When the Buffalo Bills host the Green Bay Packers to close out the preseason this afternoon, the fates of so many fringe players could be determined as the NFL inches closer to the Aug. 31 deadline for teams to trim their roster sizes to 53.
Here's who we'll be watching in addition to the top regulars, who will see action for the first and only time this preseason, coach Sean McDermott announced Thursday.
Isaiah Hodgins, Jake Kumerow, Marquez Stevenson and Steven Sims.
Providing the Bills keep six receivers, these four are believed to be battling for the final spot. That's assuming, of course, that Isaiah McKenzie is No. 5. McKenzie has a shoulder injury and won't play against the Packers.
What's more, he didn't exactly endear himself to McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane on Thursday by posting to Twitter a letter from the league detailing violations of COVID-19 safety protocols, essentially mocking his fine of $14,650.
McDermott repeatedly stated on Thursday that no personnel decision will be made based on a player's vaccination status. But he had to say that.
Rest assured that when it comes to breaking ties for spots on the bottom of the roster, the Bills and every other team in the league will give preferential treatment to those who have been vaccinated.
Among the receivers, McKenzie, Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis are known to be unvaccinated. That would be at least half of the position group, and the Bills likely can't afford the risk of having all of them having to go on the Reserve/COVID list if there's an outbreak during the regular season.
Also, Stevenson (foot injury) may not be able to answer the bell for this game.
Something to keep in mind.
Dion Dawkins and Bobby Hart.
Dawkins, the starter on the left side, is making progress in his recovery from a COVID-19 infection, but it's still unclear whether he will be in good-enough condition to start the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Hart has been perhaps their biggest disappointment this summer. The Bills added him for depth and to possibly be their reserve swing tackle on game days because he's started 66 games over six seasons. But his play has been hideous, and even a great showing against Green Bay probably won't be enough to earn him a roster spot, especially because rookie draft picks Spencer Brown and Tommy Doyle are making the squad.
Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison.
Here's the deal: This year's top two draft picks, Gregory Rousseau and Carlos "Boogie" Basham, are an important part of the team's future. So is A.J. Epenesa, a second-round pick last year. The Bills also added Efe Obada and have Darryl Johnson and Mike Love at those positions now too.
So do they really need both Hughes and Addison, accomplished veterans who have been in the league since 2010 and 2011, respectively, to stick around for one more year? After all, their presence would mean less snaps for the young guys.
On the other hand, the Bills may not want to give their younger players that much work this season.
Levi Wallace, Dane Jackson, Nick McCloud, Rachad Wildgoose, Olaijah Griffin, Tim Harris and Cam Lewis.
The battle between Wallace and Jackson for the starting outside job opposite Tre'Davious White supposedly hasn't been decided, even though Wallace has done nothing to lose grip of the position. Both players also are injured and might not play.
McCloud, Wildgoose and Griffin are rookies battling Lewis and Harris for what might be just one open spot, with White, Wallace Jackson and Taron Johnson being the only locks.