Grading the Bills' 53: Linebackers

Now that the Buffalo Bills have set their 53-man roster, we'll break it down, position by position:


Personnel: Kiko Alonso, Manny Lawson, Jerry Hughes, Arthur Moats, Nigel Bradham, Marcus Dowtin, Jamaal Westerman (Practice squad: Jamie Blatnick)

Talent: B+. In Lawson and Hughes, the Bills have a pair of former first-round draft picks with potential to rush the passer. Lawson had 6.5 sacks with the San Francisco 49ers in 2009 before taking on more of a stand-up linebacker role with the Bengals and now the Bills. Hughes is on the shorter end (6-foot-2), but can provide some explosiveness off the edge as a situational rusher. Alonso has good size (6-foot-4, 242 pounds) and athleticism for his position.

Depth: B. Mike Pettine's defense often calls for more defensive backs than it does linebackers, making depth less of a concern here. Dowtin and Westerman are good special-teams players with experience in Pettine's system, but don't figure to play much, if any, of a role on defense. The Bills really only need two full-time players out of this position, and they have them in Alonso and Lawson. Beyond that, Moats and Bradham are viable insurance options.

Reliability: B-. Lawson has played 16 games in each of his last four seasons, making him one of the team's most reliable players from a health standpoint. However, the Bills will need to lean on Alonso a lot this season -- and played all 91 snaps in Sunday's loss -- and that could be a risky move with a rookie, especially one who may have responsibilities to make defensive calls in pressure situations.