Don’t try to tell NFL players that the fourth preseason game doesn’t matter.
A large portion of NFL players will experience the sensation of being “on the bubble” at some point in their careers. For the Buffalo Bills’ bubble guys, Thursday’s game against Detroit might be their last opportunity to show the coaches that they belong on the final 53. Let’s take a look at some of the affected players on the Bills’ roster heading into preseason week four:
1.) Delano Howell – If you thought Howell had a chance to make the final 53 when camp opened (or if you even knew who he was), take your bow.
Howell is currently running as the 2nd string free safety, and if the Bills elect to keep four safeties (and I would bet they will), Howell would make the cut as part of the top four along with starters Byrd and Wilson and strong safety backup Da’Norris Searcy. He has consistently shown an understanding of defensive assignments after coming from a pro-style system at Stanford.
Odds of making roster = 2 to 1.
2.) Jarron Gilbert – He can jump out of a pool. We know that. The YouTube sensation has exactly one NFL tackle to his name and is fighting with Robert Eddins for the fifth DE spot (if there is one).
He started camp inside at DT but had no chance of cracking the roster with Williams, Dareus, Edwards and Johnson entrenched as the top four and the likelihood of five DTs being kept an astronomically low chance. Gilbert has athletic ability, and is not foreign to the DE position, having played split time between there and DT in 2007 as an all-WAC second teamer. Was the switch to DE too little, too late for Gilbert?
Odds of making roster = 4 to 1.
3.) Naaman Roosevelt – Fitzpatrick called him “Mister Reliable”, and you would think that would hold greater weight, but Derek Hagan has consistently taken reps ahead of Roosevelt throughout camp and the preseason. Blessed with neither size nor speed, Roosevelt has only his blue-collar approach, reliable hands and local boy charm to vault him into the final 53.
Naaman has eight catches for 81 yards this preseason, while Hagan has one catch and four yards. Hagan offers a better size/speed ratio for special teams and that will most likely get him the last WR spot.
Odds of making roster = 10 to 1.
For these three players, their NFL future hinges on Bills vs. Lions on August 30th, 2012. It may be a throwaway game for NFL fans everywhere, but for Howell, Gilbert, Roosevelt, and dozens more across the league, preseason week four is the final interview for the job of their dreams.