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Which players could be on the roster bubble?

AJ Epenesa has underwhelmed as a 2020 second-round pick and could be fighting to retain his roster spot.

AJ Epenesa has underwhelmed as a 2020 second-round pick and could be fighting to retain his roster spot.

This is the last in a 10-part series previewing Buffalo Bills training camp.

When the Buffalo Bills reduce their roster to the regular-season mandated 53-man limit later this summer, similarly to the summer of 2022, there isn’t likely to be a big surprise hitting the waiver wire.

Last year, tight end OJ Howard – a former 2017 first-round draft pick of the Buccaneers who the Bills signed as an unrestricted free agent – was the biggest name chopped. And if you watched training camp and the preseason, cutting Howard wasn’t even that much of a surprise.

The Bills roster was pretty much set in 2022 before the team even started camp, and while there are certainly a whole lot of new faces who will show up at St. John Fisher University, that’s the case in 2023.

Even in the three key position battles – middle linebacker, second cornerback and offensive guard – the losers are still probably sticking around as backups.

Unlike the drought years, the Bills’ roster is now a tough one to make as top-to-bottom, most of the spots are already written in pen on the depth chart. Only a few will require a pencil, and here are four players who could be either seeking a new team, or settling for a spot on the Bills’ practice squad.

Bills Damar Hamlin during defensive drills during OTAs.

Bills Damar Hamlin during defensive drills during OTAs.

DE AJ Epenesa: He’s heading into the final year of his contract and the 2020 second-round pick has never lived up to his draft status. He had 6.5 sacks last season and Von Miller probably won’t be ready to play in Week 1 so maybe that enables Epenesa to stick around and finish his contract, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Bills move on if someone like Kingsley Jonathan or Kameron Cline really has a nice camp.

S Damar Hamlin: Look, cutting Hamlin would be a public relations nightmare, but when did that ever stop cold-hearted NFL decision makers from doing what they feel is best for the team? Never. Hamlin is the fourth safety behind Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer and Taylor Rapp. The Bills will only keep four and they have veterans Dean Marlowe and Jared Maylen in the mix. My gut tells me that Hamlin wins out, but you never know.

RB Latavius ​​Murray: I wasn’t really sure why the Bills signed the 33-year-old. They have a nice foursome in James Cook, Damien Harris and Nyheim Hines, plus fullback Reggie Gilliam. The one change from the end of 2022 is Harris in for Devin Singletary. Murray is basically taking the roster spot of last year’s fifth running back, Taiwan Jones, but here’s the thing: Jones played only special teams and Murray won’t play any special teams. I can’t see why Murray would be active on game day ahead of the others.

OT Tommy Doyle: The 2021 fifth-round draft pick has barely played in his two seasons thanks primarily to a torn ACL suffered early in 2022, and his availability at the start of the season is still in question. Meanwhile, the Bills signed veteran free agent Brandon Shell who has 72 career NFL starts under his belt, and they brought back David Quessenberry in free agency. Shell may very well be the best of those three players and would fit nicely as the swing tackle behind starters Dion Dawkins and Spencer Brown, but we know the Bills love their draft picks and that’s why it would be a surprise if they give up on Doyle so soon. Perhaps he starts the year on PUP and that opens a spot for Shell.

Other questions to be answered during Buffalo Bills training camp 2023

Be sure to return to for daily updates throughout the Buffalo Bills training camp. You can also sign up for Bills Blast, Sal Maiorana’s newsletter which will follow the Bills action all season long. Here are stories previewing some of the other questions that need to be answered during camp:

Sal Maiorana can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana and on Threads @salmaiorana1.

This article originally appeared on the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Bills training camp questions: Which players could be on the roster bubble?