6 things we learned from GM Brandon Beane about the Bills 2021 roster

Tre'Davious White (27) drives Devin Singletary (26) and Emmanuel Sanders (1). Buffalo Bills Training Camp at Highmark Stadium, September 1, 2021. Photo by Bill Wippert

The official roster is set for the 2021 season. The final 53 features 11 defensive linemen, five corners, six linebackers, four safeties, four running backs, six wide receivers, two tight ends, nine offensive linemen and two quarterbacks. 

General manager Brandon Beane met with the media on Wednesday to discuss final cuts and the makeup of this year's squad.

1. LS Reid Ferguson's status

It was a bit of a surprise to see long snapper Reid Ferguson a part of final cuts in order to get to 53. But no need to panic though because Ferguson will be back. Beane had to make the roster move in order to place wide receiver Marquez Stevenson on the Injured Reserve.

"Reid will be back on the roster," Beane explained. "The subsequent move will be Marquez Stevenson will be put on IR. His foot has still been nagging him. He actually had re-hurt it before that punt return against the Bears, and believe it or not still took that thing back. And that's why he got shut down then. It's still nagging him. The best thing is to let it calm down, so we'll put him down. So we'll go down to six wide receivers, we'll get Reid back on."

The Buffalo Bills' 53-man roster for the 2021 season is here. Scroll through to learn about the players on this year's team.

2. Beane calls the Darryl Johnson trade "a tough call"

The Bills kept 11 defensive linemen, which makes it the most crowded position group on the team. If defensive end Darryl Johnson made the roster, he would have made it 12 but the seventh rounder was traded to the Panthers in exchange for a 2022 sixth round pick.

Beane said it was difficult to trade Johnson, but ultimately it came down to who would be active on game days.

"Darryl was a tough call," Beane explained. "It really was. At the end of the day, we had probably the most value that we could get for him and it was, which way you can do it. He has that special teams value. Heath's (Farwell) probably disappointed that we weren't able to get him there, but there's only so many you're going to be able to get up on game day as it is and we just couldn't find a way to keep seven defensive ends."

Beane said they thought getting a sixth round pick in the trade was the best move for the team as a whole.

Scroll to see the best photos from the Bills' practice at Highmark Stadium on September 1, 2021.

3. The numbers game

With 11 defensive linemen, every position group can't be stacked. Beane admitted 11 is about as heavy as he felt comfortable with at that spot. Even though they went heavy at defensive line for a reason, Beane didn't want to choose numbers first over talent when deciding the final roster.

"We really tried to keep the best 53 and not say, we're going to keep x number of running backs, x number of receivers, tight ends," Beane explained.

That means six linebackers, five corners and four safeties makeup the rest of the defense. The worry about keeping 12 defensive linemen came down to what position groups could be in jeopardy on game day.

"I knew once you start getting 10, 11, I would've loved to have kept Darryl and go 12," Beane explained. "But we just couldn't get thinner because on game day, you get to that 48, we're going to have too many D-linemen on the sidelines and we're going to be really thin if we lose another tight end or lose a linebacker, DB. Most of those guys that we kept will all be up on game day. So it gets to the core where you can only keep so many."

There were many players the Bills would have loved to keep but they couldn't because of the defensive line numbers. One example is tight end Jacob Hollister

"Hollister was a tough decision," Beane said. "It was really a numbers thing. I thought Jacob had a good camp. He had a really good spring. And then he had the back (injury) that slowed him a little bit, but was starting to show back in form at the Bears game. It was really a numbers thing. If we had kept another one, he's probably on the roster. It was just, we went heavy at defensive line, and unfortunately when you go heavy somewhere you got to cut somewhere else."

4. Roster health going into Week 1

The Bills have been without some key pieces over the last several practices. Defensive lineman Harrison Phillips (knee), wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie (shoulder), tight end Tommy Sweeney (foot), safety Jaquan Johnson (knee), cornerback Levi Wallace (hip), cornerback Taron Johnson (hand) and cornerback Dane Jackson (stinger) have all missed multiple practices.

Phillips, Sweeney, McKenzie, T. Johnson, Jackson and Wallace returned to practice on Wednesday and practiced in some capacity. McKenzie, T. Johnson and Jackson wore red non-contact jerseys.

"We feel good about their status," Beane said of Phillips and McKenzie specifically. "At this point, as we sit here today before practice anything can happen. But I don't think we're planning to rule anyone out for week one at this point."

Micah Hyde (excused for personal reason), Star Lotulelei (calf), Jerry Hughes (vet day), Jaquan Johnson (knee) all missed practice on Wednesday.

The team will have Friday, Saturday and Sunday off before they officially begin Week 1 prep. Beane said he is hoping with the long weekend, they will get most of the players back and practicing in some capacity on Monday.

5. A familiar group of players on the practice squad

The Bills practice squad members were announced this afternoon and all players on it were members of Buffalo's training camp roster before final cuts. Before those players had an opportunity to get claimed, Beane was hopeful that they would get most of their group back.

"We're happy with most of the guys that we had," Beane said of players that got cut before being put back on the practice squad. "They become free agents so they do have opportunities if they're not claimed to choose a different practice squad, but we're hopeful here this afternoon to get a lot of the guys back that they go unclaimed."

Quarterbacks Davis Webb and Jake Fromm are a part of this year's practice squad. Beane was anticipating Webb would return, but wasn't sure about Fromm's status.

"Davis doesn't have to go through waivers, so he can sign back with us," Beane explained. "Pretty confident he will. And then we'll see what happens with Jake. But really proud of Jake and happy with him. We would love to keep him on the team if we can, but we'll have to see if he's claimed here in just a little while."

Here are the 15 members of the practice squad – OL Jack Anderson, DT Brandin Bryant, OL Jamil Douglas, QB Jake Fromm, WR Tanner Gentry, LB Joe Giles-Harris, DB Olaijah Griffin, WR Isaiah Hodgins, CB Cam Lewis, DE Mike Love, TE Quintin Morris, S Josh Thomas, QB Davis Webb, CB Rachad Wildgoose, RB Antonio Williams.

6. The uniqueness about this year's roster

Every season each roster has a little bit of a different feel. Beane thinks the continuity stands out most among this year's group. The biggest difference this season is in the defensive line, where Beane hopes the increase in numbers will translate to an increase in pressure.

"Continuity is probably the thing that's gotten better and better, being able to keep so many guys that some of them we thought we were going to lose last year," Beane said of the difference in this year's roster. "Offensively, I think we've kind of built it similar to how we did last season. And then defensively, the biggest difference is up front. We've really focused on retaining the back end, the back seven, and then strengthening this front four, and being able to rush in waves.

"I think that's what you'll see. If we have eight or nine up on game day, Eric Washington is going to be rotating those guys to where we're hopefully going to be able to get after this quarterback."

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