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Evaluating the 2015 Bills 53-man roster

The Buffalo Bills have talent across the board. Here is a look at how each unit grades out entering the 2015 season.

Buffalo’s 53-man roster entering Week 1 has plenty of talent. That talent varies from position to position. Entering Week 1, here’s a look at how I’d grade each positional unit.

Editor’s note: All players are listed by their position on the team’s official website. In addition, Marcell Dareus is suspended for Week 1, but is included in the defensive line grade.

QB – Tyrod Taylor, Matt CasselE.J. Manuel

Grade: C

Throughout the offseason, many people and sites have listed Buffalo’s QBs among the worst in the league. However, all three quarterbacks played very well for the Buffalo Bills in the preseason and the unit should at least be considered as average entering the season.

Tyrod Taylor could boost this grade up significantly if he performs well in the regular season. In the preseason, Taylor did everything right. He scanned the field for his receivers, showed poise in the pocket and was very accurate as a passer. Taylor also showed that he could pick up yards with his feet as well. If his preseason play carries over into the regular season, there’s no telling just how good Buffalo could be in 2015.

Behind Taylor, Cassel is a stable veteran option for the Bills. If something were to happen to Taylor, Cassel could step in and manage the game for Buffalo. Last, Manuel showed growth this preseason in terms of quarterback play.

There’s no proven franchise player at the position, but this unit isn’t as bad as many have written.

RB – LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams, Anthony Dixon, Bryce Brown

Grade: B+

Buffalo’s grade could have been in the A to A- range this season if the team kept Fred Jackson on their 53-man roster. That said, the Bills were clearly thinking long term when they released the 34 year old running back. McCoy and Williams can be a dangerous 1-2 punch at the position but the talent takes a hit behind them. Dixon had the best season of his career in 2014, but he’s not the type of back who can carry the load if injuries were to arise. As for Brown, there is plenty of talent there but he’ll have to prove that he can hold onto the ball in the regular season.

FB – Jerome Felton

Grade: A

Felton is essentially an extra offensive lineman on the field. He’s one of the league’s best run blockers and his addition will pay dividends for the Bills in 2015.

WR – Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Percy Harvin, Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley, Marquise Goodwin, Marcus Thigpen

Grade: A

The Bills have a terrific top three at wide receiver. If the trio can stay healthy, defenses will have trouble covering them when they’re all on the field. Hogan had a shaky training camp, but he did have perform well for the Bills in 2014. As for the remaining receivers, Easley and Thigpen are listed at receiver, but will contribute more on special teams. Goodwin has the speed to be dangerous, but he hasn’t shown the ability to stay on the field or contribute consistently in his first two seasons.

TE – Charles Clay, MarQueis Gray, Matthew Mulligan, Chris Gragg

Grade: B-

Buffalo hasn’t had a tight end like Clay on their roster for a long time. He can create mismatches in the passing game, he’s an underrated blocker and Greg Roman will utilize him in many ways. The depth behind him is the unknown. Gray is the team’s second tight end but there’s no telling how much he’ll contribute on the field. He’s athletic and has the highest ceiling among the other three receivers but he needs to show he can be a consistent weapon on the field. Mulligan is simply a blocking option at the position and Gragg earned a spot with his strong preseason. That said, he hasn’t contributed much in his first two seasons.

OL – Cordy Glenn, Richie Incognito, Eric Wood, John Miller, Seantrel Henderson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Kraig Urbik, Gabe Ikard

Grade: C

On a positive note, Buffalo’s starting five looks much better than the starting five they rolled out in 2014. That said, the depth is what hurts their grade. Kouandjio worked hard this offseason and it showed in training camp and the preseason, but he’s the only backup Bills fans should feel comfortable with at this point in terms of filling in as a starter. Urbik can contribute in terms of taking a few snaps per game at guard and center, but that’s about it at this point. Ikard is an unknown.

DL – Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus (Suspended Week 1), Kyle Williams, Jerry Hughes, Manny Lawson, Corbin Bryant, Stefan Charles, Alex Carrington, Andre Fluellen

Grade: A+

This is Buffalo’s strongest positional unit and one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. The starting four has and will continue to wreak havoc on opposing defenses and there is quality depth behind the starters in Lawson, Bryant and Charles. Carrington seemed poised to breakout in his first stint with the Bills, but injuries have derailed him a bit. He can still contribute with quality snaps. Fluellen may only be on the roster for one week as Dareus serves his suspension.

LB – Nigel Bradham, Preston Brown, Randell Johnson, Tony Steward, A.J. Tarpley

Grade: C+

Bradham and Brown are an outstanding starting duo at linebacker but the depth is very shaky. Johnson is very athletic and will probably take over Manny Lawson’s job in 2016, but he still needs time to develop into a starter. Steward and Tarpley are wild cards. The former Clemson linebacker is dealing with an MCL injury but his play was inconsistent in camp and the preseason. Last, Tarpley finished the preseason strong but he’s a step down from Ty Powell, the team’s top reserve MIKE linebacker who will miss the season with an ACL injury.

CB – Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby, Nickell Robey, Ron Brooks, Mario Butler

Grade: B

Gilmore has improved every season on the field and last year he was outstanding in his final four games of the season, especially against the Broncos and Packers. Two elite quarterbacks struggled to get the ball to receivers who were covered by Gilmore. He’ll be put on an island this season as the team’s No. 1 cornerback and he should thrive in the role.

Darby has a lot of talent but struggled in the preseason when he was on an island. That won’t happen in the regular season as the rookie will receive safety help. He has to play the ball a bit better starting on Sunday. He’s a wild card as a starter, but the talent is there.

Robey is among the best nickel cornerbacks in the NFL. He’ll thrive in Rex Ryan’s defense. Last, Brooks has proven himself to be quality depth in his career and Butler put together a good preseason.

This grade will improve in Week 7 when Leodis McKelvin returns to the field.

S – Aaron Williams, Corey Graham, Bacarri Rambo, Duke Williams

Grade: B+

Williams and Graham make for a very good starting safety combo. Graham adjusted to his new position well this offseason and he could be in line for one of the best seasons of his career. Rambo joined the Bills last season and earned a job this year with strong play. He’s been a very pleasant surprise for the Bills and will see his fair share of snaps on the field. Last, Duke Williams’ play has been a bit up and down in the preseason, but he did see significant snaps last season and proved that he can perform on the field.

ST – Dan Carpenter, Jordan Gay, Colton Schmidt, Garrison Sanborn, Marcus Thigpen, Marcus Easley

Grade: A

This grade is based upon the entire body of work. Carpenter had a rough preseason but he missed a lot of training camp with a hamstring injury. His accuracy over the last two years has earned him a bit of leeway in terms of his preseason play.

A kickoff specialist is a bit of a luxury position but Gay is very good in terms of handling kickoff duties. He deserves his fair share of praise for how highly the special teams unit ranked last year.

Schmidt had a great preseason and showed a lot of consistency with his booming punts. He can help the Bills flip the field on their opposition throughout a game.

Sanborn gets a mention for being a consistent long snapper and Thigpen is mentioned again due to his ability to handle punt returns. As for Easley, he’s proven himself to be one of the best special teams players in the NFL. This unit should once again find themselves among the top of the league.


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