With the draft finally over, we now have a clearer vision of what the Bills are looking to do on both sides of the ball. Head coach Doug Marrone stressed tempo in the voluntary workouts prior to the draft, and stayed true to that philosophy, selecting players with athleticism and speed. On defense, coordinator Mike Pettine emphasized that the team would be running a hybrid defense, featuring both 3-4 and 4-3 looks.
With Offseason Training Activities and Training Camp coming soon, this is my projected opening day 53-man depth chart.
QB- E.J. Manuel, Kevin Kolb, Tarvaris Jackson , Jeff Tuel (UDFA)
The Bills drafted E.J. Manuel in the first round, nearly guaranteeing him the opening day starter. Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson will battle for the two backup jobs at reasonable, team-friendly contracts.
RB- C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Tashard Choice Zach Brown, Drew Smith (UDFA)
C.J. Spiller proved himself over the last season and a half that he’s worthy of a starting role. Fred Jackson is getting up there in age, but is still a valuable asset both on the field and in the locker room. Tashard Choice provides solid depth as a No. 3 back.
FB- Frank Summers, Kendall Gaskins (UDFA), Drew Smith (UDFA)
Essentially replacing Corey McIntyre, Frank Summers is a powerful lead-blocking fullback that will pave holes for Spiller.
WR- Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods, T.J. Graham, Da’Rick Rogers, Marquise Goodwin, Kevin Elliot, Brad Smith, Marcus Easley, Dorin Dickerson, Brandon Kaufman (UDFA), Kevin Norell (UDFA)
This is where things get tricky. The Bills turned a glaring hole into a position of strength and there will be some difficult cuts. The battle for the No. 4, 5, 6 wide receivers will be a great one to keep an eye on in camp.
TE- Scott Chandler, Chris Gragg, Lee Smith, Mike Caussin,
No surprises here, but seventh round pick Chris Gragg could likely be the opening day starter if Scott Chandler’s ACL isn’t completely healed. Lee Smith provides great blocking as an in-line tight end in run situations.
LT- Cordy Glenn, Thomas Welch
LG- Colin Brown, Zebrie Sanders, Zach Chibane (UDFA)
C– Eric Wood, David Snow, Ryan Turnley (UDFA)
RG- Kraig Urbik
RT- Chris Hairston, Sam Young
OL Chris Scott, Hutch Eckerson, Erik Pears, Ryan Turnley (UDFA)
Despite the loss of Andy Levitre, the Bills have a very strong, powerful offensive line. While many of the backups don’t have much playing experience, there is definitely some depth across the offensive line.
DE- Alan Branch, Jarron Gilbert
NT- Marcell Dareus, Torell Troup, Corbin Bryant
DT- Kyle Williams, Alex Carrington, Jay Ross
DL- Aaron Tipoti (UDFA), Izaan Cross (UDFA)
The signing of Alan Branch made life a lot easier on the Bills’ defensive line, allowing scheme flexibility. Alex Carrington improved weekly in a rotational role and with Torell Troup reportedly healthy, the team has some good depth for three and for man fronts.
JLB- Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes, Mark Anderson, Keith Pough (UDFA), Kourtnei Brown
WILB- Kiko Alonso, Marcus Dowtin, Greg Lloyd
SILB- Nigel Bradham, Chris White, Brian Smith
SLB- Manny Lawson, Arthur Moats
Nickel- Bryan Scott
This is a big, fast group of linebackers with solid depth. Mario Williams will likely move between outside linebacker and defensive end, but behind him, Mark Anderson, Jerry Hughes and Keith Pough are solid pass rushers. Inside, Kiko Alonso and Nigel Bradham provide a scary and athletic tandem, with Chris White providing solid depth. At the strong side, Manny Lawson is a good but not great pass rusher that provides solid run defense.
Bryan Scott was retained as a free agent, and was a playmaker in the nickel linebacker role last season.
RCB- Stephon Gilmore, Ron Brooks, Crezdon Butler, Kip Edwards (UDFA), Vernon Kearney (UDFA), Jumal Rolle (UDFA)
FS- Jairus Byrd, Jonathan Meeks, Dominique Ellis
SS- Da’Norris Searcy, Aaron Williams, Duke Williams
LCB- Leodis McKelvin, Justin Rogers, Nickell Robey (UDFA), T.J. Heath, Jordan Dangerfield (UDFA)
Stephon Gilmore clearly solidified himself as the team’s No. 1 cornerback after an impressive rookie campaign. The fact that the team didn’t select a cornerback in the draft shows that the new coaching staff has confidence in Leodis McKelvin. Ron Brooks should improve on his decent rookie campaign, and Dominique Ellis provides versatility as a defensive back that can play all four spots in the secondary. Nickell Robey, an undrafted free agent is undersized, but is a quick cornerback that projects to the slot.
Jairus Byrd is a no-brainer, but there will be a big competition at the strong safety spot, where I believe rookie Duke Williams could be a day-one starter.
K- Dustin Hopkins, Rian Lindell,
P- Brian Stahovich, Shawn Powell
The Bills selected Dustin Hopkins in the sixth round of the draft, signaling that Rian Lindell will need to prove himself in training camp.
Punter Shawn Powell was inconsistent and Brian Stahovich was brought in to compete with him.
Viewing the roster, the Bills will have serious competition at wide receiver, left guard, inside linebacker and strong safety. This will only make the players better, and for the first time in a while the team appears to have a clear vision.
Come back throughout the workout periods, as BillsMafia.com will be previewing each position battle individually, while keeping you posted on all the latest news from One Bills Drive!
Follow me on Twitter and let me know your thoughts on how the roster breaks down @RQUINN619 !