By Tuesday, the Bills and every other NFL team will need to trim their roster to 53 players. So who will be on the roster as the team shifts their focus to the Pittsburgh Steelers?
Quarterback  – Josh Allen & Mitchell Trubisky
Neither should come as a surprise. But I wouldn’t be shocked if Davis Webb was part of the final roster. If he’s not, the Bills will surely try and keep him on the practice squad. Webb is an extension of the coaching staff and is a favorite in the locker room. He gets the edge over Fromm, who was inconsistent during the preseason. If not claimed, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Bills tried to keep Webb and Fromm on the practice squad.
Running backs  – Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, & Matt Breida
Singletary and Moss will likely get the bulk of the carries, but Breida provides the team with much-needed speed. We saw that first-hand with the jet sweep against the Packers.
Taiwan Jones is a standout on special teams, which the coaching staff covets, but doesn’t get much run on offense. He might make the team but there’s another special teams contributor who gets the edge [more on that later]. Antonio Williams will likely get signed to the practice squad so the team can continue letting him develop within the organization.
Fullback  – Reggie Gilliam
Gilliam is listed as a fullback but he can do a little bit of everything. Whether he’s lined up as a tight end, running down the field on special teams, or diving into the end zone from the one-yard line, Gilliam is a Swiss-army knife. After Gilliam’s performance in Chicago, I think he’ll be on the team, although it’s not a lock.
Tight ends  – Dawson Knox & Jacob Hollister
Tommy Sweeney is the wild card of the group because of his current injury. He didn’t suit up in either of the Bills’ final two preseason games against the Bears or Packers. Sweeney, who missed the 2020 season with myocarditis, injured his foot against the Lions in the first preseason game and hasn’t practiced since. If the injury isn’t a long-term thing, he could make the 53-man roster. But if it’s something that could linger, they could likely sneak him onto the practice squad.
Wide receivers  – Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Jake Kumerow, & Marquez Stevenson
No real surprises when it comes to the wide receivers. Marquez Stevenson was hardly a lock a few weeks back but after some impressive returns in the preseason, it seems like he’ll be on the roster. Kumerow shined in the summer and looks like he might get some playing time in the regular season, especially if any of the guys in front of him go down.
Offensive linemen  – Dion Dawkins, Jon Feliciano, Mitch Morse, Cody Ford, Daryl Williams, Ike Boettger, Ryan Bates, Spencer Brown, & Tommy Doyle
The Bills covet position flexibility and several of these players provide that. Boettger and Bates can lineup in multiple spots and Doyle and Brown were relatively high draft picks, so they’ll make the team. Brown should get some reps as a swing tackle and could see more time if an injury happens to one of the Bills starters. Doyle hasn’t been great in the preseason and will likely be used sparingly.
Defensive end  – Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, Gregory Rousseau, A.J. Epenesa, Boogie Basham, Efe Obada, & Darryl Johnson
Some fans have wondered if the team could move on from Addison or Hughes as a way to save money but both players are too valuable to the coaching staff and front office. Hughes is still a dynamic player and Addison should bounce back after an average 2020 season.
With the way the Bills coaching staff rotates players in and out, keeping several options with differing skill sets is important. Besides, both Obada and Basham have played inside and outside during the preseason. Once again, say it with me, position flexibility. As for Darryl Johnson, he gets the nod over Taiwan Jones. He’s younger, dynamic on special teams, and will see more snaps on defense than Jones would on offense.
Defensive tackle  – Ed Oliver, Star Lotulelei, Justin Zimmer, Harrison Phillips, & Vernon Butler
I’ve gone back and forth with Vernon Butler but I think he’ll ultimately have a place on this team. Butler was inconsistent in 2020 but with Harrison Phillips sidelined, they’ll need another guy ready to go. Phillips wasn’t a lock to make this team at the start of camp but looked strong when on the field. Oliver and Lotulelei are no brainers.
Linebackers  – Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, A.J. Klein, Tyler Matakevich, & Andre Smith
Tyrel Dodson is the odd man out strictly based on Smith’s strong summer. When called upon, Dodson was commendable in 2020 but Smith seems like he has the inside track on making the 53.
Cornerbacks  – Tre’Davious White, Levi Wallace, Taron Johnson, Siran Neal, & Dane Jackson
Remember the battle for the starting cornerback job opposite Tre’Davious White? Yeah, that’s over. If he’s healthy, Levi Wallace will be the one starting against the Steelers. This summer we’ve also seen Neal line up on the outside a few times. He joked he’ll play wherever he’s told but it’s safe to say the Bills would feel more comfortable with him as a “big nickel” as opposed to someone starting outside.
Safeties  – Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Jaquan Johnson, & Damar Hamlin
Hyde and Poyer are the anchors of this defense and will be for several more seasons. Keeping Josh Thomas off this roster is tough because he’s flashed during the preseason, but I’ll give the edge to the guy they just drafted. Thomas is an ideal candidate for the practice squad.
Specialists  – Reid Ferguson, Tyler Bass, & Matt Haack
Without Reid Ferguson, A.J. Epenesa handled the snapping duties in the final preseason game. Safe to say Ferguson will be keeping his job.
Once the Bills make their final cuts, they will be able to place players on injured reserve without losing the player for the entire season. With injuries to Harrison Phillips and Isaiah McKenzie, the Bills could place both players on the IR and re-sign players who don’t need to clear waivers. It’s what they did last year with Andre Roberts.
Trimming this roster to 53 players was really tough, which speaks volumes to the depth the Bills have on both sides of the ball. Let the games begin.