1. New players account for more than 40 percent of the 2019 roster
With the final 53 solidified, the 2019 Bills look quite different from the 2018 Bills.
The Bills welcome 23 new players to their roster, including eight rookies. Offensive lineman Ryan Bates is the only undrafted rookie free agent who made the final roster.
Bates joined the Bills on Aug. 9 via a trade with the Eagles. A unique situation with it being a trade for an undrafted rookie, but head coach Sean McDermott likes Bates’ versatility. We saw Bates line up at four different positions on the line during training camp, including second-team reps at center while Mitch Morse was in concussion protocol.
Rookie safety Jaquan Johnson was PFF’s highest-graded player heading into the final preseason game on Thursday. Johnson finished with an overall grade of 97.7. The seventh-rounder had 12 tackles in his final preseason game.
Running back Devin Singletary will play a bigger role in the running and passing game with the release of LeSean McCoy. General manager Brandon Beane says Singletary is a hard worker who has leaned on veteran Frank Gore.
The Bills have 30 players returning to the roster, only three returning offensive linemen in Dion Dawkins, Conor McDermott and Ike Boettger. On offense, 10 players return. Last year’s starting lineup for week one on offense includes just two returners in Zay Jones and Dion Dawkins. On defense, 17 players return. The specialists return three.
Offense returners: OL Dion Dawkins, WR Zay Jones, QB Josh Allen, QB Matt Barkley, TE Jason Croom, WR Robert Foster, WR Isaiah McKenzie, FB Patrick DiMarco, OL Conor McDermott, OL Ike Boettger
Defense returners: DE Trent Murphy, DE Shaq Lawson, DT Jordan Phillips, DT Star Lotulelei, DT Harrison Phillips, DE Jerry Hughes, LB Matt Milano, LB Tremaine Edmunds, LB Julian Stanford, LB Lorenzo Alexander, LB Corey Thompson, CB Tre’Davious White, CB Levi Wallace, S Jordan Poyer, S Micah Hyde, CB Taron Johnson, CB Siran Neal
Specialist returners: K Stephen Hauschka, P Corey Bojorquez, LS Reid Ferguson
New additions: OL Ryan Bates, OL Cody Ford, DE Darryl Johnson, S Jaquan Johnson, TE Dawson Knox, DT Ed Oliver, RB Devin Singletary, TE Tommy Sweeney, WR John Brown, OL Quinton Spain, OL Mitch Morse, OL Spencer Long, OL Jon Feliciano, OL Ty Nsekhe, TE Tyler Kroft, TE Lee Smith, RB Frank Gore, RB T.J. Yeldon, WR Andre Roberts, WR Cole Beasley, LB Maurice Alexander, CB Kevin Johnson, S Dean Marlowe
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2. GM Brandon Beane: Running back by committee, whatever group we kept
General manager Brandon Beane announced Saturday afternoon that the Bills released running back LeSean McCoy. Beane spoke to media on Saturday, answering questions about the decision that came in the 23rd hour. The GM said the decision was based on what would be best for the Bills and its future.
“We did see this being a running back by committee, whatever group that we kept,” Beane said.
That committee will be veteran Frank Gore, rookie Devin Singletary and T.J. Yeldon. Beane says Gore has added to the team in many ways.
“Frank’s done everything asked of him and he’s a pro’s pro, really good with the young guys,” Beane said. “He’s a vet and he has showed us. We didn’t want to overdo his carries, we didn’t want to overdo him or LeSean’s carries in the preseason, but we wanted to give him enough to get the feel of our linemen who were out there in the particular games we played. Obviously, this is his first year in the offense.”
It’s the first year in the Bills offense for Yeldon and Singletary as well. Singletary will take on a bigger role next to Gore, proving he can be involved in the passing game and work to being a true third down back.
“We knew he [Devin Singletary] could run with the ball in his hands,” Beane said. “I talked about his vision, his instincts and his feel. When he checked the box on the passing game, again he wasn’t thrown to a lot in that offense in college, just seeing his natural feel.”
Beane says Gore has a good grasp of how he will be used in the offense.
“We feel he understands his role and he’ll jump in there,” Beane said. “If we want him to start, he’ll start. If we want him to back up, he’ll back up. I think Frank’s ready to help in whatever role Brian Daboll has planned for him.”
3. Skill position groups to feature new faces as the regular season begins
There are 23 new players on this year’s roster, 17 are on offense. Aside from close to the entire offensive line being new, a bulk of the skill positions will be entering their first year in Brian Daboll’s offense.
The running back room is completely new with Frank Gore, Devin Singletary and T.J. Yeldon. Gore brings 14 years of experience from different teams and five Pro Bowl’s to the group. Yeldon is entering his fifth year in the league, spending the last four with the Jaguars. Singletary is the lone rookie in the room.
The tight ends feature several new faces including Lee Smith, Tyler Kroft, Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney. Jason Croom is the only returning player of the tight ends. Smith enters his ninth year in the NFL, previously playing with the Bills from 2011-2014. Kroft, still working his way back from the foot injury, is in his fifth year in the league, spending the last four in Cincinnati. Knox and Sweeney are the two rookies in the group.
While the wide receivers return three players, two new additions will take on big roles in the offense. Zay Jones, Isaiah McKenzie and Robert Foster return to the team. Cole Beasley, John Brown and Andre Roberts are new to the wide receiver room. Beasley and Brown are fresh faces who will be heavily involved in Daboll’s offense. The group does not have a rookie.