Not long ago, the lead-up to training camp was fraught with intrigue over who would start at multiple positions. The current Buffalo Bills are starkly different, with most starting positions accounted for. This leads us to shift our attention toward the end of the 53-man roster to satiate our intrigue. Speculation on most NFL topics is difficult, this no different, but past patterns and future needs provide clues for analysis. Using said clues, we can make an educated guess on how five Bills roster battles may shake out.
HB3: Duke Johnson vs. Zack Moss
2021 began by debating who HB1 would be for the Bills – Zack Moss or Devin Singletary. Since then, Singletary has taken a stranglehold on HB1 while Buffalo has also signed Duke Johnson and drafted James Cook. The presumption moving forward is Singletary and Cook are HB1 and HB2, respectively, with remaining competition over the oft-healthy scratched HB3. This means seven-year vet Duke Johnson, and third-year HB Zack Moss are likely competing for HB3.
Duke has built a career as a pass-catching back with 55.9% of his yardage coming through the air. Meanwhile, Moss has shown abilities on both the ground (72.7% of yardage) and through the air (27.3% of yardage). Lack of consistent success though, has been the undoing for Moss, who has yet to live up to his third-round selection. Still, with Johnson’s skill-set similar to the perception of that of James Cook, the potential versatility offered by Moss seems to give him the edge as the reserve back this season.
PREDICTION: HB3 = Zack Moss, Cut = Duke Johnson
This week’s episode of Disguised Coverage graded & ranked all the position groups on the #Bills offense. @MirskyKendall likes the multiplicity of the RBs, & talks below on why Zack Moss shouldn’t be counted out
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) June 23, 2022
TE3: Jalen Wydermyer vs. Tommy Sweeney
The offseason addition of O.J. Howard likely signifies an increase in usage of 12 Personnel. As a consequence of this, the intrigue over keeping a TE3 has grown, as well as who it could be. Only two candidates are prime for that role, 2019 seventh-round pick Tommy Sweeney and 2022 UDFA Jalen Wydermyer. Sweeney has carved out a solid start to his NFL career as the emergency backup to Dawson Knox. In a pinch, his blocking ability and soft hands have proven NFL caliber. On the other hand, Wydermyer was a premier TE prospect until a historically bad combine performance. Unlike most camp battles, this may come down to more than performance on the field. Currently just two TEs are under contract for the Bills in 2023, Wydermyer and Quintin Morris, surely a concern for Brandon Beane. Expect this to play a major role in who claims TE3 for the Bills in 2022.
PREDICTION: TE3 = Jalen Wydermyer, PS = Tommy Sweeney
Jalen Wydermyer is a TE prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 0.98 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 916 out of 1014 TE from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/ZpiOnbBFMC #RAS #UDFA https://t.co/TACA1EP2r3 pic.twitter.com/oTFXfQmqDJ
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) May 1, 2022
OL9 – Cody Ford vs. Greg Van Roten
The Bills’ offensive line seems surprisingly set heading into this season. Dion Dawkins, Rodger Saffold, Mitch Morse, Ryan Bates, and Spencer Brown are clear starters while Tommy Doyle, Greg Mancz, and David Quessenberry are the primary backups. This means the remaining eight OL are likely fighting over a single roster spot. Of those eight, just Cody Ford and Greg Van Roten seem likely candidates for that position.
Just three seasons removed from Buffalo using the 38th pick on Ford, he now must beat out a seasoned veteran to stay on the roster. That vet is Greg Van Roten, who has started 23 games at guard for the Jets the last two seasons. Inconsistent and, at times, erratic play have led Ford to this predicament. There is still hope this offseason that new offensive line coach Aaron Kromer can push Ford to his potential, but that remains to be seen. With backup guard Ike Boettger likely out until midseason, backup guard is a focus. In that light, Ford’s position versatility becomes less of a benefit and may push Van Roten onto the roster.
PREDICTION: OL9 = Greg Van Roten, Cut = Cody Ford
DB Depth – Cam Lewis vs. Christian Benford vs. Nick McCloud vs. Olaijah Griffin
There is little clarity on how many DBs the Bills carry in 2022 and less clarity on when Tre’Davious White will be fully healthy. The latter cultivates an environment where this may be the most important roster Battle to monitor. Enter a four-player battle consisting of Cam Lewis, Christian Benford, Nick McCloud, and Olaijah Griffin. Each of these four have their own unique argument to make the Bills 53-man roster.
Cam Lewis is the longest-tenured of them, having played 14 games, 141 DEF Snaps, and 97 ST Snaps for the Bills. Benford was just drafted as a boom-or-bust prospect out of Villanova in the sixth round. His potential special teams skill-set provides him an extra avenue to the 53-Man roster. McCloud represents the speedy option, having run a 4.37 40-yard dash coming out of Notre Dame last year. His potential made him so enticing the Bengals claimed him when Buffalo tried to sneak him onto the practice squad last season. Last, Griffin seems to be a dark-horse candidate to make the Bills’ 53-man roster. Don’t sleep on Griffin, who was given a two-year futures contract, something that is rarely done, this past offseason, signifying some level of interest from the Bills. These names may not be flashy, but who is in and who is out may play a significant role in the Bills’ early-season success.
PREDICTION: 53-Man = Cam Lewis + Christian Benford + Nick McCloud, PS = Olaijah Griffin
P1 – Matt Araiza vs. Matt Haack
The Bills signed Matt Haack in 2021 as a better holder and more consistent punter than 2020 punter Corey Bojorquez. Tyler Bass would go on to make 93.6% of his kicks with Haack holding but Haack would finish 27th in gross punt average and 28th in net punt average amongst 29 qualifying punters. Making matters worse was Haack’s regular-season finale against the Jets. In that game he had back-to-back-to-back punts of 28, 21, and 22 Yards and later fumbled a snap and punted the ball just seven yards. Buffalo saw an opportunity to improve here and selected Matt Araiza in the sixth round of this years draft. As far as punting ability goes, Araiza is far and away the better option, but without any experience holding (He also kicked in college) can he unseat Haack as the Bills P1? If he can’t, the Bills may be forced to move on from a “generational talent” at the position.
PREDICTION: P1 = Matt Araiza, Cut = Matt Haack
San Diego State's Matt Araiza — aka Punt God — set three FBS punting records this season.
◽️ Per-punt average: 51.18 yards
◽️ 50-yard punts: 39
◽️ 60-yard punts: 18
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) December 22, 2021