The Buffalo Bills made some difficult decisions Tuesday, trimming the squad to meet the NFL’s 53-man roster requirement. Buffalo brought the deepest roster they’ve had into training camp since General Manager Brandon Beane took over in 2017, leaving a handful of talented players on the outside looking in. Here are the biggest takeaways from the Buffalo Bills’ 53-man roster as of Tuesday afternoon.
TE O.J. Howard released
A first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019, Howard was signed to a one-year, $3.5 million deal in free agency. The 6-foot-6 tight end was brought in to back up Dawson Knox and allow offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey to run more 12 personnel. Howard, who is quite the specimen, failed to make the most of his physical gifts – which has been the story of his career dating back to his days with the Crimson Tide.
Howard never showed any explosiveness in the passing game and was average as a blocker, which resulted in the more athletic and versatile Quintin Morris passing him on the depth chart. Unsubstantiated rumors are swirling that the team may bring Howard back, as the vested veteran is not subject to waivers, however, this wouldn’t necessarily make sense, as a significant portion of his contract was guaranteed at signing. For the Bills, it looks like they’ll be rolling with the three currently rostered players.
Quintin Morris makes the team
There wasn’t a lot of chatter surrounding Quintin Morris, the 6-foot-2, 252-pound converted wide receiver out of Bowling Green during training camp. But Morris’ game heated up during the preseason as his versatility as a hybrid tight end was put on display. Morris showcased quality blocking, explosiveness as a route runner and fantastic ball skills during the Bills’ three preseason games, catching four passes for 55 yards and made himself too valuable to release.
“Just an undrafted guy that came in and has been working ever since last year to find a spot in the league and on this team,” Morris said of his journey to the 53. “Waking up this morning, the stomach’s just all the way on the ground. Taking that breath, I sat in the parking lot just breathing. I’ve done really all I can and put my best foot forward, and it’s up to God and the rest of the staff to make that decision.”
“Just walking in the building, got through the doors and I walked by, going to treatment, nobody stopped me so I said ‘that’s a good sign!” But I never feel like I made it, because every day I’ve got something to prove.”
Morris’ role going forward is unclear, as the Bills are loaded at receiver, but he’s shown enough of a skill set to be an impactful player if called upon in the regular season. The 2021 undrafted free agent is raw, but fans should be excited to watch him develop.
Raheem Blackshear a victim of numbers
Perhaps no player on the Bills’ roster was more exciting to watch during the preseason than undrafted free agent running back Raheem Blackshear. Blackshear was impactful every time he touched the ball in the team’s three preseason outings, gaining 116 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries while adding eight catches for 93 receiving yards. As a returner, he averaged 21.1 yards-per-kick return (5 attempts) and 7.7 yards-per-punt return (3).
Blackshear showed burst, balance, power, and vision, along with some nifty moves in space that project well to an NFL future. However, the Bills have a logjam at the running back position with Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, James Cook, and Taiwan Jones locked into their roles. If Blackshear clears waivers, he’ll be a top practice squad candidate that Buffalo can rely upon to call up to the active roster, if necessary.
Jake Kumerow edges out Isaiah Hodgins
If you’re going to be the last wide receiver on the roster, you have to play special teams well, regardless of your abilities as a receiver. For a Bills roster already featuring Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, and Jamison Crowder, Jake Kumerow’s abilities as a “Core Four” special teamer made him more valuable than Isaiah Hodgins’ skills as a true receiver.
Unfortunately for Hodgins, his lackluster showings in the kick/punt game led to his release, despite a rather productive offseason as a pass-catcher. Hodgins saw time with the first-team offense during training camp practices and was by far the most targeted Bills’ receiver during the preseason (21). He caught 16 passes for 124 yards, showing off smooth route running skills, toughness at the catch point and the ability to separate.
Buffalo certainly will try to sign the former sixth-round pick to their practice squad if he clears waivers, but don’t be shocked if a receiver-needy team scoops him up first.