Orchard Park, N.Y. — Life in the NFL comes at you fast.
Less than two weeks ago, now former Buffalo Bills defensive end Darryl “Bam” Johnson was discussing some of the early training camp feedback he was getting from defensive line coach Eric Washington.
“I think my rush angles got a lot tighter (since last season). I’m trusting my speed a lot more. … I was talking to coach the other day and he said I’m a better pass rusher than I was last year,” Johnson said. “I try to take it and run with it it and just try to prove every day that I can rush the passer.”
Johnson proved that with his 1.5 sacks and 3 quarterback hits in three preseason games. It turns out he was auditioning for a spot on some other team. The Bills traded the former seventh-round pick on Monday to the Carolina Panthers for a sixth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Now Johnson begins a new chapter with a chance to find a more significant role, no longer buried seven players deep on his team’s depth chart.
With Johnson now out of the mix, what does that mean for the Bills’ 53-man roster with just hours remaining before final cuts are due? Here are a few thoughts ahead of the deadline.
Was it smart to deal Johnson?
Many Bills fans were impressed with Johnson this summer – rightfully so – and some even seemed disappointed that he was dealt. It’s hard to blame them considering the success former Bills fifth-round pick Wyatt Teller had in Cleveland following a trade two summers ago.
But there’s another player that’s no longer on the Bills who’s story should provide fans with at least some reassurance. Since the Bills opted to let Shaq Lawson walk, the former first-round pick has floundered. He’s now on his third team in a little more than five months.
Johnson had an outstanding preseason, but it’s important to remember he’s mostly been going against second- and third-team offensive linemen. His performance last season left a lot to be desired when it came to his pass rush skills. With the depth the Bills have at his position and how quickly rookie Greg Rousseau has flashed – he’s had the no. 1 pressure rate in the league during the preseason, per Pro Football Focus – it was simply a numbers game.
There just simply wasn’t enough room to keep Johnson.
How about the return?
To try and evaluate the potential market for Johnson it’s important to consider his play from last season. He was much more impactful this summer but could barely sniff the field in the playoffs last year, playing just 33 snaps in three games (was inactive vs. Baltimore).
Beane flipping him for a sixth-round pick is a slick move. Making it even better is the fact that the Bills get whichever pick is higher between the Panthers’ sixth and the sixth they got in a trade with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Should Bills have traded a different DE?
Mario Addison was a popular name in the trade chatter the past few days – Efe Obada, too. But considering who’s in place and the production both have had in recent years, in never made a ton of sense.
The Bills believe in Addison, and Washington helped develop Obada in Carolina. With veteran Jerry Hughes and the young trio of Rousseasu, Boogie Basham and A.J. Epenesa, the Bills like their rotation.
If I was projecting how it may look in the opener, Hughes (RDE) and Rousseau (LDE) get the start, and then Addison (right) and Epenesa (left) are the first to spell both. Obada likely gets most of his early work on the inside, which could be important with Harrison Phillips dealing with a knee injury.
Understand the numbers
One other problem some fans had with the Johnson deal was that it didn’t yield a player. There seems to be this notion that the Bills are looking to upgrade at CB2 or on the interior of their offensive line.
While I’m not ruling it out, especially if a notable name becomes available after the other 31 teams make their final cuts, Beane’s lack of attention at both spots this offseason tells you what he thinks about their situation there. At defensive line, he drafted two and signed a player in Obada who would have led the team in sacks last season. If the Bills were to acquire a player in a deal for Johnson, that player isn’t likely making the final 53. It would cost more than a seventh-round DE to land an upgrade at CB2 over viable starter Levi Wallace. Just spittin’ facts, here.
So who gets Johnson’s spot?
If you got back and read my final 53-man projection, we have to make some edits. With Johnson now out of the mix, linebacker Tyrel Dodson gets the nod. The Bills rely on their depth linebackers to make up a big chunk of their special teams units. With Johnson gone, it’s likely going to be Dodson getting his run. Also look for Jake Kumerow to be in the mix on teams.
What else is different besides the Bills keeping six linebackers? Instead of going with three tight ends, the Bills could cut Tommy Sweeney and bring him back on the practice squad as he deals with his injured foot. Two tight ends is light but Reggie Gilliam could fill in in a pinch. With the extra spot the Bills elect to keep five defensive tackles. Finding a spot for Justin Zimmer was always the plan but it just didn’t seem feasible before Phillips’ injury. The Bills now get to 11 defensive linemen with five tackles and six ends.
The toughest cut is Cam Lewis, especially considering the Bills have some injury issues at cornerback – on the inside and outside. If the Bills keep six and want to risk Stevenson, they can keep six receivers and add some bulk in the secondary.
Jake Fromm played well in the preseason but there just isn’t a need with Mitch Trubisky on the roster. My guess is they try and house two QBs on the practice squad in Fromm and Davis Webb.
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