BBD Editor Mike Watkins
With the season over and the staff evaluations over, its time for the new Bills staff to move on to this roster and evaluating it. The Bills currently have a number of free agents to consider as we begin our off season but here are how we graded out the players this year.
R.Fitzpatrick: The 2012 season could not have gone any worse for Fitzpatrick. It exposed him for what he really is and that is a solid back up QB who really has no business being relied upon to be the focal point of an offense. The Bills have an interesting decision to make with him. He is due about 10 million and the Bills really don’t save all that much by cutting him, less than a million dollars. I find it hard to believe that the Bills are willing to pay that for him but may not find a better caddy for a younger QB on the free agent or trade market. His job may be safer than some fans realize but I would still put it at less than 50/50 that he is back. If it were me, I’d cut bait now.
T.Thigpen: Non-factor all season, I expect him to be released considering his only value was he knew Gailey’s system.
T.Jackson: Jackson represents possibly the single worst and head scratching trade in Bills history. The Bills gave away a 7th rounder for a guy they never made active on game days, which when you consider how bad Fitzpatrick was makes it even more questionable.
Grade: F, no franchise QB on the roster and nothing in the pipeline. The Bills need a massive overhaul here.
C.Spiller: 2012 will go down as the year CJ Spiller broke out and became the face of the Bills franchise. He is the most dynamic and talented player on the roster and was a big reason why the Bills job was so much more attractive this time around. Spiller was dynamic all year and the only thing that stopped him was the horrible play calling of a now fired Chan Gailey. Look for Spiller to be the centerpiece of any Bills offense moving forward
F.Jackson: His age is finally starting to show with an injury-plagued year. If used properly by limiting his snaps the Bills could extend his career.
T.Choice: He’s not a bad player to have as your 3rd RB on an NFL roster. He is a quality RB than can be useful in spot duty. He only drew the ire of fans because Gailey used him far more often than he should which resulted in taking away carries from Spiller. Wouldn’t mind him back, but he needs to have his role drastically reduced.
Grade: A+, The Bills are loaded here.
C.McIntyre: Doing what he does best and that on Special teams. Steady consistent player.
D.Dickerson: Has been pretty much a non-factor and relegated to mostly special teams. Could see an increased role but needs to work on route running all off-season. He’s worth a camp spot.
Grade: C, nothing to write home about. Could see an upgrade here with Marrone depending on what he wants to do with the offense.
S.Johnson: I’ll give Johnson credit, no matter what the record said you never questioned his effort or desire. He played every game hard and notched his 3rd straight 1,000-yard season, which is a much bigger accomplishment than most give him credit for. Johnson may not be a bonafide true number one by definition, but he’s pretty close. He is arguably the best route runner in the league and gives the best CB’s fits every time they match up against him. If the Bills can manage to upgrade the QB position Johnson’s star could grow real bright.
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. There is some talent there and would make decent depth so I expect the Bills to tender him an offer.
T.Graham: Graham will likely be forever known as the player the Bills chose over R.Wilson, but that is the past so we’ll leave it there. Graham had an ok season for a rookie WR and if he had a QB that could get him the ball down the field the numbers would be much better. There were concerns about his hands, coming out of college and there still should be, as he had a good amount of drops.
R.Martin: Special teams player making no impact on offense. 50/50 they bring him back but I would let him walk
D.Nelson: IR’ed in game one and it really affected the Bills offense. Nelson is a great safety valve for any QB and is a weapon on third down and in the red zone. He should be fully recovered from his knee surgery by camp. The injury shouldn’t affect his play too much, either because his game is not based on speed but more excellent route running and a great set of clutch hands. The Bills offense really missed him. No-brainer to tender him.
M.Easley: Saw limited time at the end of the year and flashed a little in Special Teams. I would like if he took R.Martin’s spot on the ST’s squad as he excelled in that at Uconn.
Grade: C+, Stevie is the only player worth mentioning so far and is the only A level player. The return of Nelson in the slot should improve the unit in 2013
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. That said the games where Chandler got involved early, the offense ran much smoother
L.Smith: Standard blocking TE, Special teamer
M.Caussin: PUP List for a good part of the year. Long shot to be back.
Grade: B-, Starter is an above avg. to good player with not too much behind him. The Bills should look to add depth here.
E.Wood: Wood has always been good to very good as a player in the NFL, health was his biggest concern and still is to a point. Look for the Bills during the summer to lock him up long term with only a year left on his deal.
A.Levitre: Arguably Buffalo’s best and its most consistent OL. Is a free agent this off-season and will only be behind Byrd in priority. It will take a big chunk of change to lock up Levitre long term but losing him would be a step backwards for Buffalo. If you are interested in what it will take to get a long-term deal done, look at the B.Grubbs deal from last year and go a little North of that.
K.Urbik: He has had some injury issues this year but when he has played he has been a solid starter. The Bills locked him before the season ended in a very friendly deal for a quality starter
E.Pears: Pears finished the year on IR and would be a good back up but really isn’t a 16 game starter. He excels at run blocking but still has issues with speedy pass rushers.
C.Glenn: Had a real strong start to his rookie year but struggled toward the end after some injury issues. He is a devastating run blocker and better than anticipated pass blocker but still could use improvement in that area. At the very least the Bills have a good RT or OG on their hands. If he wants to make a career at LT he’ll have to shed a little more weight and work on his kick slide and agility. Still the future is looking bright for the Bills 2nd round pick
C.Hairston: Classic swing OT that teams love to have on their roster. Is not a starter but is quality depth at both the RT and LT spots.
C.Rinehart: Decent depth but has trouble staying healthy. The Bills could hedge their bet a little bit and sign him fairly fast for some protection against a Levitre departure.
S.Young: He’s basically a poor mans Pears. He’ll get be in camp but has an uphill battle to make the roster.
C.Brown: Nothing to write home about depth player. Long shot to be on the roster.
D.Snow: Showed next to nothing, maybe a camp invite.
Z.Sanders: IR, look for him to get kicked inside to OG during camp and become a utility back up OL.
Grade: B+, Up and down year due to injury. If the bills can lock up Levitre and extend Wood they will be in really good shape for the future.
M.Williams: Mario had a night and day type of year. Before the bye he looked like a free agent bust. After the bye he finally looked like the player the Bills paid for. Whether it was mental or physical the wrist injury clearly had an impact on him. I would look for a better season in 2013 now that he is settled in.
M.Anderson: Anderson was a free agent bust his first year in Buffalo. He showed little to nothing when he was healthy and then never played a snap after the 49ers game. He could be a surprise cut this off-season. If he does come back I hope the new DC realizes he is far more effective when he takes less than 50% of the defensive snaps.
C.Kelsay: Kelsay had a Kelsay year, nothing great and nothing horrible. His cap number could make him a candidate to be cut but his ability to back up and play both right and left DE means he will be back in 2013.
K.Moore: Pleasant surprise for the Bills this year. He seemed to kick start a bad pass rush when he got snaps. He is a free agent and could be the justification for cutting Mark Anderson. I want him back and I imagine the Bills do also but they must be careful to not over pay.
S.Merriman: Signed back to the roster after some injuries and played. He’ll never be the player he once was but I would bring him back for a chance to win a roster spot.
K.Williams: Far and away the best DL for the Bills during the season. He seems to be the only player the Bills can count on from game to game along the DL
M.Dareus: 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 had the classic sophomore slump season. Though he was far better down the stretch to end the season that hopefully leads into 2013.
S.Johnson: 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. Given his age I expect the Bills to go younger here.
A.Carrington: Up and down year but really made an impact on special teams with blocked kicks. That alone will keep you on NFL rosters. He played better later in the year and I expect him to be back
T.Troup: IR, make or break year for Troup. I for one would say the outlook is not good. Back injuries are a major red flag.
Grade: C-, under performed all year and they will hear about it all off-season.
N.Barnett: Age finally has caught up with Barnett. He looked slower than the year before but was still the only LB who looked like he should be on the field game to game. He should be back as a he is a good vet to have on the roster.
K.Sheppard: Up and down year, far more downs than ups though. He gets exposed in coverage and should be better against the run than he is. Sheppard will be fighting for his starting position but is much more a back up than a 16 game starter.
N.Bradham: He has had his share of rookie mistakes but is an athlete sideline to sideline LB who will likely improve this off-season after a good amount of snaps. Maybe a starter in the future but at least good depth.
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. I don’t expect him to make the cut
B.Scott: The Bills Jack of all Trades is a free agent, had an ok year and can be used in a couple spots in a pinch. Could be back but will be on the market for a while.
K.Morrison: Just around for vet depth so far. I imagine he won’t be back
C.White: Special teams player who seems to have taken to that role.
Grade: D, Bills need an overhaul at LB this off-season
S.Gilmore: First 5 weeks of the year Gilmore made classic rookie mistakes but then it clicked for him. I don’t really think most Bills fans appreciate how good he was this year. He didn’t allow a TD after week 5 and only allowed 50 or more yards receiving just once the rest of the way. He also garnered the respect of opposing offenses with them constantly throwing away from him. It’s always to early to call a draft pick a hit or miss after one year, but the future looks very bright for Gilmore as the Bills may finally have found the “Island CB” they have been looking for.
A.Williams: One of the first moves the new Bills coaching staff has to make is to move Williams to Safety. He was abused all year at CB and no longer belongs there. His skill set is a better fit at the safety position.
L.Mckelvin: Is one of the better return men in the game and the Bills should want to bring him back for that reason alone. He also has improved his CB skills this year to respectable. I want to bring him back but I imagine some team out there will over pay him to be a starting CB when he really is more of a 3 or a 4.
T.McGee: Should retire.
J.Rogers: Not a good year as he was picked on a lot when he got snaps. Has an uphill battle to make the roster.
R. Brooks: Started the year on IR and then was a victim of classic rookie mistakes only they took place later in the year so it magnified them. The Bills defensive staff kept lining him up on the outside and like I said when they drafted him that is where he got and gets exposed. Brooks is a slot CB and it’s where he should be. He handles shorter quicker WR much better and plays better in traffic.
Grade: C, they have struggled but Gilmore is a bright spot.
J.Byrd: Byrd has established himself as one of the best Safeties in the game. When he got to the NFL he had a nose for the ball and was a weak tackler. He has shored up every part of his game and now has no weakness. Byrd should and will be priority number one this off-season for the Bills. Either by a new deal or a franchise tag, Byrd will be a Buffalo Bill in 2013.
G. Wilson: Age finally started to show for Wilson this year. He had problems in coverage and was often a step late to plays. He started to split time to Searcy at the end of the year and with good reason. I expect he’ll be back but as a back up.
D.Searcy: Started to cut into Wilson’s playing time and I expect him to make a real push to be the full time starter during camp. He’s a tough, hardnosed player who could surprise in 2013.
Grade: C+, Byrd was excellent, Wilson is regressing, and Searcy started to look the part.
R.Lindell: Not a lock to make the roster, I bet they give him competition or release him.
S.Powell: The potential is there and got better as the year went along.
Grade: C-, A new kicker could be on the horizon.
B.Smith: Another misused player during the Gailey era. Smith should just be made a WR but even then at his price tag he likely won’t survive a cut down.
Grade: C, He needs to see more time at WR. He can be a playmaker in the open field.
Chan Gailey was a good guy and has a good offensive mind. When he first got here he did more with an offense than most would have, given the lack of overall talent. He was creative and could score points. The problem was that he became too addicted to a passing game that didn’t justify its use. He and Nix built the team to be a run first team with a big OL that excelled at run blocking and two very good RB’s. His refusal to do that however ended up costing him his job. I imagine he’ll resurface somewhere, as he does know offense. He however is not cut out to be a head coach on any level. He needs to be an OC for a HC that can reel him in when he starts getting too pass happy
Doug Marrone came out of nowhere in the early morning hours on January 6th to become the head coach of the Buffalo Bills when all the talk was about Lovie Smith and Ken Whisenhunt. I like Marrone and if you read my candidates article you know that he fits a lot of what I wanted the Bills to be looking for in a new Head Coach. He’s a young, energetic, and forward thinking aggressive coach who could really lay down roots in the area. Being that he is from the Parcels and Payton tree only helps his case. The easy choice would have been for the Bills to just hire Lovie Smith. I’m glad they didn’t though. While I like Smith I’m not a big fan of hiring coaches who have been recently fired. It’s also a case of I’m tired of going down the retread route. I’m sure Lovie will land somewhere and do reasonably well. I’m the type of person, though, that would rather take a shot on something better even though the risk and downfall may be greater.
You have to roll the dice every once in awhile and dare to be great or you’ll always be stuck in the middle. Marrone represents that gamble. He took a Syracuse football program that was thought to be dead and brought it back to respectable in a short time. That is the type of drive and determination this Bills team needs from its head coach.
Season overview: The Bills on the field did not live up to the Bills on paper, because of that a coaching change was made. Make no mistake about it the Bills have talent on the roster and its now up to newly hired Head Coach Doug Marrone to get the most out of that talent and end the Bills 13 year long playoff drought. Step number 1 has to be to upgrade the QB position because it doesn’t matter who the coach is if a drastic upgrade isn’t made at that critical position. Look for the Bills to be less aggressive in pursuing other teams free agents but more aggressive in the draft and possibly the trade front.