Buffalo Bills Training Camp: Week 5 Stock Report
What a weekend it was for the Buffalo Bills.
The starting offense did manage to finally score a touchdown, but that was in the second half against Bucs backups. The first-team O looked completely lost in the first half, and it led to the team being booed off the field as it headed for the locker room.
Heading into the game, it was a surprise to find Alan Branch on the inactive list for the Bills. Per Matthew Fairburn's report on Syracuse.com, Branch hadn't been out of practice during the week for any injuries.
But after the game, the situation became clearer. Per The Associated Press via NFL.com, Branch was arrested the night before the game for drunken driving. But he didn't just forget to signal and end up pulled over by the cops. No, the police found Branch vomiting out of his car door, and Branch promptly blew a .14 BAC, which is above the legal limit of .08.
Not surprisingly, the Bills cut Branch on Sunday.
After telling Branch to take a hike, the Bills are one step closer to finalizing their 53-man roster. Let's take a look at a few players whose stock is on the rise as well as some who still have work to do to make the cut.
Stock Up: Landon Cohen
The player who stands to benefit the most from Branch's release in Landon Cohen.
Cohen was further out on the fringe with Branch still in town, but now he is much closer to landing a roster spot. Cohen has made the most of his in-game reps, living in the opponent's backfield and blowing up plays before they even get started.
Sal Maiorana of The Democrat and Chronicle said Cohen has been a surprise player in camp who got himself noticed as soon as he showed up. Eric Wood also told Maiorana about Cohen's rise up the depth chart.
We noticed it from the day he got here, he turned some heads with his get off. He's got a really good spin move that turned some heads early. At first we didn't know much about him and you think OK, he had a good day, let's see if he can do it again, and man, he showed up in most practices and every game we've played.
It's one thing when a reporter says a player is playing well. It's quite another when it's a player who faces him every day, and who is a team captain no less.
With the possibility that Marcell Dareus could get suspended for his tumultuous summer, the Bills need depth at defensive tackle. Considering Cohen's impressive training-camp performance, it would be more of a surprise if he isn't on the 53-man roster.
Stock Down: Thad Lewis
As Tim Graham of The Buffalo News pointed out, the Bills have trotted out three different second-string quarterbacks. Thad Lewis, Jeff Tuel and most recently Dennis Dixon have all backed up EJ Manuel so far in the preseason.
Doug Marrone has not been impressed with the play of any of Manuel's clipboard-holders thus far. Per Graham, Marrone said "I’m not going to sit here and say I’m satisfied with the backup quarterback. I’m not." Because of the inconsistent backup play, Graham discussed how the Bills could be in the market for another QB between now and opening day.
If the Bills bring in a new signal-caller, there won't be room for at least one that's currently on the roster. It's hard to imagine Dixon making the team, as he's barely received any reps. But Lewis could also find himself scanning the classifieds in a few weeks.
Lewis didn't even play in the preseason "dress rehearsal" against the Bucs. He was also named camp LVP by Joe Buscaglia of WGR. After getting frozen out of the preseason game that's supposed to most resemble a regular-season game, Lewis' days in Buffalo could be numbered.
Stock Up: Seantrel Henderson
Sometimes you take a risk and it pays off.
Drafting Seantrel Henderson in the seventh round wasn't a huge risk, but it was still a gamble on a player who had some off-the-field concerns in college. But there was no denying Henderson's talent. It was just a matter of whether he could get his head on straight.
So far in the preseason, Henderson's body seems to be aligned correctly. When the Bills put Cordy Glenn on the non-football illness list to start camp, Henderson stepped in and took all the first-team reps at left tackle. Upon Glenn's return, Henderson shifted over to the right side and has been a first-teamer there ever since.
Joe Buscaglia of WGR said Henderson is "flying up the depth chart" and that in the eyes of the team, Henderson is one of the five best linemen on the roster. Buscaglia went on to say that Henderson will probably end up being the starting right tackle.
Henderson has yet to look lost on the field during preseason play. He handled the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul against the Giants, and he was the only starting lineman not to commit a penalty against the Buccaneers. If Henderson continues to improve as he gains more experience, he will be a massive upgrade to the Bills offensive line.
Stock Down: Cyrus Kouandjio
Sitting at the other end of the spectrum from Henderson is Cyrus Kouandjio. Kouandjio was supposed to be the heir to the right tackle throne, but he has a long way to go before he gets there.
Kouandjio was Joe Buscaglia's "rookie dud" of training camp because of his "unbalanced, top-heavy kick-slide" which leaves him off balance and easily knocked back. If Kouandjio weren't a second-round pick, Buscaglia said, he would probably be cut by the end of camp.
As Buscaglia pointed out, Kouandjio is a project for now since he "hasn't sniffed a first-team rep since the first week of OTAs."
It's a little troubling to see a second-round pick struggle so mightily. Luckily for the Bills, Henderson appears to be working out. That puts less pressure on Kouandjio to be ready to play from the jump. Now he has time to develop and give the team depth in the future.
Kouandjio most likely won't be cut this year, but don't expect him to make any meaningful contribution unless the line is beaten up by injuries.
Stock Up: Keith Rivers
Keith Rivers might be the next Jerry Hughes.
No, Rivers probably won't end up with double-digit sacks for the Bills this season. But like Hughes, Rivers could be a former first-round pick who disappointed with his old team but shone when he got to Buffalo. Throughout the first few preseason games, Rivers has indeed been shining.
Rivers looked particularly spry against the Bucs, and he was named game MVP by Joe Buscaglia. Rivers had six total tackles and two for a loss in the preseason home opener, and Buscaglia said he was "one of the keys to a solid run defense for the fourth game in a row."
After being one of the league's worst against the run in 2013, the Bills looked to make improvements in the run-stopping department. Brandon Spikes and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz were the most notable additions, but Rivers is also proving to be a gamer for the Bills against the run.
In fact, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required) via Dean Kindig of DraftTek, Rivers is the No. 1-ranked 4-3 outside linebacker for the preseason. If Rivers continues his impressive play, the Bills could turn it around quickly against the run.
Stock Down: Tony Moeaki
Simply put, Tony Moeaki's stock is down because he can't stay on the field.
Moeaki has been dealing with a hamstring injury for about a month now, and he hasn't been able to get many reps since then. The tight end played sparingly against Carolina but sat out against Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.
Mike Rodak of ESPN said the "clock is ticking on Moeaki" and his roster security depends on whether or not he is able to get healthy. Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News has similar sentiments. He thinks Moeaki will ultimately get beaten out by Chris Gragg for a roster spot.
Keeping Gragg could be the best option. He doesn't have the injury history of Moeaki, and he did have four catches on six targets for 22 yards against the Bucs. Those aren't eye-popping numbers, but Gragg doesn't need to put up Jimmy Graham stats. At least he was on the field making an impact.
It wouldn't make much sense to keep a bubble player on the roster after barely participating in training camp. Moeaki would be hard-pressed to develop a rapport with Manuel on short notice, and a tweaked hamstring is an injury that could linger all season.
Stock Up: Mike Williams
One positive to take away from Saturday's game was that the first-team offense finally made it into the end zone. It was Mike Williams who ended the drought for the Bills.
Of course, that doesn't mean Williams will be a savior for the Bills offense. But he gives the offense a high-pointing receiver who can make catches in traffic over the middle and in the red zone.
Courtesy of BuffaloBills.com, Williams told John Murphy he wants to be the primary target in the red zone. He said Manuel can just "throw it to the clouds" and he will take care of the rest. Manuel said Williams has made good on his word consistently in practice, saying he's been "very consistent as far as tracking the ball."
Manuel isn't the only one who has noticed. Joe Buscaglia of WGR named Williams one of the runners-up for camp MVP. Buscaglia said Williams and Manuel have developed some chemistry in the red zone throughout training camp and that Williams has been "one of the most pleasant surprises of training camp."
It has been quite some time since the Bills had a receiver like Williams: a player who can save a play every now and then can help a young quarterback, which the Bills just so happen to have. When a play breaks down and Manuel is looking to get rid of the ball, expect him to try to find No. 19.