5 Buffalo Bills Poised for a Breakout Season
Each NFL season, fans get excited about their teams' chances, unless their team has no franchise quarterback and is drafting too low to get one.
However, this year in Buffalo brings excitement perhaps like no other in recent history, especially since 2000. With recent influxes on the defensive side of the ball and key re-signings on offense, the Bills are primed for success.
How can they take the next step and go after a division crown that could be theirs for the taking? They need players step up and make an impact.
Due to the team's already-present ability and the new dynamics in place, here are five guys that should have a breakout season this year.
DT Marcell Dareus
Of the upgrades to the defensive line, Marcell Dareus stands to benefit the most. He is simply too strong and too explosive to be held back.
Now that the Bills have Mario Williams drawing double-teams and Kyle Williams as well, it is going to be hard for teams to keep enough guys in to block Dareus.
If teams elect to double Dareus instead of Mario Williams, who could line up next to him, good luck to the quarterbacks.
Since it will probably be easier for teams to help their blockers seal off Mario Williams or Mark Anderson on the outside, we should see a lot of quarterbacks trying to step up into the pocket to buy some time.
This is a recipe for disaster.
Dareus led the Bills in sacks as a rookie with 5.5. Expect those numbers to increase and for Dareus to start being mentioned as one of the top defensive tackles in the league.
FS Jairus Byrd
You could argue that Jairus Byrd already has had a breakout season, since he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie with nine interceptions. However, since then, Byrd has only been able to haul in four over the past two seasons.
Byrd is unquestionably, and perhaps fittingly, a ball hawk. He also makes a large amount of tackles for a free safety.
That is not a good sign though, as a free safety is usually thought of as a last line of defense between a player finding the end zone. Byrd had 98 tackles last season with 75 being solo. As painful as that sounds, Byrd stands to benefit from Buffalo's offseason rush to put more pressure on passers.
Rolling back the footage of Byrd's interception frenzy of 2009, you see a lot of his picks came on plays where the receiver and quarterback were off in their timing or the quarterback was under duress. These types of plays should happen more frequently with the improved Bills pass rush.
Should Byrd stay healthy, expect at least five interceptions this season.
WR Marcus Easley
For the past two seasons, Bills fans have been waiting patiently to see what this big, speedy receiver can do. Unfortunately, due to various circumstances, Marcus Easley has had a difficult time getting on the field.
Something just tells me that Easley could be a pleasant surprise this year, as he will be able to finally get on the field and could put up some pretty good numbers next to Steve Johnson.
This is the year Easley could make a difference in the Bills passing game.
ILB Kelvin Sheppard
Having such a strong defensive front, the Bills linebackers (an area of concern) could benefit as well.
In past years, guys like Paul Posluszny had to fight to make tackles five to eight yards downfield after the line was getting driven down the field.
With the line's new ability to get a push and win battles, expect Kelvin Sheppard to be free to do what he does best: pick off ball-carriers. Nick Barnett, Kirk Morrison and Sheppard should all look a lot better this season and should end up with higher tackle numbers.
Expect games like his 14-tackle effort against San Diego last season to become more of the norm.
LT Chris Hairston
Chris Hairston allowed five sacks last season, and what's worse is that he did that in less than 16 games. This is a stat that stands out to Buffalo fans.
But something they should remember is that Demetrius Bell has allowed more sacks in a season than Hairston did last year. In fact, Bell let up five sacks in only eight games during his first season in the league.
Hairston has talent and was also one of the strongest tackles coming into the league last year. This year can be a special one for him.
(Just as a side note, offensive line stud Jake Long let up 5.5 sacks in only 14 games last year.)