Buffalo Bills: Jonathan Meeks

Before the Buffalo Bills kicked off their preseason in the Hall of Fame game, we identified seven defensive players to keep an eye on during the contest.

Let's circle back on their playing time and performances Sunday against the New York Giants:

Preston Brown -- Brown played in 33 snaps, tied for the most among Bills defenders. He entered the game on the Giants' third offensive drive through their first possession of the third quarter. He aligned exclusively at 'Mike' linebacker and was also on the field in the nickel package. In the running game, he showed some physicality against offensive linemen but was pushed around more often than not. On the positive side, he showed good pursuit coming from the weakside of the formation to tackle Rashad Jennings on an 8-yard run in the first quarter. On the negative end, he over-ran Jennings on a 12-yard gain two plays later and could have taken a better angle on Andre Williams' 21-yard run later on that drive. In the second quarter, Brown broke into the backfield but whiffed trying to tackle Peyton Hillis on a three-yard run. In the passing game, he leaped to pick off Ryan Nassib on a pass over the middle, on a play called back by penalty. Overall, it was a so-so night for Brown. It was his struggles -- at times -- in run defense that surprised us, as that was Brown's strength in college.

 Randell Johnson -- Johnson played in 24 snaps, entering the game on the third defensive series and playing through the third quarter. He came off the field for sub packages, limiting his snap count. More of an on-the-line, edge player, Johnson may lack the instincts of some linebackers used to playing off the line. He misread gaps on a few plays and took some poor angles in pursuit, including on Williams' 21-yard run in the first quarter. On the plus side, he was a strong tackler, taking down Hillis with a thud on a run in the third quarter. Johnson isn't a candidate to replace Kiko Alonso the weak side, but he's a project on the strong side.

Jimmy Gaines -- Gaines played in 24 snaps, initially coming on as a fourth linebacker when the Giants went to their heavy personnel in the second quarter. After that, his playing time was limited to the fourth quarter. That slips him off our radar a bit.

Ron Brooks -- With Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin not playing, Brooks started and played 26 snaps. That's a continuation of where he's been slotted in camp and generally a good sign for his roster spot. Brooks' receiver was targeted only when the Giants' offense was on the field, a 5-yard gain by Jerrel Jernigan in which Brooks made a nice, wrap-up tackle. He wasn't targeted after Eli Manning left the game.

Ross Cockrell -- Cockrell, a fourth-round pick, played less than what we had expected with just 17 snaps. Mario Butler was the first sub in at cornerback, while Bobby Felder came on next. Cockrell came on with the nickel and played through the fourth quarter. Nassib targeted Cockrell's receiver in the second quarter on a deep post pattern. Cockrell trailed in coverage but the pass, as best as can be seen from the camera angle, came in too strong. There was a similar play later in the quarter where Cockrell had tighter coverage and the throw also came in high, down the seam to Julian Talley.

Duke Williams -- Williams played 33 snaps, tied with Brown for most on the defense. He entered the game late in the first quarter and came off after the first drive of the third quarter. Other than his hard hit on Andre Williams in the second quarter, there isn't much to evaluate on Williams, given our camera angle. The Giants didn't target the deep part of the field much on Sunday night.

Jonathan Meeks -- Meeks played 24 snaps, taking over in the second quarter after Da'Norris Searcy got an extra series on the field. Meeks played through the first drive of the third quarter and was mostly aligned "in the box" as a safety. He missed a tackle on a 25-yard gain by Giants receiver Marcus Harris in the second quarter.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills' preseason opener against the New York Giants is quickly approaching.

While starters aren't expected to see any extended action, there will be several players who can benefit from the extra preseason game.

After highlighting players to watch on offense, we'll shift the focus to defense:

Preston Brown -- The third-round pick could have a significant role this season. Assuming Brandon Spikes only plays for a short period at the beginning of Sunday's game, Brown is expected to wear the defensive communication helmet for most of the contest. It will be valuable experience for Brown, who might not start games this season but could still see considerable time on defense. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has given Brown high marks since he arrived in May.

Randell Johnson & Jimmy Gaines -- Kiko Alonso's injury opened up a roster spot at linebacker, which could eventually come down to Johnson (seventh round) or Gaines (undrafted free agent). Johnson got a late start to camp while on the PUP list and could make his mark on special teams. Gaines received some snaps with the first-team defense last week in camp and could make a push with a strong preseason. Both players figure to see plenty of action Sunday night, giving coaches their first chance to evaluate the two rookies in live action.

Duke Williams & Jonathan Meeks -- The pair of safeties were drafted in back-to-back rounds last year but neither emerged on defense as rookies. Williams, a fourth-round pick, has yet to challenge Da'Norris Searcy for the starting safety job alongside Aaron Williams. Earlier in camp, coach Doug Marrone noted that Duke Williams has "flashed" ability at times but needs to be more consistent. Expect the duo to see extended playing time Sunday.

Ross Cockrell & Ron Brooks -- Can the Bills afford to carry six cornerbacks? That's a question that will linger throughout the preseason, and the performance of both players will be a factor. Cockrell, a fourth-round pick, is virtually assured a roster spot. But if Brooks, entering his third season, shows to be a more reliable option this August, then he could earn a spot ahead of Cockrell on the depth chart. Neither player has stood out in a positive or negative light through two weeks of camp. With the Bills managing the health of starters Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore -- it wouldn't be surprising if both didn't suit up Sunday -- these two cornerbacks should play for a chunk of the game.

Counting the Bills: Safeties

July, 18, 2014
7/18/14
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Continuing a series analyzing the economics of the Buffalo Bills' roster, position by position:

Position: Safety

Total cap value: $8,624,878
Compared to NFL average: 6.8 percent less
NFL positional rank: 17th

Portion of Bills' total cap number: 6 percent

2014 cap numbers:
Aaron Williams: $4.231 million (7th on Bills, 17th among NFL safeties)
Da'Norris Searcy: $1.552 million (Bills: 24th; NFL: 41st)
Duke Williams: $612,563 (Bills: 45th; NFL: 100th)
Jonathan Meeks: $544,500 (Bills: 53rd; NFL: 131st)
Kenny Ladler: $422,500 (Bills: tied for 71st; NFL: tied for 175th)
Deon Broomfield: $421,667 (Bills: tied for 74th; NFL: tied for 179th)
Derek Brim: $420,333 (Bills: 77th; NFL: tied for 192nd)
Jajuan Harley: $420,000 (Bills: tied for 78th; NFL: tied for 193rd)

Average per year:
A. Williams: $6.501 million (5th on Bills, 12th among NFL safeties)
D. Williams: $657,563 (Bills: 40th; NFL: 96th)
Searcy: $631,106 (Bills: 44th; NFL: 104th)
Meeks: $589,500 (Bills: 49th; NFL: 112th)
Ladler: $512,500 (Bills: 61st; NFL: 147th)
Broomfield: $511,667 (Bills: 64th; NFL: tied for 151st)
Brim: $510,333 (Bills: 67th; NFL: tied for 164th)
Harley: $510,000 (Bills: tied for 68th; NFL: tied for 165th)

Most overpaid: Aaron Williams. With another strong season, he may very well be deserving of the four-year extension he received in March, but right now the deal could be considered too much of a forward projection. The move came shortly after the Bills decided not to assign the franchise to Jarius Byrd and the Bills said the two decisions were separate. If that's true, then that means the Bills felt ready to hand Williams the new deal after one good season in Mike Pettine's system. Was it necessary? The team could have waited to see if Williams, who was entering the final season of his rookie deal, could string together two good seasons. Yes, doing so would run the risk of Williams becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber player and seeking an even larger deal next spring. But instead of making Williams the fifth-highest paid player on the team less than 12 months after being one of the Bills' bigger draft busts in recent years, I think the more prudent move would have been to wait it out.

Most underpaid: None. The Bills received minimal contributions from Duke Williams and Meeks, their fourth- and fifth-round picks in 2013. Williams stands a chance to beat out Searcy for the starting safety job but wasn't able to crack the first team by the end of minicamp. Until either of the two young safeties emerges, it's tough to call any player at this position underpaid.

Buffalo Bills draft preview: Safety

April, 18, 2014
4/18/14
3:15
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Concluding a position-by-position preview of next month's draft from a Buffalo Bills perspective:

Position: Safety

Current personnel: Aaron Williams (signed through 2018), Da'Norris Searcy (2014), Duke Williams (2016), Jonathan Meeks (2016), Jajuan Harley (2016)

Draft need: Moderate-to-low

Williams
Williams
State of the position: There isn't so much a lack of young prospects at this position as there is a dearth of proven players. After one turnaround season, the Bills gave Aaron Williams a contract extension through 2018 and are banking on him continuing to improve. He is currently the NFL's 11th-highest paid safety in terms of average salary. Beyond Williams is a drop-off. General manager Doug Whaley has said there will be a competition between Searcy, Duke Williams, and Meeks for the second starting job, but there is no guarantee the competition will produce a viable option.

Searcy is best as a role player, while Williams -- a fourth-round pick last season -- couldn't get on the field, even late in the season when the Bills weren't playing for anything. Meeks missed time with an ankle injury last season and played exclusively on special teams. Perhaps one of those players will take the next step and emerge, but for right now, safety is a position to watch entering training camp.

Could that change after the draft? Unlikely. The draft class at safety isn't considered very deep, and the Bills aren't expected to go after the top names: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor, or Jimmie Ward. It's possible they could take another mid-round safety and add him to the mix with Duke Williams and Meeks. They could also wait another year, see what they have in those two second-year players, and re-assess the position after this season.

Sweet spot: Mid-to-late rounds

Possible targets: Ed Reynolds (Stanford), Kenny Ladler (Vanderbilt), Brock Vereen (Minnesota)
With the dust having settled from the Jairus Byrd saga, what's left for the Buffalo Bills at safety?

Beyond Aaron Williams, there's a whole lot of uncertainty at the position. Between Byrd and Jim Leonhard -- who remains a free agent -- the Bills are set to lose a total of 16 games started at safety from last season.

That's not to say the Bills should have opened their wallets for Byrd, or that they should re-sign Leonhard, an undersized and aging player. But it means that they need to find a way to replace that production in their defense.

General manager Doug Whaley told WGR 550 on Friday that he expects Byrd's replacement to come from the current roster.

"That's the plan," Whaley said. "The young guys we have on the roster -- Duke Williams, [Jonathan] Meeks, and [Da'Norris] Searcy -- we think that competition between those three, we'll get a guy who will come out and help us win."

Is that really the best approach for the Bills?

Searcy is the most experienced option of the bunch. He had his best season under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine last season, but his role isn't clear under Jim Schwartz. Pettine mostly used Searcy as a close-to-the-line player who could made an impact as a blitzer (he had 3.5 sacks). Schwartz figures to use two deep safeties more often.

That opens the door for Williams and Meeks. Yet both are raw prospects, seeing little-to-no action on defense last season.

Meeks played exclusively on special teams. He missed eight games with a broken ankle. Projecting him to a starting role would be a stretch.

Williams could be the most intriguing name of the group. He was a fourth-round draft pick last year but hardly made the most of his potential opportunities in the secondary.

When Byrd sat out training camp and the preseason, Williams had a chance to make a move. He didn't. The Bills signed Leonhard before their first regular-season game, and he took a lead role when Byrd sat out the first six games with foot soreness.

Even when injuries forced Aaron Williams back to cornerback, Duke Williams couldn't crack the rotation at safety. The Bills turned to Leonhard and Searcy instead.

Late in the season, Aaron Williams landed on injured reserve. The Bills were out of the playoff race. It would have been an ideal time for Duke Williams to get some snaps on defense. He didn't play a single down.

Competition is good, but when it's between three players who don't have starting experience or would be out of place as starters at this point in their careers, it's not an ideal situation.

Options remain on the free-agent market. Miami's Chris Clemons, New England's Steve Gregory and Atlanta's Thomas DeCoud all have extensive experience as starters. If their price tags are reasonable, why not create another layer of competition at the position?

It's just good business.
With free agency set to open in two weeks, few positions on the Buffalo Bills' roster are as uncertain as safety.

Both Jairus Byrd and Jim Leonhard -- who started a combined 16 games last season -- are set to become unrestricted free agents. Byrd is the Bills' top priority and could be assigned with the franchise tag if the two sides can't reach a long-term deal by March 3.

Leonhard, who said next season will be his last in the NFL, is ideally a depth-level player at this point in his career. Still, his departure would open a hole at a position where the Bills have some young talent but few sure bets.

Will Aaron Williams continue his career turnaround after finding success as a safety last season? Can Da'Norris Searcy be a reliable starter if needed, or should he remain a role player?

And what about Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks? The Bills drafted the two safeties in back-to-back rounds last April and neither made any impact. Even with Byrd sitting out all of the preseason, neither player could settle into a role in the back-end. Eventually, the Bills decided to sign Leonhard shortly before the regular season, pushing Williams and Meeks further down the depth chart.

Since Meeks missed a large chunk of last season with an ankle injury, the spotlight shines brighter on Williams, who played in 16 games. Despite staying healthy, Williams was on the field for just 2.8 percent of defensive snaps, significantly less than many of his counterparts in the draft.

For context, here is a breakdown of all safeties from the 2013 draft, including their defensive snap percentage and a quick rundown of their performance:

First round:
Kenny Vaccaro (81.2 percent) -- Played in 14 games, all starts, for the Saints' second-ranked pass defense. His 77 tackles were second-most among rookie safeties.
Eric Reid (92.3 percent) -- Started all 16 games for the 49ers' seventh-ranked pass defense. His four interceptions led all rookie safeties, while his 70 tackles were fourth-most among that group.
Matt Elam (93.9 percent) -- Played in 16 games, making 15 starts for the Ravens. His 76 tackles were third among rookie safeties.

Second round:
Johnathan Cyprien (93.3 percent) -- Started 15 games for the Jaguars, leading all rookie safeties in playing time. He forced two fumbles, more than any other rookie safety, while adding an interception and a sack. His 98 tackles also led rookie safeties.
D.J. Swearinger (77.6 percent) -- Played in all 16 games, making 10 starts for the Texans' third-ranked pass defense. He recorded 67 tackles, one forced fumble and one interception.

Third round:
Tyrann Mathieu (72.1 percent) -- Converted from cornerback and started 11 games before an injury ended his season. He recorded two interceptions, one sack and one forced fumble for the Cardinals.
T.J. McDonald (60.7 percent) -- Spent eight weeks on injured reserve, but still started 10 games for the Rams. He had 53 tackles, one sack and one interception.
J.J. Wilcox (44.7 percent) -- Played in 13 games, making five starts for the Cowboys' 30th-ranked pass defense.
Shawn Williams (1.1 percent) -- Played in 16 games but did not make any starts for the Bengals' fifth-ranked pass defense. His 10 special teams tackles were second among rookie safeties.
Duron Harmon (37.3 percent) -- Played in 15 games, making three starts for the Patriots. He recorded 31 tackles and made two interceptions.

Fourth round:
Duke Williams (2.8 percent) -- Played in 16 games but did not make any starts for the Bills' fourth-ranked pass defense. He finished with four special teams tackles.
Shamarko Thomas (17.8 percent) -- Played in 14 games for the Steelers, making two starts. He contributed seven tackles on special teams.
Phillip Thomas (no snaps) -- Missed the entire season for the Redskins with a Lisfranc injury.

Fifth round:
Earl Wolff (43.6 percent) -- Played in 11 games, making six starts for the Eagles' 32nd-ranked pass defense.
Jonathan Meeks (no snaps) -- Played in eight games, missing eight games with an ankle injury. He added two tackles on special teams.
Cooper Taylor (0.4 percent) -- Played in 10 games, all as a reserve for the Giants. He had four special teams tackles.

Sixth round:
Josh Evans (60.0 percent) -- Played in 15 games, starting 11 games for the Jaguars' 25th-ranked pass defense. His 54 tackles were seventh among rookie safeties.
Jamoris Slaughter (no snaps) -- Spent all season on the Browns' practice squad.
Bacarri Rambo (32.7 percent) -- Played in 11 games, making three starts for the Redskins. He notched 38 tackles, including five on special teams.
John Boyett (no snaps) -- Was placed on the non-football injury list prior to training camp. He was arrested on public intoxication charges in September and later released by the Colts.

Seventh round:
Kemal Ishmael (0.2 percent) -- Was active for four games for the Falcons, adding one tackle on special teams.
Zeke Motta (15 percent) -- Played in 10 games for the Falcons, making one start.
Daimion Stafford (0.8 percent) -- Played in 16 games, all as a reserve for the Titans. He added seven tackles on special teams.
Don Jones (no snaps) -- Played in 16 games, all as a reserve for the Dolphins. His 11 special teams tackles led all rookie safeties.

Undrafted free agents:
Jeff Heath (52.4 percent) -- Played in 16 games, starting nine games for the Cowboys' 30th-ranked pass defense. His 52 tackles were ninth-most among rookie safeties.
Jahleel Addae (36.9 percent) -- Played in 16 games, making two starts for the Chargers' 29th-ranked pass defense. His nine special teams tackles were third-most among rookie safeties.
Robert Lester (28.5 percent) -- Played in 12 games, starting four games for the Panthers' sixth-ranked pass defense. His three interceptions were second-most among rookie safeties.
Tony Jefferson (18.6 percent) -- Played in 16 games, making two starts for the Cardinals' 14th-ranked pass defense. He added six tackles on special teams.

Bills positional review: Safeties

January, 13, 2014
1/13/14
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Back in September, we broke down the Buffalo Bills' 53-man roster, position-by-position. Now that the Bills' season has ended, we'll review those grades:

Position: Safety (preseason grades)

SNAP COUNTS
Aaron Williams -- 80.9 percent
Da'Norris Searcy -- 63.7 percent
Jairus Byrd -- 55.4 percent
Jim Leonhard -- 53.5 percent
Duke Williams -- 2.9 percent
Jonathan Meeks -- no snaps

DEPTH

Preseason take: Drafting Williams and Meeks in back-to-back rounds in April helped to shore up the back end of the depth chart at this position. The Bills have a good mix of established veterans (Byrd, Leonhard), developing players (A. Williams, Searcy), and rookies (D. Williams, Meeks). Having Aaron Williams or Searcy become a more solid starting option would push this grade higher. Grade: B+

Postseason review: This grade should have been lower. Neither Williams nor Meeks made any sort of impact, which is troublesome considering the injuries the Bills endured in their secondary. Williams last defensive snap came in Week 5. Meanwhile, Leonhard gave the Bills valuable fill-in snaps throughout the season but showed that he is nearing the end of his career. He was a liability at times, as was Searcy. What seemed like a deep position at the beginning of the season ended up being top-heavy: both Williams and Byrd performed well, but when they weren't on the field things went downhill.

RELIABILITY

Preseason take: Byrd's contract dispute aside, his foot condition leaves this position in a tough spot, as it's not known when he'll return or if he will have to again miss time down the road. Beyond that, the Bills are relying heavily on a player who played another position (cornerback) for his first two seasons in Aaron Williams. Leonhard brings a steadying presence here, but it's still a position with a lot of short-term question marks. Grade: C

Postseason review: Byrd wound up missing the first five games but his foot injury was hardly a concern thereafter. Searcy and Williams shook off some midseason nicks, with Williams later placed on injured reserve with a rib injury that knocked him out of the final two games of the season. From an injury standpoint this grade should have been higher, but shaky play kept it from being among the team's more consistent and reliable positions.

W2W4: Bills at Patriots

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
4:05
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The final hours of the Buffalo Bills' season are ticking away, but there is still one last game to play.

When the Bills travel to face the New England Patriots for Sunday's season finale, there's a few items coach Doug Marrone wants to check off the list.

First, the Bills have yet to win at Gillette Stadium since it opened in 2002. Second, the Bills have a chance to finish with a winning record in the division for the first time since 2007. And finally, a win Sunday would give Buffalo its first three-game winning streak since the first three games of the 2011 season.

That's what's on the line for the Bills in Foxborough, Mass. Here's what else to watch for:

1. Lewis' curtain call: With EJ Manuel sidelined for a second consecutive game with a knee sprain, backup Thad Lewis will make his fifth start of the season. Now 2-2, Lewis will have a chance to finish with a winning record as the starter. But more importantly, Lewis could be playing for his job next season. At this point, nothing seems guaranteed at quarterback for the Bills. If they bring in another option at the position this offseason, then Lewis could become the third quarterback -- if that role exists on the roster. In that sense, Sunday's game has some added importance for Lewis.

2. Swan song for Byrd? Could this be Jairus Byrd's final game with the Bills? The safety will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and unless the Bills decide to assign him as their franchise player, he will hit the open market. Either way, this will be Byrd's 73rd career game with the Bills. He has 353 tackles, 22 interceptions, 10 forced fumbles, and three sacks in his five-year career.

3. What about Chandler? This could also be the final game for tight end Scott Chandler with the Bills. Like Byrd, he becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason and could find greener pastures elsewhere after a career season (50 catches for 600 yards). With Chandler's future uncertain, this could be the time for the Bills to debut tight end Tony Moeaki, who they signed three weeks ago. He was active for the first time last Sunday but did not play an offensive snap. It would make sense for the Bills to evaluate Moeaki in game action before deciding how he fits into their plans for next season.

4. Last chance for Williams, Meeks: With safety Aaron Williams placed on injured reserve Friday, the Bills are expected to use Jim Leonhard and Da'Norris Searcy in his place. Leonhard is a free agent after this season but played every snap in last Sunday's win. Meanwhile, Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks -- who the Bills drafted in back-to-back rounds in April -- did not appear on defense, which has been the norm this season. Perhaps that changes Sunday. If not, it's a troubling sign at a position where the Bills could see turnover this offseason. It would make sense for Buffalo to evaluate their draft investments in what will be their final game until next August.

Bills activate Meeks from injured reserve

December, 10, 2013
12/10/13
3:58
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills activated safety Jonathan Meeks from injured reserve on Tuesday and released linebacker Jamaal Westerman.

Meeks, a fifth-round pick this season, played in the first six games before suffering an ankle injury. He was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return and resumed practicing two weeks ago. Tuesday was the deadline for the Bills to activate him to their 53-man roster.

The rookie becomes the sixth safety on the Bills' active roster and figures to return to a role on special teams in the final three games.

Westerman, a fourth-year veteran, played in the first 12 games of the season, mostly on special teams. He was inactive last week as the Bills decided to take a closer look at rookie linebacker Ty Powell.

Meanwhile, the Bills swapped wide receivers on their practice squad Tuesday. They re-signed 6-foot-5 rookie Brandon Kaufman, who had been with the team in the preseason, and released Tommy Streeter.

Jonathan Meeks returns to practice

November, 25, 2013
11/25/13
12:15
PM ET

Meeks
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills rookie safety Jonathan Meeks, who remains on injured reserve, returned to practice Monday.

Meeks was placed on injured reserve/designated to return on Oct. 14. Monday was the first day Meeks could be back at practice, but he cannot be activated to the 53-man roster until Dec. 9.

The rookie was a fifth-round pick from Clemson. He played in the first six games of the season, contributing on special teams before suffering an ankle injury.

Meanwhile, running back Ronnie Wingo was the only player not spotted at the start of Monday's practice. His status is unclear.

Manny Lawson (hamstring) out for game

October, 13, 2013
10/13/13
2:46
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills linebacker Manny Lawson left in the first half of Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals with a hamstring injury.

The Bills announced that he will not return to the game.

Lawson started the first six games of the season, recording 35 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble.

Meanwhile, Bills rookie safety Jonathan Meeks left with a knee injury and will not return.

Grading the Bills' 53: Safeties

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
9:45
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Now that the Buffalo Bills have set their 53-man roster, we'll break it down, position by position:

SAFETIES

Personnel: Jairus Byrd (injured), Aaron Williams, Da'Norris Searcy, Jim Leonhard, Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks

Talent: B-plus. There's a good mix of skills at this position, starting at the top. Byrd has excellent range and is a ball hawk, and when healthy can be among the best in the NFL at his position. As a converted cornerback, Aaron Williams lacks the instincts of a natural safety, but brings athleticism to the back end of the defense. Searcy will be used closer to the line of scrimmage, and in addition to forcing a fumble in the preseason, added a sack in Week 1.

Depth: B-plus. Drafting Williams and Meeks in back-to-back rounds in April helped to shore up the back end of the depth chart at this position. The Bills have a good mix of established veterans (Byrd, Leonhard), developing players (A. Williams, Searcy), and rookies (D. Williams, Meeks). Having Aaron Williams or Searcy become a more solid starting option would push this grade higher.

Reliability: C. Byrd's contract dispute aside, his foot condition leaves this position in a tough spot, as it's not known when he'll return or if he will have to again miss time down the road. Beyond that, the Bills are relying heavily on a player who played another position (cornerback) for his first two seasons in Aaron Williams. Leonhard brings a steadying presence here, but it's still a position with a lot of short-term question marks.
The Buffalo Bills trail the Detroit Lions 35-3 at halftime of tonight's preseason finale.

Scatter-shooting some notes and thoughts on the first half:
  1. Ouch. After getting trounced in Washington on Saturday, the Bills have put up another clunker tonight at home. Keep in perspective that the Bills are resting their starters and playing with two quarterbacks who have only been with the team since Sunday, but still, not an encouraging performance by any means.
  2. Head coach Doug Marrone to the team's broadcast at halftime: "We should be playing much better than this, and that's a concern."
  3. The Bills chose to rest Jeff Tuel, protecting what will likely be their opening-day quarterback from injury.
  4. Matt Leinart's stat line: 3-for-10, 11 yards, no touchdowns, 2 interceptions. QB rating of 0.0.
  5. Thad Lewis' stat line: 2-for-5, 11 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions.
  6. Bills' offense: 44 net yards on 30 plays (1.5-yard per play average), 8 net passing yards, two first downs, 1-for-9 on third down. Yikes.
  7. Lions' offense: 221 net yards on 40 plays (5.5-yard per play average), 17 first downs, 4-for-4 in red zone.
  8. The biggest non-quarterback story of the game? Nigel Bradham starting on defense and playing the entire first half. The second-year linebacker is the only presumptive defensive starter to see playing time tonight. It's unclear why Bradham is in the game, and if it's at related to him being cited for marijuana possession on Aug. 19. Don't think his roster spot is in danger, but it's something to watch.
  9. Also notable: Da'Norris Searcy playing the entire first half. He started the first three preseason games at safety in place of Jairus Byrd, who could return for Week 1. The Bills started their pair of rookies -- Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks -- at safety tonight, with Searcy playing extensively in sub packages. Unlike Bradham, his roster spot could be in danger, but it also could be a case of the Bills wanting to get him comfortable playing close to the line of scrimmage in sub packages, something he may do when Byrd returns.
  10. Draft picks not playing tonight: EJ Manuel (injured), Kiko Alonso, Robert Woods.
  11. One draft pick playing tonight: Marquise Goodwin, who was poked in the eye late in the first quarter and won't return.
  12. Another injury: Brad Smith, who took a hit to the ribs on the final kickoff of the first half. He's questionable to return.

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