These are the days when being a NFL head coach isn't exactly pleasurable. I have deep empathy for Dick Jauron. He has some tough choices to make over the next 24 hours as the Bills must shave their roster down to 53 by 4:00 PM on Saturday.
While the majority of roster is more established than recent years, there's a couple positions uncertain of how many will be kept, and few players at those spots who won't sleep a wink tonight. Will the Bills keep six receivers or six corners? Do seven linebackers make the opening day roster or only six?
These are just some of the daunting judgments Jauron and the staff must assemble. Here is one man's view on who makes the final roster.
Quarterback (3): No suspense here. Trent Edwards starts, J.P. Losman and his beard back him up, and Jauron prays both injury prone quarterbacks don't go down, or else clipboard holder Gibran Hamden gets pressed into action. Quarterback coach Alex Van Pelt may come out of retirement before that happens.
Running Back (4) Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and Darius Barnes are locks. The team will keep a third tailback, and it should be rookie Xavier Omon. Dwayne Wright's case of fumbleitis will cost him a job.
Wide Receiver (6): Lee Evans, Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish and James Hardy are secure. Justin Jenkins gets the fifth spot on his special teams prowess. I think Steve Johnson showed enough last night to have the team keep a sixth. He's also improved on special teams, a must for bottom of the depth chart receivers. Don't count on Felton Huggins being on the practice squad. He won't make the final roster and the bet here is another team signs him to their roster.
Tight End (3): Robert Royal is the starter and Derek Schouman and his bad knee is the backup. Then it gets dicey. Last season the Bills kept four tight ends and no fullback. With Barnes on the roster the team probably carries only three. Derek Fine is a rookie the team likes but could hit injured reserved with a bad thumb. That leaves Courtney Anderson or Tim Massaquoi. I'm going with Anderson with the thinking he's the better blocker in two tight end sets.
Offensive Line (9): Jason Peters has to report at some point. Derrick Dockery, Melvin Fowler, Brad Butler and Langston Walker are the other starters and safe. Kirk Chambers and Duke Preston are locks to make the team as backups. Demetrius Bell makes the team because even if he's not ready to play right now, he gets cut and another team will snatch him immediately. I was prepared to write off Jason Whittle as a surprise cut. That was until I saw how hideous the interior backups were in extensive action last night. Robert Felton, Nevin McCaskill and Christian Gaddis had golden opportunities and blew it. Felton and McCaskill may end up on the practice squad. Last year Buffalo kept 8 linemen. I expect nine this time around.
Defensive Line (8):Only one potentially tough decision here. Aaron Schobel, Chris Kelsay, Chris Ellis, Marcus Stroud, Kyle Williams, John McCargo and Spencer Johnson make the team. I really like Copeland Bryan as the fourth defensive end, but Ryan Denney sticks because defensive coordinator Perry Fewell isn't confident enough in Ellis as the first end off the bench quite yet. The Bills will hold their breath Bryan can slip through the cracks and onto the practice squad.
Linebacker (7): The top five are set but then it's anyone's guess. Kawika Mitchell, Paul Posluszny, Angelo Crowell, Keith Ellison and John DiGiorgio won't be losing sleep on cutdown day eve. That leaves Donnie Spragan, Blake Costanzo, Jon Corto and Marcus Buggs for one, possibly two spots, and they'll come down soley to who's most valuable on special teams. Costanzo was solid in that area and should make the roster. Spragan might've been on his way out, but the concussion Corto suffered last night may hinder his chances of making the roster. Buggs is likely headed to the practice squad.
Cornerback (5): Terrence McGee, Jabrari Greer, Ashton Youboty and Leodis McKelvin are the first four corners. If the team keeps only five, I'm going with rookie Reggie Corner over Will James. Corner had a tremendous camp and if he gets cut there's no way he ends up on the practice squad. Another team will sign him instantly. James, despite being the veteran of the backups is in serious jeopardy. Unless the team keeps six he could be the odd man out. Dustin Fox--- we hardly knew ya.
Safety (5): Donte Whitner and Ko Simpson are locked into starting roles. Fewell loves Bryan Scott backing up Whitner. George Wilson should make the team due to strong special teams play and ditto for John Wendling.
Special Teams (3): Rian Lindell and Brian Moorman are as good as it gets in the kicking game. Chris Neil is the long snapper and should keep his gig spot, though the Bills could elect to use Wilson on long snaps in order to keep an extra linebacker or cornerback on the roster.
Injured Reserve: Matt Murphy and Derek Fine.