AFC East: 2014 NFL Roster Projection

Buffalo Bills' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
Examining the Buffalo Bills' roster:

No surprises here. The Bills will need Manuel to stay healthy after he missed time with three knee injuries last season. If he goes down again, the Bills' playoff hopes could ride on Lewis' shoulders.


The addition of Brown during the draft may reduce Dixon's role, at least on offense. Still, the Bills are deeper at this position than they were last season. Spiller enters a critical contract year and must stay healthy.


The Bills carried two fullbacks -- Summers and Evan Rodriguez -- at the end of last season but may not have that luxury if they carry four tailbacks this year. Although Rodriguez is more versatile, Summers is a thumping lead blocker who could play a role in the Bills' red zone offense.


No room for T.J. Graham, who slid down the depth chart with the additions of Watkins and Williams this offseason. This is an improved group from last season, but it must stay healthy. Manuel needs continuity with his passing targets, so injuries to any of the top three receivers would cause problems.


Ho-hum here, as the Bills didn't make any additions this offseason. If Moeaki stays healthy, he could be an improvement in the passing game over Chandler. Either way, the Bills need more red zone production out of this unit. Chris Gragg misses the cut.


The Bills could go in one of several directions at this position. With this lineup, 32-year-old Erik Pears loses his starting job to Kouandjio in training camp and is released. Hairston and Legursky would be active on game days as reserves, while Richardson wouldn't crack the 46-man roster but sticks as a future prospect. Henderson misses the cut in this case.


There isn't a whole lot of intrigue at this position, other than the possibility of Dareus facing an NFL-imposed suspension for two arrests this offseason. Lawson and Wynn fill out the depth chart at defensive end, while Branch, Charles and Bryant stick as big bodies on the interior.


This group took a big hit from the loss of Kiko Alonso. The Bills will likely fill that gap with a combination of Brown and Bradham, with special-teams contributions from Powell and Johnson.


The Bills have some depth here and might go one player heavier. In this case, Brooks earns the nod. There are questions about how playing time will be distributed between the players at this position, but that's what some would call a "high-class" problem.


The Bills carried as many as six safeties last season, but that was more a product of Mike Pettine's defense, which typically puts more importance on safeties than linebackers. The Bills have three undrafted rookies who could push for a roster spot, but ultimately they would all be better served on the practice squad.


I'll go out on a little bit of a limb here and say that Dombrowski makes the cut over 38-year-old punter Brian Moorman. The Bills can afford to make the move; if Dombrowski struggles early in the season, Moorman (or any other punter) would be on the market and the switching costs would be low. At kicker, Dustin Hopkins doesn't make the cut. He has a stronger leg than Carpenter for kickoffs, but it's tough to see the Bills carrying two players at the position when there are needs elsewhere on the roster.
Examining the New England Patriots' roster:


Tom Brady
Ryan Mallett
Jimmy Garoppolo

The last time the Patriots kept three quarterbacks was in 2011, Mallett's rookie year. With Mallett entering the final year of his contract and likely to be playing elsewhere in 2015, the Patriots can groom his replacement, Garoppolo, one year early.


Stevan Ridley
Shane Vereen
James White
Brandon Bolden

As has been the case in recent years, the Patriots split their backs into two categories: 1) More traditional early-down backs who have size and run with power (Ridley/Bolden); 2) Passing backs whose work as pass-protectors and as pass-catchers thrusts them into a starter-like role (Vereen/White) based on the spread formations the club often employs. We'll see if rookie and first-year backs Stephen Houston (category 1), Roy Finch (2) and Jonas Gray (1) can do enough to make this a tough decision.


James Develin

The hard-nosed former Brown Bear has carved out a niche as a lead-blocker and special-teams presence, adding a needed element of toughness to the attack. He's also been expanding his duties to include some tight-end work in spring practices.


Rob Gronkowski
Michael Hoomanawanui

This is a bit lighter than the norm, and perhaps fifth-year veteran D.J. Williams (2010 Mackey Award winner) steps up as the "move" tight end or the team signs a free-agent like Dustin Keller. But in this scenario, with the club keeping an extra quarterback and possibly going a bit heavier on the offensive line than they have in the past, something has to give. Develin and a young offensive lineman would factor more into the tight end mix if this is the way it unfolds.


Aaron Dobson
Julian Edelman
Danny Amendola
Kenbrell Thompkins
Brandon LaFell
Josh Boyce

This is a huge year for second-year pass-catchers Dobson, Thompkins and Boyce -- making it one of the top storylines for the club entering training camp. And will Amendola stay healthy and become the player the club envisioned when signing him to a big deal in the 2013 offseason?


LT Nate Solder
LG Logan Mankins
C Bryan Stork
LT/RT/RG Marcus Cannon
RT Sebastian Vollmer
LG Josh Kline
RG Jon Halapio
RT Cameron Fleming
C Ryan Wendell

After the initial locks (Solder, Mankins, Vollmer, Cannon), there will be a good competition for roster spots with rookies (Stork, Halapio, Fleming) and first-year players (Braxston Cave, Chris Barker) pressing the issue. Starting right guard Dan Connolly, who has played plenty of good football for the Patriots, is scheduled to earn $3 million in base salary and economics could play a factor if he ultimately sticks.


DT Vince Wilfork
DT Tommy Kelly
DT Dominique Easley
DT Chris Jones
DT Sealver Siliga
DE Chandler Jones
DE Rob Ninkovich
DE Will Smith
DE Michael Buchanan
DE Zach Moore

There is a nice mix of experience, production and young upside at both spots. Of the group above, Wilfork (Achilles), Kelly (ACL), Easley (ACL) and Smith (ACL) are all coming off serious injuries, so monitoring their health will be a key.


Jerod Mayo
Dont'a Hightower
Jamie Collins
Chris White
James Anderson
Steve Beauharnais

Some good battles for the backup spots will be a nitty-gritty storyline to monitor in training camp as the starters are set with Mayo, Hightower and Collins. Special teams are always a significant consideration in that area and White, Anderson and Beauharnais will be challenged by the likes of veteran Josh Hull, first-year player Ja'Gared Davis, second-year player Darius Fleming and undrafted free agent Cameron Gordon, among others.


Darrelle Revis
Brandon Browner*
Kyle Arrington (slot)
Alfonzo Dennard
Logan Ryan

Because Browner is suspended for the first four regular-season games, he won't count against the initial 53-man roster limit. But he is included here because he is obviously a significant part of the team's overall planning for the 2014 season.


Devin McCourty
Duron Harmon
Nate Ebner
Jemea Thomas

Veteran Patrick Chung and 2012 second-round pick Tavon Wilson would be the odd men out in this scenario, which assumes that Thomas -- the versatile sixth-round pick out of Georgia Tech -- shows potential to grow into a role that includes a heavy emphasis in the kicking game. Logan Ryan, one of the team's smartest players who possibly has some cornerback/safety versatility, could ultimately be a factor here.


K Stephen Gostkowski
P Ryan Allen
LS Danny Aiken
ST Matthew Slater

The one position battle to watch is at long-snapper, where undrafted free agent Tyler Ott of Harvard is challenging Aiken, the incumbent. If the competition is close, Ott would get the nod based on economics. (His salary is cheaper and the team controls his rights for three years while Aiken is on a one-year deal.)

New York Jets projected roster

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
Examining the New York Jets' roster:

Tough call between Boyd, a sixth-round pick, and Matt Simms, last season's No. 2 quarterback. Simms has improved a lot, but he could be fighting city hall. The Jets drafted Boyd based on Rex Ryan's recommendation, and we know how general manager John Idzik hates to cut draft picks. The ideal scenario would be to stash Boyd on the practice squad for a year, but he'd have to clear waivers.

Daryl Richardson, formerly of the St. Louis Rams, and Alex Green will bid to create a fifth spot. That could hinge on Johnson's surgically repaired knee. If he's not 100 percent, it might pay to carry an extra back as insurance. Bohanon is the only fullback.


Yes, it's unusual to carry seven receivers. It might be unconventional in terms of roster management, but the Jets feel this is one of their deepest areas -- a dramatic change from last year. Ford sticks because of his kickoff-returning ability. Saunders could emerge as the punt returner. He and Evans are fourth-round picks, so they'd have to be terrible to get cut.


Cumberland and Amaro complement each other. Cumberland is an in-line tight end, Amaro is a "flex" tight end. They don't have a true blocker who can move people around in the running game, a deficiency that can be addressed via the waiver wire.


Winters, Colon and Aboushi are in a three-way competition for the two guard spots, with Winters and Colon likely to emerge. The Jets are counting on Winters to make a big leap after a rough rookie year. Colon, coming off two offseason surgeries, said he will be ready for camp, but his injury history is a concern. None of the backups have regular-season experience, so that's troubling.


Same five players as last year. Why mess with a good thing? Five seems low, but Quinton Coples -- the rush linebacker -- plays a lot in a three-point stance, when the Jets shift to their 4-3 front. Wilkerson, Richardson and Harrison form one of the better front threes in the NFL.


The big question surrounds Barnes, who underwent knee surgery last October and has been slow to recover. If Barnes can't get it done as a pass-rushing specialist, it'll create more opportunities for Cunningham. This is a huge year for Coples, a former first-round pick who hasn't fulfilled expectations.


Ryan likes to carry a lot of corners, so it wouldn't be a surprise if they keep seven, perhaps including Ras-I Dowling. It would mean cutting back at another position, probably wide receiver. Patterson is expected to start outside, but he could slide inside on passing downs, replacing Wilson, if another option emerges outside. McDougle could be that guy.


Pryor, their first-round pick, is expected in the opening-day lineup. The question is who will be his tag-team partner? Landry is the wise head of the secondary, but his role could be reduced if Allen continues to develop. The Jets want more speed on the field, and that doesn't bode well for Landry.


All set here.

Miami Dolphins' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
Examining the Miami Dolphins’ roster:


The only question here is whether Devlin can hold off undrafted rookie Brock Jensen for the No. 3 quarterback job. Neither quarterback stood out in the offseason, but Devlin has the slight edge because of experience.


The Dolphins would like to have someone step up and challenge Thomas. Undrafted rookie Damien Williams from Oklahoma could be a sleeper to watch. But it's too premature to put Williams on the 53-man roster over the veteran Thomas before the pads come on.


This is a deep group with a lot of competition. Williams will be pushed for the final spot by Armon Binns and rookie Matt Hazel, who is practice-squad-eligible.


New Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor uses some two-tight-end sets. So there might be room for a fourth player such as Dion Sims. But we are sticking with three for now.

Pouncey’s hip injury puts a major dent in this much-maligned group to start the season. Miami will have five new starters in Week 1.


This is the strongest area of the team. The Dolphins can come at opponents in waves in the trenches.


This group must improve its play from 2013. The Misi experiment at middle linebacker is particularly important to watch.


This is a solid mix of youth and experience. As long as second-year players Taylor and Davis come of age and Finnegan stays healthy, the depth will be improved from a year ago.


This group is all about position flexibility. All four players must be able to play back in coverage and closer to the line of scrimmage in defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle’s scheme.


This trio will remain the same for the second straight year.