By BBD Editor Mike Watkins
As we went through the bye week last week I wanted to take some time to review and reflect on how each Buffalo Bills player has done thus far this season. With nine games remaining here are my mid-term grades.
R.Fitzpatrick: Has had a rocky start to this year and looks to be much more of the QB the Bills saw in the last part of the 2011 season then the first part, this time however there are no injured ribs to blame it on. At this point he will be the Bills QB for the rest of the year and will need a dramatic turnaround in play to keep his job
T.Thigpen: Non-factor, likely will be part of the QB cleansing this offseason
T.Jackson: Early comments about him possibly never being ready to play this season begs the question as to why the Bills threw away a draft pick on him? I hope the Bills spend the bye week accelerating the learning curve so as to at least get a look at him. That however is asking a lot from a coaching staff fighting for their jobs
Grade: D+, no franchise QB on the roster and nothing in the pipeline.
F.Jackson: Had some early injury issues but has bounced back and is close to being his old self.
C.J. Spiller: Having a breakout year and finally justifying the Bills selection of him. You could argue very easily he is the Bills best and most explosive offensive weapon
T.Choice: Filled in admirably when Spiller went down in Cleveland. Bills could do a lot worse for a 3rd RB
Grade: A+, most talented spot on the team. Two excellent RB’s with All Pro ability. They are now just finding a way to work together which will only help the Bills in the long run
C.McIntyre: Doing what he does best and that on Special teams. Steady consistent player
D.Dickerson: Has been pretty much a nonfactor and relegated to mostly special teams
Grade: C, nothing to write home about
S.Johnson: The stats don’t look great but if not for the inaccuracies of the QB Johnson would likely have another 10-15 reception and a couple more TD’s. I think he has played well and the Bills still look like they got a bargain on his contract this offseason
D.Jones: He will flash every once in awhile but he is nowhere near consistent enough to be counted on as a true #2 WR on an NFL team. He would make a decent number 3 and a pretty good number 4. He has been given a tremendous opportunity and is coming up short
T.J. Graham: Another WR that has shown flashes here and there but his best talent, speed, is being wasted at the moment with a QB that cannot complete a deep pass. May have something here but it will take a better deep ball thrower to discover it
R.Martin: Special teams player making no impact on offense
D.Nelson: Done for the year, Bills offense misses him
Grade: C+, Stevie is the only player worth mentioning so far and is the only A level player
S.Chandler: Has really come on as a TE. Has been an asset in both the pass and run game with his blocking. The Bills may finally have the TE they have been looking for. Still could use a little more consistency.
L.Smith: Standard blocking TE, Special teamer
M.Caussin: PUP List, but should be returning this week
Grade: B-, Starter is a above avg to good player with not too much behind him
E.Wood: Wood has always been good to very good as a player in the NFL, health was his biggest concern and to date this year he has rock solid.
A.Levitre: Still one of Buffalo’s best and its most consistent OL. As with Wood very good start to the year
K.Urbik: He has had some injury issues this year but when he has played he has been average to above average. Solid starter
E.Pears: Good in run blocking and pass blocking has been steady until he runs into a speed rusher. May be replaced at some point by Hairston
C.Glenn: For a rookie had a great start to the year and the Bills look like they may have hit on their second round pick. He has spent the last three games injured but when he returns he will slide right back into the starting LT spot where he has shown great blocking skills and better than advertised pass blocking skills
C.Hairston: Has done a nice job filling in for an injured Glenn and he is the epitome of what you want in a back up swing OT. When Glenn returns expect him to push Pears for the RT job. He has his issues with speed also but not to the extent Pears does
C.Rinehart: Decent depth but has trouble staying healthy
S.Young: Has been an ok utility OL player thus far
C.Brown: Nothing to write home depth player
D.Snow: Nothing to write home about depth player
Grade: A-, the Bills OL has been a nice surprise thus far this year. After years of futility this unit is becoming a strength when the starters are healthy
M.Williams: Mario was a streaky player when he came to Buffalo but he has taken that distinction to a whole new level so far this year. The pass rush with any player can come and go and sacks often come in bunches, you can see it even with the elite players. What however is bothering is he isn’t moving the QB off his spot like most elite rushers do and the most surprising thing about Mario thus far is how bad he has been against the run. He really needs to turn it on in the second half of the year
M.Anderson: Mario has been a disappointment, but salaries aside, Mark has even been more of a disappointment. He is non-existent on the field and a real liability in the run game. To compound it he has also been injured though his loss has been barely noticeable. They need to reduce his snaps to mostly passing downs like what N.E. did to get the most out of him
C.Kelsay: Kelsay has been thus far the player he has always been, an average player who will flash and make a play from time to time. As far as back ups go he’s been good, being a starter exposes him a little more
K.Moore: Has been a pleasant surprise for the Bills over the past few games since Mark Anderson went down. He is a liability on run downs but plays with a real sense of urgency as a pass rusher. Buffalo may have stumbled up something here
S.Merriman: Recently signed back to the roster after some injuries and played ok vs. the Titans. He’s an avg player at this point and will likely be cut again at some point but adds decent depth till then
K.Williams: Far and away the best DL for the Bills thus far through the season. He seems to be the only player the Bills can count on from game to game along the DL
M.Dareus: Plays far to hot cold thus far. He was far more consistent last year in a defense that he knows much better, a 3-4. He has had some off the field tragedy that could explain some of it, but he is in the midst of the classic sophomore slump
S.Johnson: Has played ok as a back up and is a good utility DL for the Bills. Has spent a lot of time on the sideline with injuries through the first part of the year.
A.Carrington: He’s really out of place in this defense but has played admirably. He’ll have his moments where he gets blown up but he usually comes right back the next play with much better effort
Grade: C-, with all the talent along the line they have to play better. To date it’s the biggest let down of the 2012 season
N.Barnett: The steadiest of the LB’s by far. He’s been a productive player and is the Bills best LB.
K.Sheppard: Has struggled thus far this season. He has been a complete liability in the pass game and isn’t doing well in the rush game either. He really doesn’t belong in a 4-3 and hasn’t taken to the defense very well.
N.Bradham: He has had his share of rookie mistake in only 2 starts but is an athletic sideline to sideline LB who will likely improve game by game as the season goes on. Coaches waited to long to get him in the starting lineup
A.Moats: Lost his starting job and it would be a surprise if he got it back. He really doesn’t belong in a 4-3
B.Scott: The Bills are kidding themselves with putting him here and have reduced his role since the debacle with the Patriots. Id like to say he is effective covering TE’s but looking at what opposing TE’s have done to this Bills defense, I won’t
K.Morrison: Just around for vet depth so far, no impact
C.White: Special teams player who seems to have taken to that role
Grade: D, Bills really need to think about switching it up in the second half of the season. Possibly move Barnett to the middle.
Gilmore: Has had some classic rookie CB miscues but he gets better and better every week. He already draws the opposing teams best WR’s and opposing QB’s are already staying away from him. The early returns are the Bills have hit on there 2012 first round pick
A.Williams: Has had a tough go of it the first half of the season. Opposing QB’s throw at him all game and he has looked over matched. Must dramatically improve to keep his starting job the rest of the year
L.Mckelvin: Has played better this year at CB but still has some errors in tracking the ball in the air. Has real value as a return specialist
T.McGee: Limited time so far and injuries have made him a shell of what he used to be
J.Rogers: Has had more bad plays than good thus far. Still fighting for playing time
R.Brooks: IR so far, but is returning to the active roster as of this week
Grade: C, they are struggling more than they should but Gilmore has been a bright spot
J.Byrd: Played very well so far and has showed a complete game thus far through the season
G. Wilson: The fan favorites age is starting to show. So far this season he is not as quick to the ball as he had been. He is also getting more mistake prone in coverage
D.Searcy: Had a decent amount of playing time and has been good depth
D.Howell: Mostly a special teams player when he’s been active
Grade: C+, Byrd has been good but Wilson’s play has really dropped of so far. Look for Searcy to cut into Wilsons playing time the rest of the year if he doesn’t pick it up
R. Lindell: Has not had that many opportunities on FG’s and doesn’t kick off. Still a steady vet so far
J.Potter: Has not been the kick off specialist he was sold to be and his job on the roster may be in trouble
S.Powell: The potential is there but he must play better than he has. 20-yard punts are inexcusable
Grade: C-, at this point Potter has been a waste of a roster spot, Lindell has been steady, and Powell isn’t making anyone forget Moorman
B.Smith: Bills have finally started playing him more at WR and it has paid small dividends but more time there is needed in my opinion. The Wild Cat hasn’t been nearly as effective since the first part of last year and he finally showed of some kick return ability
Grade: C, He needs to see more time at WR. He can be a playmaker in the open field
C.Gailey, HC: His offense has been productive at times but his play calling is head scratching also. He has been far to addicted to a passing game that has a struggling QB when he has one of the best ground games available to him. He seems to be trying to fit a square peg into a round hole a lot this year and may be on the verge of losing the locker room if they get blown out again
C.Modkins, OC: What is it that you say you do here Curtis?
D.Wannstedt, DC: There is no positions coach more under fire in the NFL right now than Wannstedt. Nobody was questioning the talent up front when the season began so now they are looking for a why outside of that, that bull’s eye lands squarely on him. His defenses have been vanilla with little to no adjustment game to game let alone in game. He should spend the entire week at the drawing board
B.DeHaven, ST: The unit has been good, they have had no real major gaffes and looks good week in and week out
Grade: D-, they are fighting for their jobs the rest of the way
Bye Week Team Summation: I expected the Bills to be 3-4 at this point, what I didn’t expect was how the losses would come. I didn’t expect the Bills to be blown off the field in 3 of the 4. I thought the Bills would lose some tight games to some good teams. That has not happened. I also expected the pass rush to be a work in progress not nearly nonexistent. Compound that with a dramatic fall off at QB and it starts to add up to why the Bills are where they are.
Looking ahead the schedule lightens up in the second half after a brutal first two games against Houston and New England. The Bills could have a second half run in them but that would require a lot of turnarounds from a lot of players who should be performing much better than they are. The AFC is wide open and getting more wide open by the day so while the Bills are far from being eliminated from the playoffs they have a long road ahead of them.