Bills with most riding on preseason finale vs. Packers:Buffalo Bills players have one more opportunity to show what they can do ahead of roster cuts on Tuesday. Although battles for starting jobs seem wrapped up, there will be quite a few players looking to prove they are worthy of a roster spot when the team hosts the Green Bay Packers on Saturday afternoon in their preseason finale.
For some, opportunities have suddenly popped up due to injuries at their respective positions. Others, however, are firmly on the bubble and possibly competing for one spot against a teammate on Saturday.
Heading into Saturday’s matchup against the Packers, here are 10 players with the most riding on the preseason finale.
Marquez Stevenson, Isaiah Hodgins, Steven Sims
Although Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis were both recently activated from the team’s Reserve/COVID list, it’s possible that the risk of losing these receivers in season due to being close contacts could factor into Buffalo’s decision making. Throw in Isaiah McKenzie being somewhere between day-to-day and week-to-week with a shoulder injury, and the team could suddenly be giving serious consideration to keeping seven receivers on their active roster.
Marquez Stevenson and Isaiah Hodgins are likely the lead candidates for the last receiving job and both could play on Saturday. Stevenson recently returned to practice after suffering a foot injury in the Bills’ second preseason game against the Chicago Bears. The rookie has flashed as a receiver (42-yard reception versus Detroit) and return man (79-yard punt return touchdown against Chicago) in two preseason games. If he makes another play or two on Saturday, Stevenson may have truly played his way onto the roster.
Hodgins had a strong spring, but suffered a knee injury in the team’s preseason win over the Lions. At one point, Hodgins was in the running to be the team’s No. 6 receiver, but Jake Kumerow separated himself from the second year receiver throughout training camp. Hodgins’ best chance of making the roster now is as the team’s No. 7 receiver. A strong performance against Green Bay could put him in the running for that role.
Steven Sims, recently signed by the Bills, is much like Isaiah McKenzie in that he can return kicks, play receiver and be used as a gadget player of sorts. Seeing him leapfrog Stevenson and Hodgins would be a bit of a surprise considering he hasn’t been in Buffalo long, but he performed well in two seasons with Washington. A strong performance by Sims puts him in the conversation for a roster spot and at the very worst could make him a lock for the practice squad if he clears waivers.
Justin Zimmer and Vernon Butler
It’s possible that both Justin Zimmer and Vernon Butler make the 53-man roster when all is said and done with Harrison Phillips currently dealing with a knee injury. NFL insider Ian Rapoport referred to the injury as being minor, but if he has to miss any time early in the year it’s possible that Bills go with Zimmer and Butler as their backups to Star Lotulelei and Ed Oliver.It’s also possible that the two players are fighting for one roster spot. Zimmer has been referred to as one of the “glue guys” on the Bills’ roster while Butler was recently praised by defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier for his “raw talent.”
Both Zimmer and Butler should see plenty of playing time against the Packers.
If the Bills keep six linebackers, Dodson is likely in the driver’s seat for a roster spot. Buffalo may only keep five, however, as the team’s base defense generally sees them using two linebackers. If five is the magic number, Dodson needs a big game against the Packers.
Tyler Matakevich has had an impressive training camp and preseason. He’s also one of the Bills’ core special teams players so his roster spot seems safe behind Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano and A.J. Klein. Dodson’s main competition may be Andre Smith. Smith was all over the field in the Bills’ first preseason game against the Lions and has had a terrific training camp as well. The former Carolina Panthers draft pick was a key special teams contributor one year ago and would see plenty of opportunities to play on special teams this season if he lands the No. 5 job.Dodson flashed early in 2020 when given a chance to play in place of an injured Edmunds, but he may be the odd man out on the roster barring a strong performance on Saturday.
Cam Lewis and Rachad Wildgoose
The Bills are currently beat up at the cornerback position. Levi Wallace is dealing with a hip injury, Dane Jackson has a stinger and slot cornerback Taron Johnson has a hand injury. The team’s No. 1 cornerback, Tre’Davious White, and reserve Siran Neal are both healthy but with a trio of cornerbacks dealing with injuries, Buffalo could be looking at keeping an extra player at the position.
Looking at the team’s current roster, Cam Lewis and Rachad Wildgoose would be the favorites for a role if any of the three cornerbacks were to miss time at the start of the season. Lewis worked his way onto the main roster last season and even started for Buffalo in two games. If Lewis has a strong performance against the Packers, he could be on the 53-man roster at the start of the season.
Wildgoose has made a few plays this summer, but the rookie has had his fair share of struggles.
Both can make their case for a roster spot against the Packers. If neither performs well and the Bills have any questions about their cornerback depth, the team could look to trade for a veteran before cutdowns or see who becomes available across the league as teams trim their rosters to 53-players.