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My Premature Bills Roster Projection Revisited

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Well, we’ve made it Bills fans. The 2022 NFL season is just around the corner. Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott have made the tough decisions and the Buffalo Bills have their initial 53-man roster (and 16-man practice squad).

While they turn their attention to the Los Angeles Rams, I want to take one last look at the “final” roster, not to judge them, but to judge myself; namely my premature roster projection from this past May. I do this not (solely) to gloat about what I got correct, but out of curiosity. To see how my unaltered projections, made prior to the #THUDup (training camp and preseason), panned out.

You can check out my original 2022 Buffalo Bills roster projection here:

QB (2): Josh Allen, Case Keenum

Cut: Matt Barkley

We all knew what was gonna happen in the QB room. 

RB (5): Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, James Cook, Taiwan Jones, Reggie Gilliam (FB)

Cut: Duke Johnson, Raheem Blackshear

The RB room was also easy to predict three months ago. However, while I correctly predicted Raheem Blackshear would make the practice squad, he did so for a different reason than I imagined three months ago. In May, I thought he would make the PS because he was a young RB. He actually made it because he was a young RB with some solid potential. Heck, the way this preseason played out you almost would’ve thought that Raheem Blackshear pulled an Alfred Morris and seized the RB1 job. But seriously, it was nice to see him, as well as James Cook and Zack Moss, show out.

Death, taxes, Taiwan Jones on special teams.

The only other thing of note here is that Duke Johnson was not released early and ended up on the Bills practice squad. Ultimately, I overestimated his free agent market. But I’m glad he’s still in the building. He would be a solid emergency option if needed.

WR (6): Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Khalil Shakir, Jamison Crowder, Jake Kumerow

IR: Marquez Stevenson

Cut: Tavon Austin, Neil Pau’u, Tanner Gentry, Isaiah Hodgins

I also got the names right here except Marquez Stevenson, who made the team but was put on the IR. However, like with Blackshear, Isaiah Hodgins made the practice squad under different circumstances than I predicted. He fought his keister off to make this team, showing out in the preseason, and (presumably) making Beane’s job harder. Alas, as I said back in May, Jake Kumerow got the job because of his special teams acumen; something that McBeane values more in a WR6 than pass-catching or route running. With that said, a healthy Hodgins could very well follow in Ike Boettger and Ryan (Rick) Bates’ shoes, becoming a (potential) solid long-term contributor.

I also didn’t anticipate the Bills keeping three WRs on the practice squad. However, I’m glad they brought Tavon Austin back. He will provide solid return man depth should things go haywire with Isaiah McKenzie or Khalil Shakir.

TE (3): Dawson Knox, Tommy Sweeney, Quintin Morris

Cut: Jalen Wydermyer, O.J. Howard

Now this is where both my first real miss and notable hit come in. The hit was Quintin Morris. In May, I said that his athleticism would help him make the roster and it did… as well as his positional flexibility (FB, TE, WR, ST). I liked him quite a bit coming out of Bowling Green and I’m happy that he made the initial Buffalo Bills roster.

My first notable miss was O.J. Howard over Tommy Sweeney. I, like many, assumed Howard was the Bills’ TE2 three months ago. Boy that aged well (lol). It was reported (when there were actually things to report) that Howard had a rough camp. And it was evident, by his extended usage in the preseason, that he (not Sweeney) was the odd man out.

On the flip side of this… I must apologize to @adamnannini and the (dozens?) of Sweeney stans for dismissing him so early on. He seemed to have a decent camp, making a couple plays here and there. Clearly, he did enough (or Howard did so little) that McDermott and Beane felt he deserved a spot. Frankly, I first got the impression that he would when I saw him catch that TD pass in red zone drills in the second to last camp practice. The way his teammates swarmed him and celebrated surprised me and made me think there was something more to him than met the eye. Though maybe it shouldn’t have surprised me. As The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia mentioned back in July, McDermott often refers to Sweeney as a “glue guy”. Well, he’ll sure be sticking around now, presumably as Buffalo’s blocking TE.

OT (5): Dion Dawkins, David Quessenberry, Spencer Brown, Tommy Doyle, Bobby Hart

Cut: Derek Kerstetter, Tanner Owen, Alec Anderson, Luke Tenuta

I did have David Quessenberry making the roster, but I had him pegged as a guard (with tackle flexibility). However, he has seen significant action at RT and will likely start while Spencer Brown fully recovers from his offseason surgery.

The main surprise in this group is Bobby Hart, the “thief of football joy” himself, making the 53. Despite all conceivable logic and reason, Hart performed decently during camp and preseason (up until the third game). And he apparently has shown enough baseline competence for McDermott to express confidence in him at (*checks notes*) FOUR positions. (Wait, wut???) All snark aside, I gotta give Aaron Kromer credit. Buffalo’s hog mollie warlock got more out of Hart than thought possible. If he can maintain the same level of play he showed this preseason, then I can tolerate his presence on this team. (If not, please yeet him into Lake Erie.)

Meanwhile, I went one for three on practice squad OTs (Alec Anderson). Kerstetter was an early cut and Tenuta got claimed by the Colts.

OG (3): Rodger Saffold, Ryan (Rick) Bates, Greg Van Roten

PUP: Ike Boettger

Cut: Jordan Simmons, Jacob Capra

Traded: Cody Ford

I could not have projected Greg Van Roten one way or the other because he wasn’t on the team at the time of my original piece. However, I did call Ike Boettger to the PUP list. (Though that wasn't too difficult to do.)

Then, there was Cody Ford. As I mentioned last Saturday on “The Writer’s Club”, I had Ford making the roster because I didn’t think Brandon Beane would actually move on from him. He proved us all wrong in that regard, shipping Ford off to Arizona for a 2023 5th round pick. However, I did say that “if he doesn’t show anything in camp or someone else impresses, he could end up as a compensatory trade candidate”. Apparently, it was the latter scenario (maybe *gags* Hart?). But, that wasn’t all. I included a “compensatory trade” scenario…

From my original piece

Obviously, I whiffed on the receiving team. But I got the compensation correct. (I cannot confirm the flavor of the chips, as that will likely depend on Ford’s playing time.) In the spirit of academic integrity, I’ll count my Cody Ford prediction as half right.

C (1): Mitch Morse

Cut: Greg Mancz

I had Greg Mancz making the final 53. He did not. He did make the Bills practice squad though.

DE (5): Von Miller, Greg Rousseau, A.J. Epenesa, Carlos (Boogie) Basham, Shaq Lawson

Cut: Daniel Joseph, Mike Love, Kingsley Jonathan

(*Insert Staples easy button here*)

However, unlike my prediction, it looks like Kingsley Jonathan will be sticking around the NFL for a bit longer with the Chicago Bears.

DT (4): Ed Oliver, DaQuan Jones, Tim Settle, Jordan Phillips

Cut: Brandin Bryant, C.J. Brewer, Prince Emili, Eli Ankou (injury settlement), 

Not Signed (Yet): Justin Zimmer

Once again, it was relatively easy to see this DT room coming. Of course, the Bills did not re-sign Justin Zimmer, but there’s still time for them to do so this season. (Or perhaps they just fill the Zimmer role with Brandin Bryant? Hmm…)

LB (6): Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, Terrel Bernard, Tyrel Dodson, Baylon Spector, Tyler Matakevich

Suspended: Andre Smith

Cut: Marquel Lee, Joe Giles-Harris

Don’t you love when you post a roster projection and then, less than a week later, one of the linebackers you picked gets suspended? (This is an Andre Smith sentence.) However, the Bills did in fact keep six active LBs, retaining 2022 seventh-round pick Baylon (*pronounced Bae-lon*) Spector. The rookie showed out this preseason, recording two passes defended and a team-best 26 total tackles. If he can show a baseline proficiency on defense and special teams, he could be a potential long-term replacement for Matakevich.

I also gotta give props to Joe Giles-Harris. The dude also came to play this preseason. While he didn’t make the final cut, he will stick around on the Bills practice squad (as I predicted).

CB (6): Dane Jackson, Kaiir Elam, Taron Johnson, Christian Benford, Siran Neal, Cam Lewis

PUP: Tre’Davious White

Cut: Olaijah Griffin, Tim Harris, Jordan Miller, Ja’Marcus Ingram, Nick McCloud

It wasn’t too far-fetched back in May to say that Tre’Davious White would end up on the IR or PUP list. The main question here was… who’d be behind him? Turns out, as Dennis Green once said, “they are who we [I] thought they were”. What I didn’t expect was just how well Christian Benford would do. He was a dawg out there for the Bills in camp and preseason. I hope he keeps it up going forward.

While I did whiff on the practice squad CBs, I’m not surprised. Olaijah Griffin was cut early on and Nick McCloud was, from all reports, one of the last men cut. (Both ended up transferring to Buffalo Bills - East Rutherford Branch.) 

S (4): Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Jaquan Johnson, Damar Hamlin

Cut: Josh Thomas

The only surprise here, in my opinion, is that Josh Thomas went from a Bills preseason darling to not even on the initial practice squad this year. (Granted this likely doesn’t mean much unless he signs with another team’s PS.)

ST: Tyler Bass (K), Sam Martin (P), Reid Ferguson (LS)

Cut: Matt Haack, Matt Araiza

Nobody could have anticipated the Matt Araiza situation back in May. The Buffalo Bills didn’t know (even though they should have). Fans certainly couldn’t have known. But they ultimately did the correct thing, moving on and finding another punter. (And an upgrade to be honest.)

Buffalo Bills Practice Squad (16)

  1. Matt Barkley (QB)
  2. Duke Johnson (RB)
  3. Raheem Blackshear (RB)
  4. Tavon Austin (WR)
  5. Tanner Gentry (WR)
  6. Isaiah Hodgins (WR)
  7. Zach Davidson (TE)
  8. Greg Mancz (G/C)
  9. Alec Anderson (OT)
  10. Ryan Van Demark (OT)
  11. Mike Love (DE)
  12. Brandin Bryant (DT)
  13. C.J. Brewer (DT)
  14. Joe Giles-Harris (LB)
  15. Ja’Marcus Ingram (CB)
  16. Kyler McMichael (CB)

How I Did

Offense: 22.5/25 (90%)

Defense: 24/25 (96%)

Special Teams: 2/3 (66.7%)

Practice Squad: 6/16 (37.5%)

Overall*: 48.5/53 (91.5%)

*IR, PUP, and Practice Squad are not included in the overall calculation because they don’t count towards the 53-man roster.

All things considered, my May roster projection held up well. (Though, these things, like preseason cuts, usually come down to the last 20 or so depth players.) When doing this and other thought exercises (i.e. mock drafts), Buffalo Bills fans should keep a couple things in mind: (1) Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott place an emphasis on special teams for their depth players, (2) they value character just as much as (if not more than) they do traits and athleticism, and (3) preseason games don’t mean as much to them as they do to us fans.

If this were solely about being right, I could have easily amended my projection over the past three month to increase my accuracy rate. However, I viewed this more as a thought experiment, to see how things progressed for these players from the end of OTAs to the end of preseason. Like how O.J. Howard went from a “lock” as Buffalo’s TE2 in May to signing with Houston just yesterday (Spetember 1). Or Baylon Spector, who may have been an afterthought in the LB room during OTAs but made his claim on that LB6 spot come August.

Simply put, none of us know as much as Brandon Beane, Sean McDermott, and the rest of the Buffalo Bills football people… But that doesn’t mean we’re gonna stop making roster and draft predictions 😉.

Featured Image: Jamie Germano/Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

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