The 2021 Buffalo Bills preseason is officially in the books. This particular preseason has been a bit unusual for Bills fans as there is an unprecedented amount of depth on this roster at numerous positions. This depth has led to strong battles throughout camp, which will force a lot of tough decisions come cutdown day.
Some decisions will be easier than others. There’s no question who the starting QB will be, and we know who the starters at WR will be. But there are questions about the offensive line, and how many DEs or WRs will be kept, and how much will special teams ability play into that?
Here is the projection of the 2021 Buffalo Bills roster:
Josh Allen, Mitchell Trubisky
There’s no reason to think differently here. Allen is secured as the franchise QB, Trubisky is very well established as the #2, and if the Bills decide to keep 3 QBs on the active roster instead of 2, then Jake Fromm would be the most likely to become the #3.
Running Back (4)
Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, Matt Brieda, Taiwan Jones
Singletary and Moss have both performed well in the preseason, and Breida looks to be a good depth option given his speed that adds an element that is missing from the RB room. Taiwan Jones likely won’t contribute much of anything offensively, but his special teams ability is what will keep him on this roster. Early on in training camp, Brandon Beane made a point to highlight Taiwan Jones’ abilities as a gunner, it would be hard to imagine that the Bills let him go
Wide Receiver (7)
Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Gabe Davis, Emmanuel Sanders, Isaiah McKenzie, Jake Kumerow, Marquez Stevenson
The Bills with Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott have not kept 7 WRs on the roster before, but this might be the year for an exception. The top four are all spoken for, as Diggs, Beasley, Davis, and Sanders are all locks and expected to be major contributors to the offense.
Jake Kumerow has been a consistent performer in training camp and in the preseason, and brings strong special teams play. McKenzie and Stevenson have been competing not only as receivers but also as punt and kick returners. If they decide to only go with six receivers, it’ll be tough to predict who of the bottom three will be the odd man out, but whoever does get cut will be a valuable contributor for whichever team scoops them up.
Tight End (3)
Dawson Knox, Jacob Hollister, Reggie Gilliam (FB)
This is the trickiest position to predict. It seems like Dawson Knox and Reggie Gilliam are locks for this roster. Knox is someone the Bills believe in and want to see progression from, and Gilliam is a very versatile player who will likely play mostly at fullback. However, behind them, it’s a mixed bag. Jacob Hollister has a lot of experience in his previous stint in Seattle, particularly as a pass-catcher. His quickness and versatility are assets that are appealing to Brian Daboll, while Tommy Sweeney is a player the Bills like, and will likely try to keep on the practice squad if they can.
Offensive Tackle (4)
Dion Dawkins, Daryl Williams, Spencer Brown, Tommy Doyle
Dawkins and Williams are set to be the starters at left and right Tackle respectively. The Bills drafted two long, tall rookies at tackle, and it seems they’re willing to roll with them as the backups for this season. Spencer Brown has been a standout during the preseason, and might even see action as an extra blocker in certain situations. Hopefully neither will need to be called upon too often during the season.
Interior Offensive Line (5)
Jon Feliciano, Cody Ford, Mitch Morse, Ryan Bates, Ike Boettger
Ford and Feliciano look to have the guard spots locked up, with Ford playing on the right and Feliciano on the left. Ike Boettger will be the primary backup to those spots, and Ryan Bates will be a backup guard, and likely the primary backup at Center behind Mitch Morse. The Bills might also move Feliciano to Center as they did last year when Morse missed time, and thus move Boettger to Feliciano’s spot. This is an area that the Bills don’t have a ton of depth at, in addition to not having a lot of standout players as starters here.
Defensive End (7)
Jerry Hughes, A.J. Epenesa, Mario Addison, Boogie Basham, Greg Rousseau, Efe Obada, Darryl Johnson
If the Packers game is any indication, it seems that Greg Rousseau will be getting a chance to start opposite longtime Bills edge rusher Jerry Hughes. Mario Addison and AJ Epenesa as the rotational ends will be great to spell Hughes and Rousseau, assuming they are, in fact, the starters. The depth at defensive end is quite deep, and players like Rousseau, Basham, and Obada, will also kick down to the interior in certain pass-rushing situations, generating more quick pressure from inside.
While 7 edge players is a lot, and more than most teams carry, that seventhspot for Darryl Johnson is important. Johnson has played very well during the preseason on defense and is a heavy-hitting special teams ace.
Defensive Tackle (4)
Ed Oliver, Star Lotulelei, Justin Zimmer, Harrison Phillips
This is interesting as the Bills have two clear starters with Oliver and Lotulelei, and after Phillips’ strong training camp and preseason, he seems a logical choice as a rotational player. McDermott and Beane have given a lot of praise to Justin Zimmer for his effort, progression, and work ethic. This leaves Vernon Butler the odd man out, especially given that it would be difficult for the Bills to move on from his contract, and will incur dead cap money no matter how they would do it.
Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, A.J. Klein, Andre Smith, Tyler Matakevich
Edmunds, Milano, and Klein all seem to be locks for the roster, and Tyler Matakevich’s play on special teams will likely keep him on the roster, but the play of Andre Smith during the preseason has been a highlight during all three games. It seems like the Bills have confidence in Smith, but someone like Tyrel Dodson could be a strong contender for a backup spot as well, or on the practice squad.
Tre White, Levi Wallace, Dane Jackson, Taron Johnson, Siran Neal
No surprises here. Tre White is the No. 1, and Levi Wallace has once again held off a competitor for the No. 2 spot, keeping Dane Jackson on the sideline for now. The Bills might keep an extra corner depending on if they keep Butler at defensive tackle. If that’s the case, Cam Lewis seems to be the most obvious choice here, as he was set to replace Taron Johnson’s spot last year before getting injured, and Johnson’s play bounced back.
Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Jaquan Johnson, Josh Thomas
This seems to be another spot where the Bills could retain more than 4 players, but Damar Hamlin can certainly be a practice squad player that can be called up due to an injury. Josh Thomas has been very aggressive and impressive in the preseason and deserves a spot on the 53-man roster.
Special Teams (3)
Tyler Bass, Reid Ferguson, Matt Haack
This is pretty straightforward, Bass has been automatic in the preseason, and Haack has been solid, if unremarkable, during the preseason. Reid Ferguson’s back injury might be an issue if it lingers, but it doesn’t appear to be a major issue at this time.
The NFL is carrying over its expanded practice squad rule, which allows for up to 16 players on the practice squad. Tanner Gentry is a former teammate of Josh Allen at Wyoming, and someone who played well in the preseason finale. The Bills like both Davis Webb and Jake Fromm, but it’s unlikely they’ll be able to keep both during the entire season. Brandin Bryant has had a strong preseason, and could even sneak his way to the active roster, but for now, he lands on the practice squad. Dodson and Adams will be good reserve Linebackers, but it would not be surprising if either of them are claimed during waivers or during the season.