The Buffalo Bills
Camp Opens: Today
Last Season: 6-10 vs AFC East: 3-3 vs AFC: 5-7
Passing: Manuel 1972 yds
Rushing: Spiller 933 yds
Receiving: Chandler 655 yds
Sun, Aug 3rd away Giants 8pm
Fri, Aug 8th away Panthers 7:30pm
Sat, Aug 16th away Steelers 7:30pm
Sat, Aug 23rd home Bucs 4:30pm
Thu, Aug 28th home Lions 7pm
Defensive Line: Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus are as good as there is in the league. The Bills accumulated 57 sacks, and without question the majority of the pressure was from this group. Manny Lawson is an interesting complement. With all the money invested in this group, the rest of the depth – Jarius Wynn, Alan Branch, Corbin Bryant and Jerry Hughes – is not at the level of the starters.
This DL should be good again at getting to the passer; they suffered last year at stopping the run. Former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s schemes did not give the linemen much support from the LBs. New coordinator Jim Schwartz should address that.
Running Back: C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Bryce Brown are a good group of running backs. Jackson is the workhorse of the group, with Spiller the breakout runner. The Bills may be ready to move on from Spiller; as a result, I doubt he remains a focal point of the offense. Brown will complement Jackson nicely, and this unit should have a good year.
Cornerbacks: This group, as well as the DL, will benefit from the added importance Schwartz will place on the LBs. The Bills’ corners play for the takeaway, and have done it with success. Stephen Gilmore is a star in the making. The supporting cast is Leodis McKelvin, Corey Graham, Nickel Robey and Ross Cockrell.
Linebackers: Outside of the emergence of rookie Kiko Alonso, this group was very weak. The bills have added Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers, and they will play with returning Nigel Bradham and newcomers Preston Brown, Ty Powell and Randal Johnson.
How well this defense performs this year will depend on how much this group improves, and with the loss of Alonso that task is much harder.
Offensive Line: Much like the LBs, the offensive linemen are a work in progress. The talent is there, but can it jell in time for the season? Cordy Glenn, Eric Wood, Chris Williams and Kraig Urbik are the projected starters along with rookie Cyrus Kouandjio. The hope is that Cyril Richardson starts, while the depth is made up of Seantrel Henderson (rookie), Doug Legursky and Chris Hairston. Much of the improvement required by second year QB Manuel will depend on this unit. It may too much to ask too quickly, but eventually the talent level will prevail.
Wide Receivers: On draft day the Bills made a huge splash by trading away this year and next year’s #1 pick to the Cleveland Browns in order to acquire talented Sammy Watkins. Sammy will have a lot of pressure to deliver; his cost was extremely high for a team that is rebuilding. Mike Williams and Robert Woods will play alongside Watkins. Williams is a nice addition, but does he have enough left? Gone is big mouth narcissist Stevie Johnson, and that may be a good thing for this group as it develops together with quarterback E.J. Manuel. The supporting cast: TJ Graham, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Hogan and Marcus Easley. If E.J. is healthy, this group can have a good year.
Tight End: Scott Chandler is a top notch TE, but the rest of the group needs to step it up in a big way. Lee Smith, Tony Moeaki and Chris Gregg do not keep defensive coordinators up at night. This group will do well if E.J. has matured; otherwise it will be Chandler again, with the rest going unnoticed.
The Bills signed much-traveled Dan Carpenter; he had a solid year and has been retained. Punter Brian Moorman is in jeopardy of losing his starting job at camp.
Question Marks / Weaknesses
Safety: As much as most fans will love to downplay the loss of Jairus Byrd, it left a big gap. Aaron Williams, Da’Norris Searcy, Jonathan Meeks and Duke Williams will have a lot of work to make up for Byrd.
Quarterback: A year ago the Bills selected E.J. Manuel in the first round. I am sure that at this point they had hoped that the position was solidified and only thing left would be to wait for E.J. to mature. Not the case; Manuel was an injury machine last season. He was injured during the off-season, pre-season and season. Scrubs like Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel were forced into action. If that is the case again this season, the results will be similar to last years’. Manuel has the tools to become a good NFL QB, but if he remains injury prone, the Bills will move on from him.
Depth Chart from ProFootballFocus.com