Bills 53-man roster: 3 intriguing names to watch at OTAs

05/19/2023
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Like your favorite restaurant serving Mother’s Day brunch, the Buffalo Bills roster was loaded in 2022. Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott successfully navigated the offseason, only losing one main piece on each side of the ball in linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (Chicago Bears) and running back Devin Singletary (Houston Texans). As of writing this article, Buffalo has 88 of a possible 90 players signed to the active roster for camp.

I want to attack this piece with the knowledge that the Bills are coming off of a spectacular season and have few holes. Despite appropriate frustration over the home playoff loss to Cincinnati, this team is once again tabbed by Las Vegas to win the AFC East (for a fourth straight time) and is currently favored in 14 of 17 regular season games.

The Bills finished second in points per game in 2022 at 28.4ppg and allowed the second-fewest points at just 17.9 points per contest. Looking at Football Outsiders’ DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), Buffalo was also second in that metric on defense and fourth on offense. The team that calls Orchard Park home is good, and the slots at the bottom of the 53-man are limited. However, Beane has done a great job of nibbling around the edges of this squad, and these three names stick out to me as intriguing watches as we draw closer to the preseason and roster cuts.

RB Latavius Murray

The Bills have 794 RB snaps available with Motor revving up in Houston now. James Cook, who saw 316 snaps during his rookie season, should eat up some, maybe most, of those, but there is still room for a third-down, short yardage, and goal-line back. Enter Latavius Murray. The 2013 sixth-round pick played 447 snaps between New Orleans and Denver a year ago. Murray combined for 760 rushing yards and six touchdowns on the ground with 27 catches for 132 more yards.

Two stats stick out the most to me on why the Central Florida product could be an intriguing addition in 2023. Buffalo’s number two back saw 30.8% of snaps in 2022. That would be roughly 341 reps over the entire season. If you bump Cook up to RB1, and give him the bulk of the carries left behind from Singletary and distribute the remaining plays between Murray and Damien Harris, you should be able to give those guys a combined 20 or more snaps a game. What might help Murray the most is his efficiency in the red zone. He received just 12 red zone touches last season, per Fantasy Pros, but was able to find the endzone six times. The Bills would gladly take a 50% touchdown efficiency from inside the 20.

DE Shane Ray

When we’ve talked about the Bills kicking the tires on a veteran pass rusher, the name Shane Ray never came to mind, but damn if it isn’t an interesting signing very late in the offseason. First, let’s get the reasons adding a vet EDGE was always plausible out of the way: Von Miller may start on PUP, and an upgrade from Shaq Lawson/Boogie Basham/AJ Epenesa is welcome by all besides the guys who may lose snaps. As for Ray, he was the 23rd overall pick by the Broncos back in 2015. The Missouri Tiger was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 and a unanimous All-American. He was also part of the Broncos Super Bowl team alongside Von Miller. Before wrist injuries and surgery derailed his NFL career, Ray had 94 tackles, 14 sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. He also had a forced fumble in the Super Bowl 50 win.

Ray spent the last two years playing for the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, where he recorded 17 tackles, six sacks, and two forced fumbles before a torn bicep ended his time north of the border. If the Bills keep five EDGE and Miller starts on PUP, there is a path where Ray joins Greg Rousseau, Lawson, Epenesa, and Basham as the day-one DEs.

WR Tyrell Shavers

Let’s be honest, UDFA WR Tyrell Shavers is most likely NOT making the roster as a wide receiver. However, we know that Beane and McDermott LOVE themselves some high-level special teams players, and that is where Shavers comes in to play for a spot on the 53.

Shavers has an early football profile that pops on paper. He was a four-star recruit who originally went to Alabama. The top-100 recruit would ultimately transfer to Mississippi State then San Diego State where he finished his career as an Aztec. During his college career, Shavers racked up six blocked punts and had three special teams touchdowns. Standing 6’6″ with 32+ inch long arms, Shavers is a long athlete who has put it to good use with the punt blocks. He played gunner and kick/punt returner, racking up 393 snaps on special teams over his college career. We know the Bills have no problem keeping special teams-specific players (see Jake Kumerow and Taiwan Jones), so a guy like Shavers, who earned 62 snaps in punt coverage and 59 in punt return, is worth keeping an eye on during the next phase of the offseason.

Bills 53-man roster: 1 dark horse to watch at each position

The Bills will hold ten voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) between Tuesday, May 23, and Saturday, June 10. From there the team heads to mandatory minicamp beginning on Wednesday, June 14.

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