The Buffalo Bills have a serious issue heading into the 2016 season. They lack roster depth at almost every key position. Injuries have already taken their toll on the team during training camp. Thus far, there are a total of ten players on the Bills’ non-participant list. Unfortunately, most of these names are key starters and pro-bowl caliber players. As far as the talent behind these players, most of the back-ups are a considerable drop off. This will be a major factor in the team’s success as they progress through the season.
Buffalo Bills Lack Depth at Key Positions
Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby have the potential to become one of the best corner duos in the league. Gilmore is a lock down corner, and Darby had a break out rookie campaign last season. Nikel Robey would take the field if Darby was to go down. Though Robey has experience, he does not possess the same physical gifts as Darby. Darby is a tall long corner and is more of a threat to knock down or intercept a pass. Kevon Seymour is the Bills sixth round pick out of USC. Due to Seymour being a rookie the Bills should hope Gilmore can manage to stay healthy all season. If not, Seymour will be a target for any prolific passing offense and could get picked on.
Reggie Ragland went down during camp on a non-contact injury when he stepped on a teammate’s foot. Not the way he wished to start his NFL career. Ragland will miss the entire season due to a torn ACL. He comes from a similar defensive system at Alabama and was looking to be a huge contributor this season. Manny Lawson was also expected to play an important role in the Bills defense this year. Lawson partially tore his pectoral muscle early on in camp. Though Lawson should be back for the season opener, he is missing valuable practice time. It will take Lawson a few games to get back in sync with Rex’s defense.
Buffalo did sign Zach Brown this off-season. Brown should be able to at least keep pace in Rex Ryan’s defense. Other than IK Enemkpali the depth chart becomes scarce. Bryson Albright, Loernzo Alexander, and Randell Johnson are not exactly elite level players. To help bolster their linebacker position the Bills did recently make two additions. Brandon Spikes re-joined the team after a year out of football, and is currently listed as a third option on the depth chart. Buffalo also signed David Hawthorne who comes over from the Saints. Hawthorne was most likely brought in because of his experience playing under Rob Ryan last season.
The Bills first round draft pick Shaq Lawson out of Clemson is also sidelined. Lawson is not expected to be back until some time in October. Fortunately, the Bills also drafted Adolphus Washington in the second round. As is typical Rex Style, Buffalo went heavy on defense in this year’s draft. Leger Douzable is the only other defensive end currently listed on the roster. Though a player like Jerry Hughes can be versatile enough to fill that gap, it still leaves the Bills thin at that position.
Sammy Watkins is coming off of foot surgery in April to repair a broken bone. Watkins has potential to be one of the best receivers in the NFL. The question with Watkins is if he can stay healthy. Watkins has had injury issues since his college days at Clemson. Robert Woods is the Bills second receiver and has proven to be durable, but the risk of injury is always present. The Bills have a lot of inexperience and underwhelming names below Woods and Watkins.
Greg Salas has been largely a journeyman since being drafted by the Rams in 2011. Salas has spent time with the Patriots, Eagles, Jets, and Lions before joining the Bills. The story is much the same with receiver Greg Little. Little has also bounced around the league since being drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2011. Marquise Goodwin and Dezmin Lewis are fast receivers, but do not posses the same game changing ability as Sammy Watkins. If Watkins or Woods does go down it will allow opposing defenses to double team whoever remains. The Bills better hope the lack of talent and experience behind their starters can step up and play at a high level.
Buffalo made news this week by signing Tyrod Taylor to a six-year, $92M dollar extension. This move helps solidify to Taylor that the Bills believe in him at quarterback and want him around for the long term. The problem is Taylor’s playing style is not conducive to longevity in the league. Taylor can sometimes be overzealous and put himself in a position for injury by trying to extend plays. His running game is a key aspect to his success, but can leave him open to big shots and possible injuries.
EJ Manuel was a first round draft pick by the Bills in 2013. Though Manuel has showed flashes of ability, he is largely inconsistent. Manuel will have a career in the league as a back up QB, but that is all. He has proven already that he is not capable of playing at an elite level, and is prone to mistakes and errant passes. Rather than picking up a veteran quarterback during the off season the Bills drafted one.
Buffalo had the opportunity to take a quarterback in the first round but did not. Instead, they opted to let players such as Paxton Lynch and Christian Hackenburg pass by. The Bills waited until the fourth round to finally draft Cardale Jones out of Ohio State. Jones’ strong arm gives him the ability to sometimes overcome his deficiencies. That is not something he will be able to rely on at the NFL level. If Taylor does happen to go down this season, the Bills options will be shaky at best.