantasy numbers, etc. This season is going to be special, and we need to enjoy every minute of it. The Buffalo Bills’ Super Bowl window is as open as it has ever been, and let me tell ya, that breeze is feeling pretty nice right now. But we, like the players and coaches, have to remember to take it one week at a time, one day at a time, and one minute at a time because it is the NFL. Anything can happen on any given Sunday.
Feature Image: Getty Images