The Buffalo Bills have until 4:00 pm Tuesday to trim their roster from its current 80 players down to the final 53-man roster they will take into the start of the season. Here’s my prediction of what that will look like at every position:
Quarterback (2): Josh Allen, Case Keenum
Matt Barkley was entertaining as a punter in the preseason finale and should find his way back to Buffalo as a member of the practice squad (PS).
Running Back (4): Devin Singletary, James Cook, Zack Moss, Taiwan Jones
Jones is a core special teams contributor and we know how important that is to Sean McDermott. Duke Johnson has some vet leadership but his skills are redundant with second-round pick James Cook. Raheem Blackshear has been a fun preseason story, but just like former fan favorite Christian Wade, he is destined for the PS.
Full Back (1): Reggie Gilliam
The Bills love positional versatility, and given his prowess at fullback and ability to play tight end, Reggie Gilliam is a lock. The recent contract extension he signed doesn’t hurt his chances, either.
Tight End (3): Dawson Knox, OJ Howard, Quintin Morris
Howard is a far above-average blocking tight end and that is why the Bills signed him. His value is beyond the box score to Buffalo. Morris flashed at times in the preseason while Tommy Sweeney sputtered, allowing the former Bowling Green wideout to claim a roster spot.
Wide Receiver (6): Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Khalil Shakir, Jamison Crowder, Jake Kumerow
Four of these guys are givens with Crowder making it after the Bills brought him in for experience and proven abilities in the slot. Kumerow has shown time and again that he can perform on ST and just like with Taiwan Jones, the Bills value that. Isaiah Hodgins has shown the hands we saw at Oregon State, but he is out due to numbers. Watch for Hodgins to be a trade candidate or a pickup of the Giants. Otherwise, Buffalo would likely love to have him back on its practice squad.
Offensive Line (9): Dion Dawkins, Rodger Saffold, Mitch Morse, Ryan Bates, David Quessenberry, Tommy Doyle, Spencer Brown, Greg Mancz, Bobby Hart
The first five, from left to right, have been the starting offensive line. The rest are the men who give the most value or versatility. I know you don’t want to see Bobby Hart here, but he has looked good under new line coach Aaron Kromer. Don’t overlook Greg Van Roten making it or another team comes calling.
That’s 25 guys on offense with a few making the roster for special teams alone.
Defensive Tackle (4): Ed Oliver, Tim Settle, DaQuan Jones, Jordan Phillips
This is pretty cut and dry despite preseason flashes from Brandin Bryant and Prince Emili, who are prime PS candidates.
Defensive End (5): Von Miller, Gregory Rousseau, AJ Epenesa, Boogie Basham, Shaq Lawson
I wanted to find a reason to add Mike Love, but he is just on the outside looking in.
Linebacker (5): Matt Milano, Tremaine Edmunds, Tyrel Dodson, Terrell Bernard, Tyler Matakevich
This one was also pretty simple with Matakevich being another ST ace. Late-round pick Baylon Spector figures to be back on the practice squad.
Cornerback (7): Dane Jackson, Kaiir Elam, Christian Benford, Taron Johnson, Siran Neal, Cam Lewis, Nick McCloud
One of Lewis or McCloud could easily give way to bolster another spot. The Bills have plenty of talent at OL, and DE, or this could be Hodgins as a seventh WR. I went with an extra CB as Lewis and McCloud have both flashed and they may want one more body while we wait on Tre’Davious White.
Safety (4): Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Damar Hamlin, Jaquan Johnson
This group was also pretty simple. These are the guys.
That’s 25 guys on defense with very few questions on how things play out.
Remember Tre White and Ike Boettger will play a role in how the 53-man looks before too long.
Specialist (3): Long Snapper: Reid Ferguson, Kicker: Tyler Bass, Punter
The Bills will have a punter. It (likely) won’t be Matt Barkley.