Your 2010 Buffalo Bills Preview: Linebacker edition


The deal

Honestly, you could make the case that after the quarterbacks, the linebacking core may be the weakest depth chart for the team. You have guys that are either switching positions from defensive end to linebacker or you have guys that are injury prone. If you think nose tackle was the biggest question mark for the Bills transformation to a 3-4 defense, you must have not taken a glance at the Bills linebacker depth chart.

NFL coaches who institute the 3-4 defense always speak about the importance of having a lot of talent at the linebacker spot. Think of the linebackers that the Steelers have had over the last 15 years, guys like Joey Porter, Kevin Greene, Chad Brown, Greg Llyod and LaMarr Woodley were all-pros that a defense could build around. As for the Bills, they just don’t seem to have those type of linebackers on the roster.

The basis of what you want your linebackers to accomplish in a 3-4 defense goes like this:

The linebacker unit is made up of two inside linebackers flanked by two outside linebackers (OLBs). The OLBs often line up closer to the line of scrimmage than the ILBs, while being lined up next to the defensive ends and may also be positioned at the same depth or deeper in coverage than the ILBs.

Strengths of the 3-4 include speedy ILBs and OLBs in pursuit of backs in run defense and flexibility to use multiple rushers to confuse the quarterback during passing plays without being forced into man-to-man defense on receivers.

The 3-4 linebackers must be very athletic and strong enough to shed blocks by fullbacks, tight ends, and offensive linemen to get to the running back. In most cases, 3-4 OLBs lead their teams in quarterback sacks. (Wikipedia)

Got that?

The Players
Chris Kelsay-Outside Linebacker (Starter)
Last year: 5 sacks and 83 tackles

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not a fan of Chris Kelsay. Yes, he’s a leader, but for a guy pocketing 5-6 million dollars a year, I’d have liked to see more of an impact. Sorry, but the high-motor compliment that seems to resonate on some of the members of the Bills front seven is whithering away with this writer. Kelsay’s 22 career sacks didn’t do much for me when he was the starting defensive end and now that he’s making the transition to outside linebacker, I’m even more concerned about his production. Frankly, If I were the Bills, I would have cut Kelsay for a few reasons: 1) He’s entering the last year of his contract. 2) He’s over 30 years old. 3) He’s learning a new position.

I’m not sure how the Bills plan on using Kelsay, but if they just ask him to rush the passer, then the experiment of transitioning to an outside linebacker won’t be that big of a change for him. However, if Kelsay is asked to drop back into coverage and has to cover running backs or tight ends, then this is going to be a disaster. Frankly, even when Kelsay is just rushing the passer, I’m still not floored by his skills. He’s just not quick enough to make it around the corner to be a constant pass rusher.

Reggie Torbor-Outside Linebacker (Starter)
Last year: 1 sack and 46 tackles

Who??? Yes, that’s what I said when I found out that Torbor was starting at outside linebacker. I really don’t have much to say about the guy. He played for the Dolphins last year under linebacker coach and now current Bills defensive coordinator George Edwards, and contributed one sack and 46 tackles. The scouting reports say that Torbor is very athletic with excellent agility and closing speed. However, he’s undersized and doesn’t play well in pass coverage.

Bottom line: You want an OLB that can get to the quarterback and 6.5 sacks in six years doesn’t cut it. BTW, he only started two games last year.

Paul Poszluzny– Inside Linebacker (Starter)
Last year: 1 sack, 3 interceptions, and 134 tackles
Face facts, if Paul Poszluzny didn’t have a polish name or if he didn’t hail from the same college as Shane Conlan attended, he would be viewed as just another guy for the Bills. For a linebacking core that’s as thin as the Bills have, Poz has to be be counted on to make plays. Unfortunately, if you look at Poz’s first three years in the NFL, I don’t exactly have the confidence that he can make those plays.

Now, in fairness to Poz, some of his setbacks have been due to injuries; missing 17 games over his career. However, even when he’s healthy, he doesn’t do enough in penetrating the line of scrimmage and he seems to be a liability on passing downs. Now, Poz’s biggest contribution is that he plays well against the run, if he’s going downhill. However, when Poz has to go lateral, he just lacks the quickness that you would want in your linebacker.

If there’s one thing that Poz should look forward to with the change to a 3-4 defense, its how he’s going to have another inside linebacker playing next to him to help cover the field.

This is going to be a pivotal year for Poz, as he’s a free agent after this year. I know some Poz fans will say that he was held back in a cover 2 defense because he wasn’t called upon to blitz all that much. In a 3-4 defense, he’ll be allowed to blitz and attack the QB more. If Poz doesn’t make enough plays this year, I think you can chalk up finding a inside linebacker to the Bills offseason wish list.

Andra Davis- Inside Linebacker (Starter)
Last year: 3.5 sacks and 113 tackles
I’ll make it short and simple about Andra Davis: The guy knows how to play against the run. Of course, I haven’t watched enough Browns or Broncos games to know that, but that’s what the scouting report says about him. Davis has 3 seasons of 100 tackles or more and should make a decent one/two punch with Poz in stopping the run.

Another thing going for Davis is that he doesn’t get injured (Knocking on a huge Maplewood Tree), unlike the rest of the Bills roster. Davis hasn’t missed a game since 2006 and has only been lost for seven of a possible 128 starts. That’s pretty impressive considering that he plays one of the more physical demanding positions at inside linebacker.

Davis is a big hitter and can diagnose plays very quickly. His biggest issue is that he doesn’t play well in pass coverage (Like Poz) and is getting up there in age.

Kawika Mitchell: Inside Linebacker (Back-up)
last Year: O sacks and 37 tackles
Well, if it isn’t Mr. Twitter himself, Kawika Mitchell. The former Giants linebacker is coming back from a season ending injury. Mitchell kind of runs hot/cold with his play. He’s probably the most explosive linebacker in terms of speed, but sometimes his mind doesn’t catch up to his skills. Mitchell bites a lot on play action and he tends to take some god awful angles when pursuing ball carriers.

I also have to wonder if Mitchell’s salary and the fact that he’s coming off a major injury may make him a training camp casualty. Mitchell makes a little more then $3 million a year and is currently listed 3rd on the depth chart, which means he’s not starting (Duh). Now, it should be noted that Mitchell is probably the only inside linebacker who can play on 3rd and long situations. So, maybe I’m reading too much into the Bills looking to save money. Hell, they don’t have to pay Aaron Schobel the 8 million dollars that he was suppose to earn this year.

Frankly, I don’t understand why the Bills don’t have Mitchell play OLB. He has the speed to rush the quarterback and looks to have the build of a OLB that you would want. I’d rather see Mitchell playing outside than some dude named Torbor.

Aaron Maybin– Outside Linebacker (Back-up)
Last year: 0 sacks and 25 tackles
When it was leaked that the Bills were going to a 3-4 defense, even without hiring their head coach, my only assumption for the switch was so the team could jump start Aaron Maybin’s career. If you look at Maybin, he looks like your prototypical outside linebacker. You want your OLB to be quick off the edge and Maybin seems to possess that quality. The problem for Maybin is that he’s extremely raw. He doesn’t have a counter move to his standard bull rush tactic, and he has only started a season worth of games at the college and pro level.

The other issue going against Maybin is that he’s not particularly liked by the media or most Bills fans. Look, I get that the guy over celebrates when he makes plays and that he will probably bronze his cleats when he gets his first career sack, but can we stop with the overkill on the guy’s celebrations. Gees, thank goodness T.O. didn’t get in the endzone all that much last year or war would have been declared. It’s the nature of football these days. It’s all about celebration and that’s how it goes.

Here’s the bottom line about Maybin: When the guy came out of college, a lot of the scouts had termed him as being a project. Many experts thought that Maybin going to the Bills would be beneficial because he wouldn’t have to be hurried to start. Mainly, because he was playing behind Aaron Schobel and Chris Kelsay. A year later, everything has completely changed. Schobel has retired, the Bills aren’t running a 4-3 defense, and the team is now in desperate need of pass rushers. Even still, patience has to be the name of the game with Maybin.

Look, I’d love for Maybin to come out and get 10 sacks this year and start. However, the bottom line is that he’s learning a new position and still needs seasoning. Even if Maybin has a downer of a year, you can’t just say he’s a bust. I know the media wants to forget what the experts said about him being a project; in order for them to crap on him even more, but he’s still developing. He’s a project and we won’t get the benefits of his play until next year at least.

I’ll say this, when you see the guy rushing off the edge, I can’t help but think that there’s something there with his talent. He’s got the speed and explosiveness that you would want from your OLB. Maybin’s got the talent, however, he just needs someone to teach him how to get the most out of his physical gifts.

Chris Ellis- Outside Linebacker (Back-up)
Last year: 0 sacks and 8 tackles
Normally for my Buffalo Bills previews, I wouldn’t dive this deep into a roster position. However, the Bills outside linebacker position is so thin and so average, that all of these guys will probably get playing time in some shape or form. Hence the reason I’m going to write about Chris Ellis. The former 3rd round pick from the 2008 draft hasn’t really gotten onto the field, due in large part to injuries. However, when he’s been healthy, he hasn’t brought anything to the table.

Now, Ellis is switching positions (what else is new with the OLBs?), which seems to fit his game because he’s a bit undersized, but has a quick first step.

On a side note, I don’t understand how Torbor or Ellis can get more snaps than Maybin. These guys aren’t good and the team has absolutely no long-term investment in either of the two players. If this is what stands in Maybin’s way of getting on the field, then I’d be more inclined to just throw the kid in the lion’s den and have him learn on the fly. I’m all about baptism by fire with young players, especially if the players in front of them aren’t worth taking to church.

What I like about the linebackers?

1) The inside linebackers play well against the run.

2) Andra Davis will be a nice compliment to Poz.

3) Um, they are kind of young (Looking for anything).

What I don’t like about the linebackers?

1) They can’t cover a lick in the passing game.

2) The four starters have a combined 41.5 sacks for their careers.

3) The outside linebackers don’t seem to be threats for rushing the passer.

4) Not fast enough.

Posted in Buffalo Bills 2010 Training camp, Your 2010 Buffalo Bills Preview Stories | 1 Comment

My Bills vs Colts recap and some kick ass audio by yours truly

–Well, that was an entertaining preseason game. The Bills 1st team finally got off the snide by scoring their first preseason touchdown in two years. Yes, TWO FRICKEN YEARS!? The defense got an interception return for a touchdown and Trent Edwards actually completed a deep throw to Lee Evans. Oh, and that guy CJ Spiller, he can change direction faster than a blind man driving a car. All in all, it was a lot better effort than last week’s debacle–

–Look, before we get into the quarterbacks, I just have to say that I didn’t understand the coverage of this being “Brohm’s last stand.” First off, how the hell would you give the starting job to Brohm after playing with a bunch of 2nd and 3rd string guys? Sorry, but you needed to see what Brohm would look like with the starters. Like I wrote earlier this week, this quarterback competition has been completely flawed from the get go. It’s going to be Edwards starting against Miami, and that decision was made a looooong time ago–

–For Trent, he played OK. He finally completed a long touchdown pass to Lee Evans. It’s so funny for fans to be able to see a long bomb completed by the Bills because it reminds me of a cavemen discovering fire. Its like, “Wow, the forward pass!?” Edwards was also able to work the 10-12 yard pass patterns to Roscoe Parrish and he didn’t seem to let the pass rush affect his game this week. Hey, it’s baby steps for Edwards and for one week, his biggest antagonists (me and everyone in Buffalo) will have to give it a rest–

–As for Brohm, he played well and showed that he can make some NFL throws (He had great touch on the long completion to Chad Jackson towards the end of the first half). However, you still have to get touchdowns and that’s something that Fitzpatrick was able to get against the Redskins. You know who Brohm reminded me of? What Trent Edwards looked like two years ago. He was able to complete a bunch of passes, but he just didn’t stretch the field enough. Brohm was effecient, completing 14 of 21 passes for 125 yards. Again, though, he has to get the team in the endzone…or better yet, have him start a preseason game so we can see what he looks like against NFL starters–

–Overall, I really don’t know who the Bills are going to pick as their #2 or #3 quarterback. And frankly, I’m not sure what I would do either. I know they have a couple more weeks before they make final cuts, but if it were up to me, I’d go with Brohm over Fitzpatrick. You gotta go with the guy that has more upside. We already know what we get with Fitzpatrick and that’s a career backup. As for Levi Brown, I still don’t know what the Bills have with him and even though he has a real funny Twitter page, he’s still a 7th round rookie. Honestly, I’d just try and keep all the veterans, then try and sneak Brown onto the practice squad–

–OK, enough about the quarterbacks, let us get to the guy that really got our blood pumping tonight: CJ Spiller. The dude has some killer moves. Just hooking, jiving and changing direction on a drop of a dime. Like I’ve said all along, he’s that homerun threat for the Bills, who can take it to the house at any time. Spiller’s 31-yard touchdown run, where he avoided three would be tacklers, was just sick. He carried the ball 10 times for 54 yards and proved that he may be able to carry the load. Yes, it was only 10 carries, but Gailey didn’t try nursing his carries and gave it to him a bunch in the first half, which may prove that the coach may see Spiller as being more than just a change of pace back. Again, it’s going to be interesting to see what the Bills are going to do with the carry distribution for their running backs when Jackson and Lynch get back–

–Thought the first team defense played…eh…OK? I guess. Yes, Manning did guide the Colts to two touchdown drives and the offense was money on 3rd down, but the Bills did make some nice defensive plays. Throw in a Terrence McGee 78-yard interception return for a touchdown and some nice run stuffing plays by Kyle Williams behind the line of scrimmage and it didn’t go too bad. I still would like to see more pressure on the opposing quarterbacks, but I’m not holding my breath on that–

–Memo to Bills defensive coaches: I don’t want to see Paul Posluzny cover running backs 30-yards down the field. That’s my biggest fear for the Bills defense: How are their linebackers going to do in pass coverage? It scares me to think of Chris Kelsay and Poz covering backs and tight ends–

–2nd Memo to Bills defensive coaches: Please teach Donte Whitner how to tackle. There is just no excuse for Whitner to whiff on Addai’s 17-yard touchdown run. If Donte wants to come out and say that the 3-4 defense is going to make him into a more aggressive safety, then please, back your talk up–

–Have to say that Chad Jackson is really making a name for himself this preseason. The catch he made before the end of the first half was one for the highlight reel. Jackson had a team-high 5 receptions for 52 yards. As of now, if you are excluding James Hardy, who we haven’t seen much of, Jackson would be my pick for the Bills 4th wide receiver. I still think Hardy deserves to make this team–

–Was it just me, or didn’t the main camera for this game seem a little out of whack? Normally, when you are watching an NFL game, you don’t really see the near sideline (The one at the bottom of the TV screen), but for this broadcast, I practically saw the player’s benches and a ton of Gatorade buckets. What am I getting at? Normally, you would see the crowd, but for this broadcast, you didn’t. Something tells me that the Bills broadcast team didn’t want the fans at home to see the stadium half full–

–Thought Kyle Williams played a great game. He sniffed out a screen pass on the first drive and he buried Joseph Addai on a running play about 4-yards behind the line of scrimmage. If Williams can become a legit nose tackle, then this 3-4 experiment won’t be looking too bad–

–Look, this has nothing to do with the first two preseason games being nothing short of a disaster for special teams. However, I warned people after the hiring of Bruce DeHaven that you shouldn’t all of a sudden think that the Bills were going to resemble the early 90’s version of special teams supremacy. Bruce isn’t coaching Steve Tasker or Mark Pike. Plus, the Bills got rid of some of their special teams aces like Jon Corto and Justin Jenkins. I’m just saying that it is going to take time for the players to adjust to DeHaven’s coaching methods. Also, it should be noted that once Tasker started to get old, DeHaven’s special teams started to take a turn for the worse. Remember when Chris Berman use to say, “Oh, those Bills special teams!!?” He didn’t say that as a compliment, he said it because the Bills special teams of the mid to late 90’s started to go down hill. Do I even need to get into the “Music City Miracle?”–

–Ray Bentley? Gosh, how I miss the days of Gus Johnson!–

–BTW, preseason is still a complete farce. So, since the Bills got killed by the Redskins last week and most fans were ready to sell their season tickets, what is the reaction going to be after the team beat down the reigning AFC Champions? Are the Bills going to make the Super Bowl? Is Trent Edwards going to become the next Drew Brees? Again, if your attitude towards the Bills is positive or negative, don’t let preseason football influence your choice. Frankly, the way I view it, having preseason football is better than not having any football…So, enjoy it–

–Lastly, there were a lot of publications in Canada declaring the “Bills in Toronto” series to be a complete disaster. Yet, the Bills came out and scored 34 points in a pretty exciting exhibition game. Hmmm….gotta wonder if Ralph Wilson told the troops that they better be entertaining since the Rogers Group ponied up 78-million dollars for these games. Something tells me that when this agreement expires, Wilson, would be lucky to even get a tour of the CN Tower–

***Also, check out my co-hosting duties with my good friends at BSN for the show known as “BSN After Hours.” Scroll to the 3:30 mark. Let me know what you guys think!***

Watch live video from Coach Sal’s Network on Justin.tv

Posted in Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Bills 2010 Training camp | 2 Comments

Fantasy football focus: Buffalo Bills

I love fantasy football. I think it makes you more of a fan of the NFL and when your team’s game is finished, you can then focus on your fantasy team. Anybody that despises fantasy football probably hates it because they are sick of people who stroll into work and bitch about the injuries of Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson.

Anyways, I’ve been meaning to write more about fantasy sports and now is the perfect time to unveil my amazing expertise on fantasy football. In a nut shell:

1) I value running backs more so than any other position. I always try to avoid drafting running backs who are a part of a committee.

2) I think this is a great year to get value at the wide receiver position late.

3) I always try and draft a tight end in the 4th round.

4) I think QBs should be drafted in the 5th or 6th round.

Buffalo Bills:

Quarterback
Yeah, um…….whoever becomes the starting quarterback for the Buffalo Bills should NOT be on your fantasy football team. Period! In case you need a background history on the position, the Bills haven’t had a 300 yard passer since 2006, the last quarterback to throw for 20 plus touchdowns was Drew Bledsoe in 2002, and they have ranked 25th or lower in passing offense for seven straight seasons. Should I go on?

My projection: Don’t draft!!!

Running back
Fantasy owners, meet your worst nightmare: The Bills running back situation. I hate-HATE- having running back by committee guys on my fantasy team. How many times have you watched your fantasy back go from 100 yards one week, only to have his teammate get the bulk of carries the next week? I hate it! The Bills have three very capable backs in CJ Spiller, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch.

Now, it looks like Jackson and Lynch should be ready by week 2 of this season, so, I don’t really think your strategy should change for these guys. Here’s the problem with this committee, for one, I couldn’t tell you who will get goal lines for the Bills. Spiller doesn’t seem like the type of player that you can have just barrel into the endzone. Jackson and Lynch are kind of interchangeable in short yardage, so I can see a scenario where Gailey switches it up on every occasion. Then, you have the ball distribution question, are the Bills going to have each back get 33% of the carries? Probably not. But, I still think the 3rd guy will get carries. It’s just a situation that I would rather just avoid all together.

Now, if you want to draft one of these guys, I’d go with Spiller because he would be able to get you kickoff and punt return yardage in most leagues. Not to mention, if the Bills go down in flames this year, the Bills will give more carries to Spiller. It’s your standard situation with a rebuidling team; always looking to get your younger players more playing time. Its always about getting younger players involved when the season turns to dust. Bottom line: I wouldn’t want a Bills running back to be my starter, but as a 3rd option, that could work.

My projection: Spiller should be nothing more than your 3rd string back.

Wide Receiver
How many times have you felt like you got a steal by drafting Lee Evans as your 3rd wide receiver, only to have him crash and burn to the ground? Evans has only two 1,000 yard seasons for his career and really hasn’t come close to eclipsing his breakout 2006 campaign.

Now, I know I’ve been one to bad mouth the Bills quarterbacks as being nothing more than a choice between hell and purgatory, but if Ryan Fitzpatrick gets the job, Evans value should rise ever so slightly. Fitzpatrick is known to take more chances down the field, where as Edwards is Mr. Captain Check down. We all know that Evans’ game is all about going deep and Edwards hasn’t proven to be the type of quarterback to deliver him the ball on a rope.

Now, I’m going to tell you this: I think this is the year that Evans bounces back and can be a #3 wide receiver on your team. I’ve noticed that Evans has been going really late in yahoo drafts, but the one thing going for him is that Chan Gailey knows how to take care of his #1 wide receivers. As an NFL head coach or offensive coordinator, Gailey has had 6 different wide receivers go over the 1,000 yard mark for a season. Something tells me that through hell or high water, Evans will do better than his 44-catch performance from last season.

My projection: Evans can be had in the 12th-13th round in some mock drafts, which I think is a steal for owners.

Posted in Fantasy football | 1 Comment

Um, do we still have a QB competition?

Is it just me or weren’t we suppose to have a quarterback competition during Bills training camp? I’m sorry, but if I remember correctly, all I heard coming out of mini-camps was how impressive Brian Brohm looked for the Bills. I don’t know about you, but when I hear the words “Quarterback competition,” which is something that has been spued by Bills coaches and media members, the first thing that goes into my head is that each quarterback is going to have equal reps with the first teamers.

Of course, that hasn’t been the case during Bills training camp. The pecking order (As some in the media call it) has consisted of Trent Edwards #1, Ryan Fitzpatrick #2 and Brian Brohm #3 (with both of them switching with the 2nd teams). Can someone explain to me why Edwards should be the number 1 guy? If you were to compare the stats of Edwards and Fitzpatrick over their careers, they are pretty much dead even. Now, don’t give me Edwards vintage 2008 season, when he beat down some crappy teams like the Raiders, Rams and Seahawks. Sorry, but that’s ancient history.

Not to mention, Edwards has a couple of strikes against him for losing his job and the confidence of his teammates. Plus, Fitzpatrick is the quarterback who guided the Bills to five of their six wins in 2009.

Frankly, if I am Fitzpatrick, I’d be pretty pissed off. Hell, he’s been told it’s a competition, yet, he’s practicing with guys that might not even make the team. I may not be a football coach, but if you have a quarterback playing with lesser talent or the JV squad, then more than likely, he’s going to have a harder time to succeed. Hence, the reason why this quarterback competition seems to be flawed. Fitzpatrick or Brohm completing passes to Lee Evans sure would make them look a lot better in practice than if they were trying to get their timing down with UB wide receivers or guys named Nelson.

Again, my assumption of having a quarterback competition resides on snaps being evenly distributed. Now, some people on my Twitter page have pointed out to me that this isn’t a open competition, but rather a pecking order. Huh? What the hell does that mean? I have even had people tell me that it’s not a open competition, but a regular competition. Oh, well that makes total sense! I guess an open competition means that Al Bundy can walk on the football field and gets an opportunity because he played quarterback at Polk High.

Look, I’m not the only one here who thought this was going to be a legit quarterback competition. Hell, The Buffalo News ran interviews with each of the three quarterbacks on the opening day of training camp. I’m sure if this wasn’t an actual competition, those interviews would have been dwindled down to just one.

Now, let me tell you one thing: I don’t care who wins the starting job. I think all three quarterbacks are mediocre and more than likely, one or three of them will eventually lose their starting jobs this season. However, the latest news is that Gailey is saying that the competition is still on, which made me wonder if this whole thing has been fair? Like I said earlier, it hasn’t been. Hell, when Gailey said the competition was still on, I had totally forgetten that we were still having a QB derby.

How the hell can you justify giving the job to Brohm or Fitzpatrick, if neither has taken a snap with the first team? I remember during Dick Jauron’s first year, Kelly Holcomb and JP Losman were battling for the starting job (There’s a real QB controversy-ugh) and Holcomb started the first preseason game and pretty much bombed out, which left the door open for Losman to come in and take the starting job.

To me, that’s how it should be settled, on an even playing field.

In all honesty, I think this whole quarterback competition was a fraud to begin with for two reasons:

1) I’m sure we all know that the Bills selling/marketing points this offseason have been about playing “tough football” (Gailey’s voice) and having intense training camps. This is music to fan’s ears because it’s completely different than what Dick Jauron use to preach. Of course, having a open quarterback competition would only feed into the that mentality of “tough football.” Plus, fans wouldn’t have to stomach the inevitable of Edwards starting until the announcement was made in August, instead of May. Hey, buying season tickets might sound a lot better if you heard that the Bills were having a open competition, rather than just giving the ball to Edwards.

2) I was listening to Jerry Sullivan’s appearance for WGR on Monday and he offered a very revealing comment about Ralph Wilson’s thoughts on Trent Edwards. Sully said that during Edwards rookie year- when JP Losman was still the quarterback, Ralph Wilson told him that Edwards was going to be a star player and actually walked up to Trent to tell him that. Hmmm….sounds like someone in the Bills front office really wanted Edwards to succeed.

Bottom line: Sure, Edwards deserves a shot at the starting quarterback job, but it shouldn’t be handed over to him on a silver platter. By having the other quarterbacks sit out preseason games and complete passes to 4th stringers, it will only help Edwards to succeed. Fitzpatrick and Brohm have every right to win the starting job. If this was legit competition, then Brohm or Fitzpatrick should be starting this Thursday against the Colts. Edwards had his chance and sucked complete ass against the Redskins. It’s only fair to see what the other guys can do. Of course, it’s all about smoke and mirrors for the Bills.
Posted in Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Bills 2010 Training camp | Leave a comment

Your 2010 Buffalo Bills Preview: Defensive line

The Deal
When the Bills announced that they were going to a 3-4 defense, I wasn’t exactly enamored with the idea. Most experts believed that the Bills didn’t have the personnel to make such a drastic change, especially at nose tackle. Frankly, I totally agreed with the experts because Kyle Williams doesn’t seem to have the size to play as a legit nose tackle or “the fat guy” in the middle of the defense.

The nose tackle is the most important and most physically demanding position in a 3-4 defense. In other words, Kyle Williams better get a lot of ice after games. Now, before you all write me something stupid like “Jeff Wright was a small nose tackle in the Bills 3-4 defense of the 90’s,” I would suggest that you just save it. Sure, Wright was small, but he didn’t have to battle double teams constantly because he had arguably the best defensive lineman to ever play this game lining up right next to him. Sorry, but Marcus Stroud and Dwan Edwards aren’t up to that par.

I’m also not a fan of having 4-5 players on the front seven learn a new position; especially if those players are in their 30’s. Plus, in order to have a legit 3-man front, you would want size to be their biggest attribute, because they are going to be facing more double teams than in a four man front. I just feel that the Bills aren’t really that big up front, especially at nose tackle.

Now, the Bills coaching staff did come out and say that they were going to have different looks, mainly a 4-3 look at times. However, I still think the Bills just don’t have the players yet to run an effective 3-4 scheme and frankly, even if they were still in a 4-3 defense, I wouldn’t have that much confidence in the defensive line. Don’t get me wrong, I think the trio of Dwan Edwards, Kyle Williams and Marcus Stroud are decent role players, but they are not game changers.

The Players

Marcus Stroud– Defensive end (Starter)
Last Year: 2.0 sacks and 56 tackles
You have to give it up to Marcus Stroud for not falling into the trap that Albert Haynesworth had fallen into. Yes, he’s one of the more higher paid players on the team, but when asked to make the switch from a defensive tackle to a defensive end, Stroud didn’t complain and even shed weight to make the transition. Even though Stroud is taking the right steps forward in trying to fit in, the question is whether he can actually be an effective defensive end.

The pros going for Stroud is that his game is all about power and pushing offensive lineman off the ball. Those are two things that you need from your defensive ends to make a 3 down line work. You also want your defensive ends to control the run gaps, and since Stroud has made his money off being able to stop the run, he shouldn’t have that big of a problem in continuing that trend.

However, two things going against Stroud is that he’s getting older and may not be quick enough to make the transition to a defensive end. I would think that you would want your defensive ends to be able to get off the ball with quickness (Think Bruce Smith), and I just don’t see Stroud having that first step to get around the guard or tackle on pass situations. Plus, Stroud is coming off a not so-Stroud like year. He just didn’t seem to have the burst from his previous seasons, not to mention, the Bills front seven was a disaster against the run, and you can only look at your high priced players as a reason for the criticism.

Overall, I think this is going to be a very pivotal year for Marcus. He’s 32-years old and is only a year removed from signing a 2-year, 16.5 million dollar contract extension. Of course, that contract was signed under a different regime and Stroud was playing in a 4-3 scheme. If Stroud struggles at defensive end this year and then you factor in his contract numbers, I think there’s a possibility that he’s not going to make it to year four with the club.

Kyle Williams- Nose tackle (Starter)

Last Year: 4 sacks and 66 tackles
Look, I like Kyle Williams. He was one of the few bright spots for the Bills front seven last year. He’s a blue-collar type of player that plays hard on every down and is actually one of the few draft picks that made sense for Marv Levy. The Bills were smart in giving Williams a 3-year contract extension in 2008, which averaged less than $5-million per year.

With all that being said, I still think the Bills should have traded Williams in the offseason. Like I wrote earlier, most experts felt that Williams was too small to play a legit nose tackle. I just felt that if the Bills were going to overhaul their defensive scheme, they should have done the same with their personnel. Enough of this “Fit a square peg in a round hole” rhetoric that the franchise has used in recent years (Exhibit A: The position swaps of the offensive line from last year).

Well, the Bills didn’t see it my way and decided that keeping Williams was the way to go. The biggest problem for Williams is that even at 300 plus pounds, his game isn’t built around his power, which is something you want out of your nose tackle. KW’s technique is mostly geared around speed and for him to handle the constant double teams, he’s going to need more power than speed. Williams succeeding is key for the Bills to make the transition to a 3-4 work.

Dwan Edwards- Defensive end (Starter)

Last year: 1 sack and 47 tackles
Edwards was the big free agent pick-up for the Bills last offseason and is coming from a loaded defense in Baltimore, where he was counted on to be nothing more than a role player. Now, with the money the Bills have given Edwards, he needs to be more than just another guy.

Edwards is considered to be a high-motored player, who plays well against the run. Again, the Bills seem to have a surplus of lineman that can play well against the run, which is good of course. However, he’s not the type of player that is going to get 10 sacks a year and bring constant pressure on the quarterback. Of the three starters on the defensive line, Edwards seems to be the player that is going to be rotated the most of the lineman.

Spencer Johnson- Defensive end (Back-up)

Last year: 2 sacks and 43 tackles
With the change to a 3-4 defense, Spencer Johnson now moves from defensive tackle to defensive end. Johnson is entering his third year with the Bills and has mostly played on passing downs. Look for that trend to stay the same. Johnson is a high-motored guy, who never seems to give up on a play. Of course, his problem is that he’s a bit undersized and speed isn’t exactly his forte.
Alex Carrington- Defensive end (Back-up)
Senior year: 9 sacks and 36 tackles
Look, this isn’t meant to be a knock against Carrington, but anyone who is expecting a rookie from the 3rd round to pay big dividends for the Bills this season, must be reading too many Mel Kiper books. Seriously, there are only a handful of rookies that make a legit impact during their first year and defensive lineman from the 3rd round are hardly on that list.

As for Carrington himself, a lot of draft experts felt that he was the steal of the Bills draft. He definitely seems like the heir apparent to someone like Stroud, who is on the wrong side of 30. Carrington’s biggest strength is his pass rushing ability, which is something the Bills desperately lack. Look for him to be another situational player that gets playing time on passing downs. The biggest question mark involving Carrington is that he played at a small college and the competition obviously wasn’t up to par because of that.

Torrell Troup- Nose tackle (Back-up)

Senior year: 2 sacks and 32 tackles
Troup will probably get more playing time than Carrington because of his draft status and because he’s more of a fit at nose tackle than Kyle Williams. The 2nd round pick out of Central Florida has impressive size and strength. Actually, Troup weighs almost the same amount as Williams, except he’s more even proportion with his weight distribution (I have no clue what that means)

Troup can hold his ground against multiple blockers and is a very physical player, who has an excellent bull rush. From that description, he’s the type of player you want to play at nose tackle. The one thing going against Troup is that he’s coming from another small school and putting on weight has been an issue for him in years past. Troup isn’t going to wow you with his play making abilities, but he is a space eater that the Bills desperately need.

John McCargo- Who the hell knows
0 sacks and 11 tackles

Do I really need to talk about McCargo? Here’s the same guy that the Bills traded up to pick in the first round and he can’t hardly get on the field. The same guy that was traded once before, but failed his physical and was returned to the Bills. Hell, I don’t even know what position he would play in a 3-4 defense. He’s too small to play nose tackle and he doesn’t seem to have the physical presence to play at end.

Frankly, I don’t even know why this guy is still on the team. Honestly, you could probably make the case that McCargo is the biggest first round bust in the last 25 years for the Bills. Yes, even bigger than Mike Williams and JP Losman. Think about it, since 1985, the Bills have drafted 25 players in the first round and 23 of them have started an NFL game for the team. Guess which two players haven’t? It’s Aaron Maybin (Who is only going into his second season) and John McCargo. Yes, McCargo still hasn’t started an NFL game. This is the same guy that couldn’t even start in front of Larry Triplett for god sakes.
Anyways, I think it would behove the Bills to just bench this guy and let the other young players (Carrington and Troup) get as much playing time as possible. Plus, he’s a free agent at the end of the year and I doubt the Bills would resign him.

What to like about the defensive line
1) The Bills have a nice mix of youth and experience.

2) The starters all play well against the run.

3) They can definitely pull off a nice 6-7 man rotation; keeping their lineman fresh and giving the defense different looks.

4) The Bills should be better against the run.


What to NOT like about the defensive line
1) Marcus Stroud has the most sacks by anyone on the defensive line for a season (6.5 sacks in 2002). Not a good number.

2) Besides Carrington, none of the players are known to be pass rushers.

3) All three starters are playing in a 3-4 defense for the first time in their careers.

4) The defensive line lacks an impact player.

Overall
I think the Bills line would work so much better if they had that one guy that offenses had to game plan around. I’m talking someone like Joey Porter in his prime. They have a nice group of role guys, but they just don’t seem like the type of players that are going to put the fear of god into offensive coordinators. They just need another all-pro to make this front seven work. I’ll say this though, I do feel that the defensive line are much more talented than the linebacking core.

Another thing that I am worried about is that the defense is switching over to 3-4 scheme. That transformation takes time. I remember when Gregg Williams came to Buffalo and he decided to overhaul the Bills 3-4 for the “46” defense and it took the Bills two seasons to reap in the benefits of it. BTW, the defense that Williams had from 2001-2002 was just so deplorable against the run and the pass. The defense that Williams had inherited was ranked 4th in the NFL in 2000 and it bottomed out to 29th in points allowed the following year.

I think the defensive line will be much better at stopping the run than in years past, mainly, because it is the 3-4’s speciality. However, I think the line will struggle at getting constant pressure on the quarterbacks. I’m talking, we would be lucky to have a defensive lineman get more than seven sacks this year.

Bottom line: I’m not looking for the defense to set records, but I’d like to see progress from the younger players. I’d like to see Carrington and Troup show signs that they can play at an NFL level; considering that they are the future of the Bills defensive line. Of course, they are rookies and that may be too much to ask for.
Posted in Buffalo Bills, Your 2010 Buffalo Bills Preview Stories | 5 Comments

Quick Hits on the Bills vs Redskins + Audio from yours truly

-Well, I liked the first drive by the Bills. If it wasn’t for a holding penalty, the Bills would have probably scored a touchdown. Its too bad the Bills didn’t just bench their starters after the first drive, because fans would have probably felt better about the team. I also thought the offensive line played better than what I expected, especially if consider the team played without both their starting tackles-

-Six first downs in the first half by the Bills and four of them coming on the first drive. Not good-

-Read On Twitter that Chan Gailey said that besides Edwards interception, he was impressed with his first half performance. Um, Chan, your team was down by 18 points and your starting QB couldn’t move the ball against the 2nd team-

-Look, I know fans hate and despise Aaron Maybin, but that was a very questionable call against him for roughing the passer. Very borderline if you ask me. Bottom line: Any mistake that Maybin makes is going to be multiplied by 20 from Bills fans. The guy just isn’t popular. Hey, at least he got a sack against the 3rd string tackle.

-Can anyone explain to me how Joe Theismann was employed by ESPN for almost 20 years? Awful!-

– I wonder if Chan Gailey gave a crate of champagne to Mike Shanahan prior to the game for NOT taking the Bills job? It’s funny, because if it wasn’t for the 10 or so coaches that turned down the Bills job, Gailey would have probably been coaching in the UFL-

-WTF is going on with these injuries? I thought the Bills hired the Body by Jake Trainers or Richard Simmons to make sure we didn’t have to go through this again. Maybe its just blind luck, folks-

-I know most Spiller fans will think that if Jackson and Lynch are out for an extended period of time, it would mean that Spiller would get even more touches. Sorry, but be careful for what you wish for. Spiller isn’t a workhouse type of back. He’s not OJ Simpson and I don’t think he can handle touching the ball 20-25 times a game. The Bills need to get one of those two players back in the line-up as quickly as possible.

-Now, repeat after me: Preseason football is a complete scam!! Whether you think the Bills are going to be terrible or great this year, don’t let the preseason affect your opinion. It’s a fraud-

-Frankly, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’m impressed with Chad Simpson for running for a long touchdown against 3rd teamers, who will be bagging groceries in the fall-

-Look, Chan Gailey and the media can talk all they want about having the most intense practice sessions since the Romans slayed lions in the Coliseum before the actual events. However, this is pretty much the same squad we had last year and you just can’t make chicken soup out of chicken sh$#. BTW, I didn’t need to watch the 1st preseason game to know that-

-Also, if you haven’t read my Bills post game notes going back to last year, I assure you, they are much more detailed than what you have just read. It’s just…It’s preseason and I just don’t care-

BTW: I did I live post game show after the Bills/Redskins game on BSN Live on Justin.tv. Check it out and let me know what you think. Also, be sure to check out BSN Live on Justin.TV, the link is below the screen.

Watch live video from BSN LIVE on Justin.tv

Posted in Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Bills 2010 Training camp | 3 Comments

Should the Bills cut James Hardy?

I’ve been reading a lot of posts online about people wanting to see the Bills cut James Hardy. I understand the pros for the team to cut the 3rd year wide receiver.

1) He sucks.

2) Buddy Nix didn’t draft the player, so he owes him nothing.

3) Let other players get reps.

However, and I’ve said this before, just because the GM didn’t draft the player, doesn’t mean you can just toss him in the waste paper basket. Its a team investment and frankly, as bad as Hardy has been, his biggest issue is staying healthy and getting on the field. This isn’t a Todd Collins situation where the guy had his chance and just blew it during his first year of starting. Hardy has had two serious surgeries in the last 18 months and deserves time to get healthy.

Plus, we all know that the transition from the college to the pro game is extremely difficult for a wide receiver. It has been proven that it can take anywhere from 3-4 years for a wideout to find his stride. Hardy deserves that chance to figure out what he can do for the Bills. Also, it’s not like the Bills are extremely deep at the wide receiver position. If they had a legit number 2 and 3 receiver, then I could understand the thought of cutting Hardy. However, to say that Stevie Johnson and Roscoe Parrish are head and shoulders above Hardy, is a little extreme.

Not to mention, what’s the point of cutting him? Are you sending a message to the public and team that the team is serious about contending? Sorry, but that transaction wouldn’t make me get on my soapbox and declare a changing of the guard. I’d understand if the Bills got rid of Marshawn Lynch because they were sick of his off the field distractions and they wanted to show the public that they were going to take off the field distractions seriously (Actually, let me clarify, I wouldn’t care if he was still on the team, but most fans would).

Bottom line: Until the Bills find a legit number 2 or 3 wide receiver, James Hardy should still be on this team. Now, if he still stinks by next year, then I’d be open to cutting him. You just don’t throw away 2nd round picks after two years.
Posted in Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Bills 2010 Training camp | 4 Comments