Training camp is officially over, but there is still a weeks worth of practices before the Bills must trim their roster down to 53 players.
After watching practice the past two weeks, there are a bunch of different ways Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott could go to shape the back end of this roster.
The biggest questions are at wide receiver and defensive line, arguably the two deepest positions on the team.
As Leslie Frazier said on Friday, good players will not make this team and wind up on another. It is a harsh reality, one that this team hasn't really had to deal with much recently.
Here is my projetion on how things will go after watching two weeks of practices.
**Note: New rules state a player can return from IR after 3 weeks. However, they must first make the active roster and then that timeframe comes into play beginning 24 hours after roster cuts are made. I do a little gymnastics with a few guys using that rule.
IN: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley
OUT: Davis Webb, Jake Fromm
The Bills have never kept more than two quarterbacks under McDermott. With no preseason games to evaluate Fromm, he is let go in hopes of returning on the practice squad. For those that worry he will get picked up by another team, remember Fromm fell to the 5th round for a reason. With no new tape for other teams to look at, I don't see a reason why someone would change their mind on him months later with no new information.
RUNNING BACK (5)
IN: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, T.J. Yeldon, Taiwan Jones, Patrick DiMarco
OUT: Christian Wade, Reggie Gilliam
**DiMarco placed on IR following day, Gilliam brought back.**
I have got to give credit to my friend Matt Parrino for the idea of putting DiMarco on IR to start the season. DiMarco has been out for weeks with a neck injury. The Bills can use those three weeks to evaluate the undrafted rookie Gilliam, who I'd imagine will not get picked up by another team. If he plays well, then they can release DiMarco. If not, the veteran returns and Gilliam goes. Jones has also missed time recently with a knee injury, but special teams coordinator Heath Farwell raved about him as a gunner during camp. Jones was brought back for a reason and that role on special teams is it. Wade will use the roster exception on the practice squad for a second-straight year as an international pathway player.
WIDE RECEIVER (7)
IN: Stefon Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, Andre Roberts, Isaiah McKenzie, Isaiah Hodgins
OUT: Roberts Foster, Duke Williams
One of my bold predictions before training camp began was that the Bills would keep seven WRs and I am sticking with that. Much like keeping Taiwan Jones, Roberts sticks around because of his value on special teams as a Pro Bowl return man. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll had very good things to say the other day when asked about McKenzie. From what I have seen during camp, he produces every time he is called upon. He also provides a different skillset than others in this group. Plus, if anything happens to Roberts, McKenzie can slide in and return kicks. Hodgins has shown enough for me to believe he may not make it through waivers and onto the Bills practice squad. Because of that, as a sixth round pick, I think he makes the cut and may just begin the season with a string of inactives. Williams is a tough cut because, once again, he has done just about everything he could to make the team. The problem is his skillset has company now among this group, with Davis, Hodgins, and even Diggs all guys that can make those contested catches. He also does not have much value on special teams. I could see him back on the practice squad. Foster battled an injury early and just has not stood out from the loaded pack. I think his time with the team will come to an end all together.
TIGHT END (3)
IN: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith
OUT: Tommy Sweeney, Nate Becker, Jason Croom
If the Bills are going to keep 7 WRs, I don't think they need 4 TEs. Smith makes it over Sweeney because the former 7th round pick has not been able to get on the field at all during camp because of a foot injury.The veteran Smith also provides another blocker while the Bills go with just 9 OL as Feliciano returns from injury. As nice of a season as Croom had a few years ago, Knox and Kroft more than fill the pass-catching TE role that Croom appeared to have the inside track on before an injury cost him all of 2019.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
IN: Dion Dawkins, Quinton Spain, Mitch Morse, Daryl Williams, Cody Ford, Ty Nsekhe, Ryan Bates, Brian Winters, Evan Boehm, Jon Feliciano
OUT: Ike Boettger, Marquel Harrell, Trey Adams, Victor Salako, Brandon Walton
**Feliciano placed on IR next day**
Add Feliciano to the list of guys that will make roster initially only to be placed on IR a day later. While I noted over the weekend that he is no longer wearing a sling, Feliciano still is likely at least a month out from returning from a torn pec. The Bills will then dig from another position to find a roster spot for him when he is ready to return, rolling with 10 OL. Position flexibility is the key for the back end of this group. Williams, Ford, Bates, Winters, and Boehm all can play multiple spots. I'd guess at least one of those let go will find their way on the practice squad.
DEFENSIVE LINE (8)
IN: Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, A.J. Epenesa, Vernon Butler, Quinton Jefferson, Ed Oliver, Harrison Phillips, Trent Murphy
OUT: Darryl Johnson, Mike Love, Vincent Taylor, Bryan Cox Jr., Tanzel Smart)
This was tough. Let's start with Murphy, a player I, like many, had on the other side of the bubble entering camp. The cap savings cannot be overlooked (about $8 million), but based on what I have seen these past two weeks, the Bills think he can contribute in 2020. They keep Murphy over younger players Johnson and Love. Both have flashed the past few weeks and definitely deserve to make this team. But these two were who I specifically asked Frazier about when he said that good players won't make this roster and wind up on other teams. The depth at DE is great and these two ultimately fall victim to that. Taylor is a swing guy that I know others in the media think will make the team. I think he has a case, but the versatility of guys like Epenesa, Butler, and Jefferson to move inside makes it not necessary to keep the true DT Taylor. Cox Jr. also had his moments, but maybe those will help him find his way onto the PS.
IN: Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, A.J. Klein, Tyler Matakevich, Vosean Joseph
OUT: Tyrel Dodson, Del'Shawn Phillips, Corey Thompson
**Dodson returns when Feliciano hits IR**
This is one of the groups I am not completely confident the Bills go this route. They kept six LBs last season, so it is not out of the realm they do it again. Joseph is last year's 5th round pick that missed his entire rookie season with injury. He has athleticism, but as Frazier noted the other day, he just needs to stay healthy. With how the Bills value their draft picks, I think he is safe. Dodson has solid flexibility and the team clearly likes him based on keeping the UDFA around while on the commissioner's exempt list last season. He also does work on special teams. As I note, he may not make the roster right away (spot needed for Feliciano), but should return the following day. Thompson is a tough cut, but an injury likely put him behind Dodson, who is player 53 on my list.
IN: Tre'Davious White, Levi Wallace, Josh Norman, Taron Johnson, Dane Jackson
OUT: Brian Allen, Cam Lewis
Draft picks reign supreme here. Jackson was a seventh round pick in April and gets the nod to round out this position group. The hope is for Lewis to return to the practice squad and be on the ready to get the call-up.
IN: Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Dean Marlowe, Jaquan Johnson, Siran Neal
OUT: Josh Thomas
I suppose the only real debate here is whether or not Neal is a safety or cornerbback. Marlowe has had a really nice camp and Frazier said he understands his role as the back-up, one of which he's confident can plug-and-play seemlessly if needd. Johnson earned quite an endorsement from Farwell yesterday, who called the second-year player a young leader on special teams. As I keep trying to tell you, that phase of the game matters to this coaching staff, so Johnson is in.
IN: Tyler Bass (K), Corey Bojorquez (P), Reid Ferguson (LS)
The team releasing Stephen Hauschka and Lachlan Edwards late last week sured this group up ahead of time.
QB = 2
RB = 5
WR = 7
TE = 3
OL = 9
DL = 8
LB = 6
CB = 5
S = 5
ST = 3
The official deadline for NFL teams to trim their roster to 53 players is this Saturday, September 5th at 4pm EST.