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Bills continually plowing under bottom of roster, practice squad

By Tim Graham

To everything, churn, churn, churn ...

In hopes of maximizing personnel, the Buffalo Bills have been busy rototilling the bottom part of their roster and practice squad this fall.

Over the past nine weeks, the Bills have made 33 player transactions. Few were forced by injuries. Most were made simply to improve depth and bring aboard raw prospects.

"That's something that we're always trying to do because I believe development in this league is extremely important," Bills coach Doug Marrone said, "and that's the way that we can develop players, bringing players in and out and seeing which one sticks."

While the Bills are mathematically alive in the playoff hunt, much of the focus has shifted to player evaluation for the future. That's why veteran running back Tashard Choice was cut, and former practice-squad player Ronnie Wingo will get a look-see over the final four weeks.

Marrone said he meets "constantly" with General Manager Doug Whaley and player personnel director Jim Monos about tweaking the roster with an eye toward the future.

"That's where sometimes those guys pop, and that's where they come from," Marrone said. "I think when you look at the situation that we're in, when I think you look at salary cap, I think that there are certain positions you need to develop. If you don't develop those positions, you're going to get in trouble from a salary cap standpoint and not be the best team you can be if you're relying on paying players at the highest price to play certain positions."

As you'll see below, the Bills regard some developmental positions more prominently than others.

In the final season with GM Buddy Nix and coach Chan Gailey, the Bills made 28 practice-squad signings or releases. That total does not include players who were promoted from the practice squad to the active roster, only those who were added to the developmental squad or released outright.

After the 2012 Bills signed their eight practice-squad players at the start of the year, they didn't make another move for four weeks.

Under Whaley and Marrone, the Bills have made 25 practice-squad moves already. They've also patrolled other teams' taxi squads, plucking defensive tackle Stefan Charles and guard J.J. Unga for the 53-man roster.

After signing their original eight, the Bills made three moves in September, six in October and six in November. The Bills have made two transactions so far in December.

The Bills already have matched last year's number of practice-squad players promoted to the active roster. They've elevated five, most notably quarterback Thad Lewis.

Of last year's promotions, receiver Marcus Easley is the only one still on the active roster. Wide receiver Kevin Elliott is on injured reserve. Safety Mana Silva left the team without permission in training camp, but remains Bills property.

A breakdown of practice-squad transactions the past two years:

2012

Final practice squad: running back Zach Brown, tight end Derek Buttles, offensive lineman Andrew Jackson, tackle Adam Grant, defensive end Corbin Bryant, defensive tackle Jarron Gilbert, linebacker Brian Smith.

Total moves (not counting promotions): 28.

Moves by position: nine offensive lineman, five receiver, four defensive back, three tight end, three defensive tackle, two linebacker, one running back.

Promotions to active roster: defensive tackle Jay Ross, offensive lineman David Snow, receiver Marcus Easley, safety Mana Silva, Ross again after being cut and re-signed and receiver Kevin Elliott.

2013

Current practice squad: quarterback Dennis Dixon, receivers Cordell Roberson and Tommy Streeter, tackles Edawn Coughman and Jamaal Johnson-Webb, defensive end Ikponmwosa Igbinosun, linebacker Jacquies Smith, cornerback Mario Butler.

Total moves (not counting promotions): 25.

Moves by position: eight defensive end, five cornerback, five guard, two quarterback, two receiver, two offensive tackle, one running back.

Promotions to active roster: cornerback Johnny Adams, quarterback Thad Lewis, cornerback Brandon Smith, guard Mark Asper, running back Ronnie Wingo.

The breakdown shows the developmental emphasis shifted to defensive end, from one move last year to a team-high eight so far this year.

Also interesting is that previous Bills management didn't bother with a developmental quarterback, but the new regime has placed an importance there. Good thing, because Lewis helped the Bills remain competitive when rookie EJ Manuel missed four games with a knee injury.

Eligibility for the IR-designated to return list

By Jay Skurski

From the in-case-you-were-wondering dept.:

None of the five players the Buffalo Bills have on injured reserve -- quarterback Kevin Kolb, wide receivers Kevin Elliott and Brad Smith, fullback Drew Smith and tight end Mike Caussin -- are eligible for NFL's injured reserve-designated to return list. Their seasons are over.

That's because those five players were put on injured reserve before the team had established its 53-man roster. 

To be eligible for the IR-designated to return label, a player must first be on the 53-man roster. Any time after 4 p.m. Tuesday, a player then can be placed on the list.

In the Bills' case, they have one injured player who may qualify. That is guard Doug Legursky, who suffered a knee injury Thursday in the final preseason game against the Detroit Lions. If the Bills did put Legursky on the list, it would keep him out for the first eight weeks of the season.

The team has already said cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who is out with a broken wrist, will not be put on the list, because they believe he will be ready to play in fewer than eight weeks.

Bills begin trimming roster by releasing four, placing one on IR

By Jay Skurski

The Bills got a head start on bringing down their roster number Sunday, releasing four players and placing another on injured reserve.

Cut were offensive tackle Tony Hillis, wide receiver Terrell Sinkfield and defensive backs Mark LeGree and Don Unamba. All four players were signed by the team after the start of training camp, and failed to move up the depth chart.

The Bills also placed wide receiver Kevin Elliott on injured reserve. He suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on a non-contact play Friday against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Bills currently have 83 players on their active roster. They need to trim that number to 75 by 4 p.m. Aug. 27. The final cut to 53 players needs to be done by 6 p.m. Aug. 31.

EJ Manuel to miss rest of preseason with knee injury

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills' quarterback competition took a drastic turn this afternoon with the news that rookie first-round pick EJ Manuel will miss the rest of the preseason because of a knee injury.

The Bills released a statement from coach Doug Marrone via email at 4:06 p.m. announcing the injury.

It reads:

"EJ Manuel had some swelling in his left knee this morning and was examined by our medical staff. An MRI revealed that he will need to have a minor knee procedure and that has been scheduled. He will miss the remainder of the preseason and then be re-evaluated at that time. Kevin Kolb will be our starting quarterback for this weekend's game at Washington."

Manuel made no mention of the injury following last night's 20-16 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at Ralph Wilson Stadium. He showed no sign of an obvious injury in addressing the media at the podium.

Manuel has led the Bills to a 2-0 start in the preseason. He's gone 26 of 33 for 199 yards and two touchdowns in those two games.

"I thought personally I did well when I had the chance to go out there and play," Manuel said last night.

The Bills also announced that wide receiver Kevin Elliott suffered a torn anterior-cruciate ligament and will miss the season.

The team returns to practice at 8 a.m. Sunday at St. John Fisher College. Marrone will update the media regarding Manuel following that workout.

Points after: Bills 20, Vikings 16

By Tim Graham

Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' victory over the Minnesota Vikings tonight in Ralph Wilson Stadium ...

What it means: Kevin Kolb wasted a precious opportunity to impress the coaching staff. He started the game and completed just three of his first eight passes with an interception. Kolb finished 13 of 21 for 111 yards and no touchdowns.

Bills star of the game: Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes, starting for Mario Williams on the right side, sacked Christian Ponder on the game's first snap and added a strip-sack of Matt Cassel in the second quarter.

Stat line of the day: Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel completed all six of his passes for 44 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown toss to Brad Smith, on his first drive to start the second half.

Dirty laundry: Bills coach Doug Marrone was upset when his players committed nine penalties for 74 yards in their first preseason game. The Bills had nine penalties by halftime tonight and finished with 14 accepted for 106 yards.

Kicker duel: Sixth-round pick Dustin Hopkins again took the first kicks. Hopkins made field goals from 39 and 35 yards. Rian Lindell didn't get any attempts in the second half and kicked off once. ... Punter Shawn Powell, who apparently won the job when the Bills cut Brian Stahovich a few days ago, shanked his first punt 19 yards out of bounds.

Preliminary injury report: Wide receiver Kevin Elliott was carted to the locker room in the second quarter with an apparent left leg injury.

Coming up: Buffalo will visit Washington at 4:30 p.m. next Saturday.

After Bills cut a wide receiver, here's their positional overview

By Tim Graham

A player who had little chance to make the 2013 roster has been released.

The Buffalo Bills have cut wide receiver Kevin Norrell from injured reserve.

The Bills still have 11 receivers, not counting Dorin Dickerson, on their offseason roster. Here they are, listed in order of how I view their chances to make the opening-day roster -- not necessarily the same as how talented they are.

  • Stevie Johnson
  • Robert Woods
  • Marquise Goodwin
  • T.J. Graham
  • Da'Rick Rogers
  • Brad Smith
  • Kevin Elliott
  • Marcus Easley
  • Brandon Kaufman
  • De'Marco Sampson
  • Chris Hogan

Stevie Johnson excited to learn who his new WR mates will be

SJohnsonTennis
Stevie Johnson is eager to see how the Buffalo Bills will juggle their wide-receiver depth chart for 2013. (Photo: James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)
 

By Tim Graham

Stevie Johnson accounted for a preponderance of the numbers posted by Buffalo Bills wide receivers the past two years.

Subtract the contributions from David Nelson and Donald Jones, as the club did when it announced it won't re-sign them, and Johnson practically is on his own.

Of the wide receivers still on Buffalo's roster, Johnson has been responsible for 70 percent of the catches, 74 percent of the receiving yards and 76 percent of the receiving touchdowns in 2011 and 2012.

Continue reading "Stevie Johnson excited to learn who his new WR mates will be" ยป

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham | tgraham@buffnews.com


Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan | mgaughan@buffnews.com


Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski | jskurski@buffnews.com

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