Updated Buffalo Bills Roster Projection: Defense and Special Teams

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Time for the second part of an updated Buffalo Bills roster projection. Back in May before the start of training camps league wide I made a prediction of what the Bills final 53-man roster would look like for opening day this September. Today I’ll make another projection before the first roster cut down date this Tuesday and compare it to my original prediction. We will finish with the defense and special teams.

You can view the entirety of my original prediction here:

http://old.lastwordonsports.com/2016/05/20/early-buffalo-bills-roster-projection-defense-special-teams/

Updated Buffalo Bills Roster Projection: Defense and Special Teams

Starters at each position are underlined and rookies are noted with an asterisk (*).

Defensive Line:

Original Projection: Marcell DareusKyle WilliamsAdolphus Washington*, Corbin Bryant, T.J Barnes

Updated Projection: Kyle Williams, Corbin Bryant, Adolphus Washington*, Jerel Worthy, Leger Douzable

Suspended: Marcell Dareus

Cuts: Claudel Louis*, Brandon Deaderick, Justin Zimmer*, Lavar Edwards, T.J Barnes, Casey Walker, Alameda Ta’amu

Dareus’ suspension to start the season is a tough break for the defense. However, the depth at defensive line is better than advertised so long as veteran Kyle Williams can stay healthy. Corbin Bryant will start in place of the suspended Dareus like he did for Williams the previous season. Washington is penciled in as a starting end and has shown improved technique against the run as camp has progressed. Worthy’s fantastic camp will likely land him the top reserve role. Douzable continues to impress. Young players such as Zimmer and Walker can make a case for practice squad positions or even a sixth defensive line spot should the Bills decide to keep one more.

Outside Linebacker:

Original Projection: Manny Lawson, Jerry Hughes, Lorenzo Alexander, Max Valles

Updated Projection: Manny Lawson, Jerry Hughes, Lorenzo Alexander, Kroy Biermann, Bryson Albright*

PUP: Shaq Lawson*

Injured Reserve: IK Enemkpali

Cuts: Cedric Reed, Eric Striker*

This is a position that has been struck by injuries this off-season. First it was rookie and first-round draft pick Shaq Lawson undergoing shoulder surgery. That will likely land him in the physically unable to perform (PUP) list to start the season as he is not expected to suit up until November. Then Lawson’s replacement Enemkpali, who was having a fantastic camp, went down with a major knee injury that will land him on injured reserve for the season. Manny Lawson, who is coming back from a partially torn pectoral, also faces a potential one game suspension to start the season.

Free agent acquisition Lorenzo Alexander, originally brought in for his special teams prowess, may need to contribute on defense early this season. Newly signed Biermann is another seasoned veteran and likely will make the team as a reserve. Albright has been steadily improving as camp has progressed and may have shown enough to hold onto a roster spot. Jerry Hughes is entrenched as one starter and can play on the line in certain packages, as can both Lawsons. This likely leaves fan favorite, un-drafted rookie, Eric Striker as the odd man out for a roster spot. His lack of size works against him on the outside and he failed to make the switch inside. He could land on the practice squad for continued development should he be released.

Inside Linebacker:

Original Projection: Preston BrownReggie Ragland*, Zach Brown, Eric Striker*

Updated Projection: Preston Brown, Zach Brown, Brandon Spikes, Randell Johnson

Injured Reserve: Reggie Ragland*

Cuts: Kevin Riddick, David Hawthorne, Jamari Lattimore

Another position snake-bitten by injury, the Bills made late training camp additions in Brandon Spikes and David Hawthorne. Spikes has impressed on early downs and remains in competition with Zach Brown for the starting spot next to Preston Brown. Hawthorne has not impressed but could still push a linebacker off of the roster. Preston Brown is the top inside linebacker and will call the defense alongside Zach Brown who steps in for the injured Ragland. Ragland was proclaimed a starter after the draft yet went down with an unfortunate knee injury that will end his rookie season before it began. Lattimore and Johnson are likely in final competition for the last reserve spot with Johnson more likely to stay due to his special teams ability.

Cornerback:

Original Projection: Stephon GilmoreRonald Darby, Nickell Robey, Corey White, Sterling Moore, Mario Butler

Updated Projection: Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Kevon Seymour*, Corey White

Cuts: Sterling Moore, Mario Butler, Sammy Seamster

Buffalo boasts terrific depth at the corner position and it would not be surprising to see other teams scoop up any players that are released during roster cut down. Gilmore and Darby form one of the league’s best tandems while rookie Kevon Seymour has been a steal of a day three draft pick so far. Seymour’s ability to play inside and outside likely leaves him as the top reserve and he could still push to take Robey-Coleman’s spot as the nickel corner.

White offers special teams ability, experience and has also had a terrific off-season. Moore and Butler likely battle for the final spot until the very end though it could be a situation where both fail to make the roster. Given that other players in the secondary have experience at corner I can see the Bills holding onto an extra linebacker or safety instead of a sixth corner. If the Bills can get Gilmore re-signed long term look for this to be a position of strength for several seasons.

Safety:

Original Projection: Aaron WilliamsCorey Graham, Robert Blanton, Colt Anderson, Duke Williams

Updated Projection: Aaron Williams, Corey Graham, Duke Williams, Colt Anderson, Jonathon Meeks

Injured Reserve: Jonathon Dowling

Cuts: Robert Blanton

Aaron Williams remains the top safety despite concerns over his health and his placement in concussion protocol currently. Corey Graham starts beside him. If Aaron cannot go, Duke Williams has been the first man in. He has also shown vast improvement from the previous season. Colt Anderson is another special teams stalwart and likely has solidified his position with his play there.

The final spot could come down to a battle between Jonathon Meeks and free agent signee Robert Blanton. Meeks has been given more looks with the first and second team during practice than Blanton but a strong final performance from either could solidify a spot for them. A surprise circumstance could be the release of both Meeks and Blanton as Corey White could play safety in a pinch. Aaron Williams and Corey Graham are both former corners who could also fill in the opposite way in an emergency. Dowling likely lands on injured reserve after suffering a torn MCL against the Redskins on Friday night.

Kicker:

Original Projection: Dan Carpenter

Updated Projection: Dan Carpenter

Cuts: Morgan Marshall*, Jordan Gay

Carpenter appears to have recovered from his disaster of a season last year. After making two 52-yard field goals in Washington he likely has signed Jordan Gay’s pink slip. Carpenter also handled kick off duties for the Giants game and had great distance and hang time. Gay has struggled as a regular kicker missing two of three attempted kicks. It is unlikely that, given the need to keep other players, the Bills carry a kick-off specialist again.

Punter:

Original Projection: Colton Schmidt

Updated Projection: Colton Schmidt

Cuts: None

The Bills were so secure in Schmidt’s ability and continued development that they never brought in any competition for him this summer. He continues to get better and has developed into one of the top directional kickers in the league. This is the easiest position to predict on the roster.

Long Snapper:

Original Projection: Garrison Sanborn

Updated Projection: Garrison Sanborn

Cuts: Reid Ferguson*

Sanborn was given competition this summer but continues to provide the same consistent perform he has for many seasons. While the rookie Ferguson would provide a cheaper option for the team he was slightly off target one on of his snaps during the preseason.