AFC East Weekly Buzz: Roster Bubble News

Photo by Ed Runyon

Buffalo Bills

Wide receiver T.J. Graham

Graham’s career has defined by the highs of big plays, including a 34 yard touchdown and 40 yard grab in a win against the Jets last season, but also the lows drops, inconsistency, and route-running issues, especially on a play in his rookie year where a potential game-winning touchdown against the Patriots was intercepted because of miscommunication on a route.

Graham had hip surgery this offseason, and struggled to adjust early on, getting open but not finishing plays with receptions. He has four catches for 50 yards in the three preseason games, but also juggled a potential touchdown catch against the Giants that was intercepted.

The Buffalo News’ Jay Skurski does not have Graham on the final roster as of now:

Wide receivers (6): Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley.

Analysis: Again, special teams comes into play as Easley’s experience there earns him the final roster spot over T.J. Graham and Kevin Elliott.

The top six receivers, both because of their great performance in camp (Watkins, Williams, Hogan, and Woods) and ability to contribute to special teams (Goodwin and Easley) appear to be roster locks. Goodwin’s injury issues have limited his offensive opportunities, but his speed, playmaking ability, and return skills just make him much more valuable at this point, and Easley gives size and consistency at the receiver that Graham does not.

This week of practices and the dress rehearsal game against the Buccaneers may be the last chance for Graham to make his mark.

Miami Dolphins

Safety Don Jones

Last Monday, Rantsports’ Tyler McMullen listed Jones as one of the 5 players on the Dolphins’ roster bubble:

Entering week 2 of the preseason, there is no way that Jones is not fighting for his roster spot. Jones made little to no impact during Friday night’s loss to Atlanta, thus leading to a demotion to the third team in Monday’s physical practice. With Walt Aikens’ apparent move to safety and the duo of Michael Thomas and Jordan Kovacs stepping up their game a bit, Jones may not make it through the first wave of roster cuts.

ESPN’s James Walker has Don Jones among the five safeties on his projected roster for the Dolphins, as starter Reshad Jones is currently suspended for the first four games of the 2014 regular season.

The Dolphins need as much depth at the position as possible until Reshad Jones returns, so Don Jones would appear to be a near lock, at least early in the season.

New York Jets

Wide Receiver Greg Salas

Dom Cosentino of looked at 12 players who are on the Jets’ final roster bubble with training camp ending, with one of them being receiver that has been impressive:

WR Greg Salas: Salas has had a strong camp, including a fantastic game in the team’s green and white scrimmage, and the slow start of the team’s rookie receivers has been to his benefit. His fate come down to how many receivers the Jets decide to keep, but Salas might be the most on-the-bubble player of anyone on this list.

Salas has had issues sticking on an NFL roster since 2012 after being drafted by the Rams in 2011, despite a great college career at the University of Hawaii. Salas is a bigger slot receiver (6’1”, 209 pounds) who has 35 career catches for 407 yards, and could be a safety valve for second-year quarterback Geno Smith.

However, Salas will have to make it on a roster against a group including Eric Decker, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, rookies Jalen Saunders and Shaquille Evans, and David Nelson. Salas has had a great start, but it may take a few standout plays for him to confirm a spot on the 53 man roster.

New England Patriots

Cornerback Malcolm Butler

Last Thursday, Nick O’Malley of looked at players on the roster bubble, and indicated Malcolm Butler

On Fire

CB Malcolm Butler - Butler’s ascension has been maybe the biggest story from camp so far. The undrafted rookie free agent was a surprise starter in the preseason opener and hasn’t looked back. Going from roster afterthought to a perceived must-keep on the roster, Butler has looked consistent and like a steal so far in camp. His stock is rising on a whole over level from everyone else.

Erik Frenz of profiled Butler, who has come out of nowhere to become a potential huge contributor in the secondary:

It’s hard out here for a defensive back.

There aren’t a lot of reps to go around with the likes of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in the fold, with up-and-corners like Alfonzo Dennard and Logan Ryan back for another year, and with seasoned veteran Kyle Arrington still manning the slot.

Yet, an unheralded, undrafted cornerback out of Division II West Alabama has been making plays on a regular basis. Malcolm Butler has come out of nowhere to insert himself as a dark horse in the race for roster spots.

Pardon the “come out of nowhere” cliche, but in a league full of SEC standouts and ACC record-holders, a player from the Gulf South Conference is obviously facing an uphill climb.

“It just made me have a chip on my shoulder,” he said after practice on Tuesday. “I know guys were getting looks before me and things like that, but you know, it turned out well, so I have no reason to complain about that. It’s been a tough journey, coming from Division II, you know. They don’t get too much publicity, but I’m just glad I’m here now.”

Butler hasn’t let his D-II status stand in the way, and he’s taking full advantage of his opportunities. He notched an interception in each of the first two practices of training camp, and has continually been in the right place to prevent a completion when in coverage.

He stood out in the Patriots’ first preseason game against the Washington Redskins, notching a pair of pass defenses on fade routes in the end zone and nearly intercepted the first two passes thrown into his coverage.

Frenz also wrote that Butler intercepted Tom Brady in a practice, so his level of play hasn’t seemed to change at higher levels of competition. While Revis, Browner, Arrington, Dennard and Ryan all have great coverage ability and have shown their value to Bill Belichick, Butler’s performance and potential may be tough to let go to another team.

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