Making the Grade: Which Buffalo Bills Have Rumbled and Stumbled in the First Half of the 2013 Season?

Kyle Williams has been a star of the Buffalo Bills defense this season. (Photo: Derick E. Hingle — USA Today Sports)

BBD Assistant Editor: Ryan Talbot

The Buffalo Bills have reached the midpoint of their season and have a 3-5 record. The record itself is somewhat deceiving of their season to date, as the Bills have given every team they have played a competitive game.

Part of the credit for Buffalo’s competitiveness belongs to the team’s coaching staff, especially defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. The Bills defense has kept the team in many games thanks to the pressure Pettine has dialed up, which has led to sacks and turnovers.

On the other side of the story, Buffalo is starting to close the gap on other teams when it comes to talent. The Bills have added talented players to their roster via the draft and free agency in the past two seasons, while they still have some returning veteran talent including defensive tackle Kyle Williams and running back Fred Jackson, who are the hearts and souls of the defense and offense, respectively. For the first time in years, the Bills seem to have many talented players on both sides of the ball.

Four of the best and four of the worst players on the Bills through the first half of the season are detailed below, as determined in part by each player’s cumulative grades for the season from Pro Football Focus (a subscription is required to access their grades database). Grades are based upon a scale where zero is considered to be average, and players earn positive or negative points based upon their success in completing their assignments or impacting the play on individual plays.

Bills Who Have Rumbled

Kyle Williams (13.7)

Kyle Williams has been not only the heart and soul of the Bills, but also Buffalo’s top defensive performer this season according to Pro Football Focus.

Williams’ strongest play has come in run defense, where PFF gives him a cumulative 9.4 rating. Through eight weeks, Williams has 18 defensive stops, good for fourth on the team.

Williams also has a 7.5 grade in pass rush. Playing both defensive tackle in four-man fronts and defensive end in three-man fronts, Williams has been very disruptive this season, accounting for five quarterback sacks, eight quarterback hits and 22 quarterback hurries. His pass-rush grade is the second-best on the Bills, and ranks fifth among all 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL.

Williams has graded negatively in penalties (-3.2). He leads the team with five penalties this season, so this is an area he can improve upon in the second half of the season.

All in all, Williams has played well for a 303-pound 30-year-old coming off of offseason Achilles surgery.

Cordy Glenn (12.3)

At the midpoint of the Bills’ 2013 season, Cordy Glenn is the only player who has been a standout on the offensive side of the ball. Glenn’s 12.3 rating on PFF ranks him tied for 12th among all offensive tackles and eighth among all left tackles.

The majority of Glenn’s positive rating comes from pass blocking, where he has accumulated a 9.8 rating this season. On 340 pass-blocking snaps in eight games this season, Glenn has only been responsible for one quarterback sack, two quarterback hits and nine quarterback hurries, according to PFF.

Glenn also has positive ratings in run blocking (1.4) and penalties (1.1). There have been five penalties called against Glenn this season, but that is a small amount considering the total number of snaps (599) he has played this season.

Marcell Dareus (12.3)

When the Bills selected Marcell Dareus with the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, they must have envisioned him playing the way he is this season. Dareus has been impressive this season, and PFF ranks him 10th among all defensive tackles in the league this season.

Dareus’ best rating comes in run defense where he has a 8.3 rating, second-only to Kyle Williams among all Bills defenders. Dareus leads both the teams and all defensive tackles in the league with 29 defensive stops, including a season-high eight in Week 5 against the Cleveland Browns, according to PFF.

Dareus has also dropped into coverage four times this season, but has compiled a 1.5 coverage rating on those snaps. He has accumulated a pass-rush grade of 3.0 thanks to his five quarterback sacks, two quarterback hits and 13 quarterback hurries.

Much like Kyle Williams, Dareus’ only negative rating has been in penalties (-0.5). Dareus has been called for two penalties this season, but none since Week 3.

Dareus is coming off of his best game of the season, where he earned a 5.0 overall rating in Week 8 against the New Orleans Saints for a game in which he had four tackles and two quarterback hurries.

Jerry Hughes (+7.3)

When the Buffalo Bills traded linebacker Kelvin Sheppard to the Indianapolis Colts for outside linebacker Jerry Hughes, I didn’t have very high expectations for Hughes, who compiled only five sacks in three seasons with the Colts while largely used as a situational pass-rusher.

He has had a career year thus far, ranking as PFF’s 10th-best 3-4 outside linebacker with an overall 7.3 rating and a pass-rush score of 8.2.

Hughes has played 395 snaps this season and in that playing time, he has been responsible for four quarterback sacks, three quarterback hits and 26 quarterback hurries. He ranks fifth among all 3-4 outside linebackers in the NFL with 33 total pressures, according to PFF.

With a 2.3 rating in run defense, Hughes has not been a one-trick pony. He has been on the field for 142 plays in run defense this season, so the team has not shown that they feel he is a liability against the run. Through eight weeks, Hughes has been credited with nine defensive stops.

PFF has graded Hughes negatively in penalties (-1.6) and pass coverage (-1.6). Hughes has been called for four penalties in eight games, although two were declined or offsetting. In terms of pass coverage, Hughes’ -1.6 is a bit misleading. He had been faring well until the Bills played the Saints on Sunday, when he picked up a -2.3 rating. He has given up seven receptions on nine targets thus far this season.

All things considered, Hughes has been a great acquisition for the Bills.

See page 2 for a look at four Bills who have struggled this season.

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Tags: C.J. Spiller, Cordy Glenn, Jerry Hughes, Jim Leonhard, Justin Rogers, Kyle Williams, Making the Grade, Marcell Dareus, Midseason, Midseason Review, Scott Chandler

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