One thing we've learned about Sean McDermott is that he puts a high priority on positional versatility.
Players who can line up at multiple positions are highly valued to the new Buffalo Bills' coach. As such, players like running back/fullback Mike Tolbert and punter/kicker Austin Rehkow earned spots on The Buffalo News' 53-man roster projection, which has been updated now with spring practices complete.
Quarterbacks (3): Tyrod Taylor, T.J. Yates, Nathan Peterman
Cut: Cardale Jones
Analysis: Jones is clearly fourth on the depth chart, sometimes failing to get any reps at all during 11-on-11 drills in the spring. He threw a brutal interception on one of the few that he did get to end a minicamp practice -- the type of play that is hard to forget because of how bad it was. There might still be time for him to catch up, but he'll have to take full advantage of the opportunities he does get once training camp arrives. Ahead of him, Yates and Peterman didn't really do much to stand out, but the former is a veteran who is familiar with the offense and the latter was drafted by the team in the fifth round. Those are significant advantages when compared to Jones, who has no ties to this front office or coaching staff.
Running backs/fullbacks (5): LeSean McCoy, Jonathan Williams, Mike Tolbert, Joe Banyard, Patrick DiMarco
Cuts: Cedric O'Neal, Jordan Johnson
Analysis: One of the surprises of the spring was how much work Tolbert got running the football. It's clear he has the trust of McDermott, and if the spring is any indication, he'll have a role on offense. Expect to see a lot of Williams, O'Neal and Banyard in the preseason -- the Bills would be wise to limit McCoy's touches in an effort to keep him fresh. Johnson, the local product, has a lot of ground to make up if he wants to earn a roster spot. DiMarco looks like he'll be used as a receiver out of the backfield in offensive coordinator Rick Dennison's scheme.
Wide receivers (6): Sammy Watkins, Zay Jones, Andre Holmes, Philly Brown, Brandon Tate, Rod Streater
Suspended: Walt Powell
Cuts: Daikiel Shorts, Jeremy Butler, Brandon Reilly, Rashad Ross, Dez Lewis
Analysis: Powell's suspension opens a spot for Streater, a former teammate of Holmes in Oakland. The top three of Watkins, Jones and Holmes have separated themselves from the rest, leaving eight players (not counting Powell) competing for five spots. Brown gets a spot based on his familiarity with McDermott, although he didn't stand out in the spring. Tate's return ability also earns him a spot, although he'll get a challenge for that job from Ross. The Bills will have a decision to make when Powell is eligible to return after sitting out the first four games. Undrafted free agent Daikiel Shorts would be a good candidate for the practice squad.
Tight ends (3): Charles Clay, Nick O'Leary, Logan Thomas
Cuts: Wes Saxton, Jason Croom, Keith Towbridge
Analysis: This position got even more interesting when McDermott admitted during the spring that the team is concerned with Clay's knee injury, which hasn't kept him out of the lineup, but has impacted his practice time in his two seasons with the Bills. Depth behind him is a major concern, especially if Dennison wants to use two tight ends on the field at the same time. O'Leary's spot as the No. 2 tight end is holding up, while Thomas' athleticism is as advertised. Still, he has a lot to prove when the pads come on. For now, he gets a spot based on potential, but will have to back that up in the preseason. Saxton and Croom are both good candidates for the practice squad.
Offensive tackles (3): Cordy Glenn, Dion Dawkins, Jordan Mills
Suspended: Seantrel Henderson
Cuts: Michael Ola, Cameron Jefferson
Analysis: Nothing to see here. This position might be the easiest on the roster to forecast as long as there are no injuries. McDermott said he expects Glenn to be 100 percent when training camp arrives, which would be a good sign after he ended minicamp with a walking boot on his left foot because of an ankle injury. Henderson has to serve five more games of a 10-game suspension, so the Bills can keep him around until the end of that. Former second-round draft pick Cyrus Kouandjio is out of the picture after his recent release.
Interior offensive linemen (5): Richie Incognito, Eric Wood, John Miller, Vlad Ducasse, Ryan Groy
Cuts: Patrick Lewis, Greg Pyke, Zach Voytek, Jordan Mudge
Analysis: Ducasse is challenging Miller for the starting job at right guard, which is a good indication his roster spot will be safe. He also has the ability to play tackle in a pinch, which makes him even more valuable. Like at tackle, there don't appear to be many hard decisions. Depth along the offensive line is a strength. Cutting Lewis frees up $1 million in cap space, which is nice.
Defensive ends (4): Shaq Lawson, Jerry Hughes, Ryan Davis, Max Valles
Cuts: Ian Seau, Marquavius Lewis, Jake Metz
Analysis: The good news is, Lawson and Hughes looked good in the spring (particularly Hughes). The bad news is, depth behind them remains a major question mark. Valles lined up with the second team throughout the spring, while Davis was signed as a free agent this offseason. That gives them the advantage heading to training camp, but Seau, Lewis and/or Metz could still earn a spot with a strong camp.
Defensive tackles (5): Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Jerel Worthy, Adolphus Washington, Deandre Coleman
Cut: Nigel Williams
Analysis: Worthy has stepped in with the starting unit in the spring when Williams was held out of practice. Idea: Would the Bills consider moving Washington to defensive end in some packages? If so, it might help his status on the roster while also providing some much-needed depth. That would allow Coleman to serve as the fourth defensive tackle.
Linebackers (7): Lorenzo Alexander, Preston Brown, Ramon Humber, Reggie Ragland, Gerald Hodges, Tanner Vallejo, Matt Milano
Cuts: Carl Bradford, Jacob Lindsey, Eddie Yarbrough, Anthony Harrell, Abner Logan
Analysis: The middle linebacker competition between Brown and Ragland should be one of the highlights of camp, although both are close to roster locks. Humber has held onto his starting job in the base 4-3 defense even though many expect Hodges to eventually take that over. It's worth noting Hodges was a third-stringer in the spring, although maybe that changes at camp with more time to digest the defense. Rookies Vallejo and Milano will battle for reserve jobs and will be counted on for special teams.
Cornerbacks (5): Ronald Darby, Tre'Davious White, Leonard Johnson, Shareece Wright, Kevon Seymour
Cuts: Bradly Sylve, Greg Mabin, Marcus Sayles, Charles James
Analysis: Johnson taking over as the staring nickle cornerback ahead of Seymour was an interesting development in the spring. Seymour can play inside or outside, which helps his case, but he's not a roster lock by any means. He'll need a good summer. Wright, who became famous for his Chicago-to-Buffalo Uber ride, is good veteran depth. On paper, the cornerback spot looks fairly strong.
Safeties (4): Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Colt Anderson, Shamiel Gary
Cuts: B.T. Sanders, Trae Elston, Joe Powell
Analysis: Hyde and Poyer are the unquestioned starters, and Anderson figures to be a central figure on special teams. After that, much like at defensive end, it's wide open for the fourth job. Gary lined up with the second team in the spring, so he gets the edge for now.
Special teams (3): Reid Ferguson, Austin Rehkow, Stephen Hauschka
Cut: Colton Schmidt
Analysis: Rehkow, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Idaho, got a lot of work as both a punter and kicker during the spring. That type of versatility is valued by McDermott. He can also handle kickoff duties, allowing Hauschka to focus on just field goals (and extra points).