Will ex-rugby star Christian Wade make the Buffalo Bills' 53-man roster?
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By James Simpson - @JS_Football
Last Updated: 24/08/19 12:18am
Through two preseason games, Christian Wade has thoroughly impressed. Has he done enough to make Buffalo's 53-man roster?
The former England rugby international has made waves so far, scoring with his first touch and following that up with a 48-yard catch and run in his second preseason outing.
Going from no football experience to making plays like that - even despite it being in preseason - is impressive, but will it be enough to earn him a spot on Buffalo's active roster after final cuts?
His usage so far
Although Wade leads Bills' backs in rushing and receiving yards, it is extremely important to put his numbers and usage into context. Preseason is just that - the regular season hasn't begun, and plenty of stars and starters haven't yet seen the field.
Last year's NFL preseason rushing yard leaders were Chris Warren (Oakland Raiders), Ryan Nall (Chicago Bears) and John Kelly (Los Angeles Rams). Warren and Nall's combined stats in the regular season? 0 yards. Kelly managed 74.
It's clear a good preseason performance doesn't necessarily lead to touches when the 'real' season gets underway.
Likely even more notable than Wade's yards are his touches (or lack thereof). Marcus Murphy has had rushing 12 attempts, with rookie Devin Singletary just behind him on 11. T.J. Yeldon, Senorise Perry and even presumed starter LeSean McCoy all have more carries than Wade.
If Buffalo expect to use their raw, inexperienced runner in the regular season, why aren't they giving him more chances to practise?
It's probable that although he may be a natural runner in the open field, Wade is not yet fully trusted to do the basics - protect his quarterback, run the right routes, and know the various checks and calls required to make the offense operate smoothly.
We can't be certain of this. For all we know, they are keeping him fresh to unleash him in Week One against the New York Jets! But that is extremely unlikely.
Wade's highlight-reel outings have won him the spotlight, but every other back on the Bills' roster has a stronger football resume.
McCoy, the first-string running back heading into the season, has the third-most rushing yards among all active NFL players (10,606).
Frank Gore enters a 15th season in the league as the NFL's top overall active rusher (14,748), only requiring another 522 to eclipse the legendary Barry Sanders for third all-time.
These two veterans have seen it all while Wade, already 28 years old, hadn't even taken a snap before he arrived in Buffalo.
Then there's third-round pick Singletary. At 21, he's a youngster compared to Wade, but with 714 carries, 4,287 yards and a whopping 66 touchdowns in three years at Florida Atlantic University, he is clearly Wade's senior in football years.
Fifth-year pro Yeldon signed a two-year deal earlier this summer, and while Perry and Murphy have bounced around the NFL with multiple teams, they played college ball and at the very least, 'know the ropes'.
According to the Bills' official website, the depth chart is as follows:
First string - McCoy
Second - Gore
Third - Singletary
Fourth - Yeldon, Perry, Murphy, Wade
Wade has garnered attention, but to even sniff the roster, he will have to eclipse two or three of these players.
What comes next?
Wade will have two more opportunities to prove himself in game action before August 31, when teams are required to reduce their rosters from 90 all the way down to 53.
Buffalo travel to Detroit to face the Lions on Saturday at 1am - live on Sky Sports - before finishing the preseason with a home outing against the Vikings on Thursday 29.
On September 1, clubs may establish their practice squad, consisting of 10 players. However, because Wade arrived through the International Pathway Program, the Bills have roster exemption which will allow them to hold 11 players should they choose to keep him.
If he is cut, Wade could be picked up by any other team impressed by his preseason outings. But it’s most likely he will end up on Buffalo’s practice squad and not see the field in the 2019/20 season.
After his journey, and at his age, if Wade sees the field in the regular season at any point in his career it should be deemed as a tremendous success.
Carolina Panthers defensive end Efe Obada was cut by the Cowboys, Chiefs, and Falcons before becoming the first Pathway Program player to make an active roster. Alex Gray has been with Atlanta since 2017 but is yet to see the field in a competitive game. Christian Scotland-Williamson spent last season on Pittsburgh's practice squad.
There is certainly a path and scenario in which Wade makes the field, but for now, expect him be given a few more opportunities in the coming weeks and to continue his development behind the scenes before attempting to make headlines again next summer.
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