Bills vs. Dolphins: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Buffalo
The Buffalo Bills want to make sure their fans get their money's worth this season, as all seven games thus far in 2013 have gone down to the wire.
Their Week 7 matchup against the Miami Dolphins was no different, as the Bills kicked the game-winning field goal in the final minute and had to stop a Hail Mary attempt as time expired in order to secure the victory.
Even though they got the win, the Buffalo Bills were far from perfect and have a number of areas they could improve. Here are the report card grades for each Bills' player from the game against Miami.
Thad Lewis: B+
With another week of practice, Thad Lewis looked much more comfortable in the Bills' offense than he did against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 6. He completed 66 percent of his passes for 202 yards and one interception, which happened because his arm was hit as he released the ball.
He didn't throw any touchdowns, but he did a great job of moving the offense against a tough defense. He completed passes to seven different receivers over the course of the game and wasn't afraid to take a hit in the pocket to complete the pass.
Over the course of these last two weeks, Lewis has shown enough talent to ensure that he will be the team's backup when EJ Manuel returns. He has a very similar style to Manuel and seems to have a strong grasp of the team's offense.
C.J. Spiller: Incomplete
It is hard to grade C.J. Spiller for his performance against Miami because he is clearly not 100 percent. It seemed that after every time he touched the ball, he was calling for the sideline to come out.
He deserves credit for going out there with the bad ankle, but it might be time to rest him for a few weeks so he can return to full health.
Fred Jackson: A-
There is a reason Fred Jackson has a "C" on his jersey, and he showed it against Miami.
Early in the first quarter, Jackson caught a screen pass, picked up the first down and hurt his knee when he was tackled out of bounds. He didn't look to be at 100 percent from that point forward, but he understood the team's running back situation and stayed in the game.
He ended up finishing with 85 yards from scrimmage and scored the Bills' only offensive touchdown.
Tashard Choice: C+
I don't understand the coaching staff's reluctance to use Choice more these past two games with Spiller and Jackson clearly hurting. When Choice has gotten the ball, he has made good productive runs in between the tackles.
He is by no means a feature back, but with the Bills' top two running backs dealing with injuries, Choice should get the ball more.
Stevie Johnson: A-
After missing the game against the Bengals, Johnson had one of his better games this year. He was the team's most consistent wide receiver and finished the game with six receptions for 61 yards.
Robert Woods: B-
It seems that since EJ Manuel went down with the knee injury, Robert Woods hasn't had the same connection with his quarterback.
In the four games before Manuel's knee injury, Woods was averaging 3.75 receptions a game. Over the last two contests, though, he has only had 2.5 receptions per game.
T.J. Graham: C+
The second-year pro finished the game with only two receptions for 36 yards. One of those catches, though, was a nice sideline grab for 30 yards which converted a 3rd-and-17.
Scott Chandler: B-
Chandler was targeted only three times but caught two of those passes for 18 yards. One of those receptions converted a 3rd-and-9 to keep the Bills' drive alive.
Lee Smith: C+
Smith only had one target against Miami. However, he caught that target and was able to turn it into an 18-yard reception.
Pass Protection: D
It seems that as the season has progressed, the offensive line has looked worse and worse.
Against the Bengals and Dolphins, Thad Lewis has not had much time to find the open wide receiver while in the pocket. The Dolphins were able to get four sacks on Lewis, and they also hit him six other times.
It is not going to get easier for this group, as they get set to face the New Orleans Saints' pass rush led by defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in Week 8.
Run Protection: D
The Bills' running backs are not at 100 percent, and the offensive line did not help this group.
As a whole, the Bills were only able to gain 90 yards on the ground. This is partly due to the team's running backs playing hurt, but it was also due to the fact that the offensive line has not been able to create running lanes for these backs.
Mario Williams: A
Once again, Mario Williams has come through when the Bills needed him the most.
The defensive end was fairly quiet for the first three quarters, but in the fourth, he looked a lot like a former Bills player who wore No. 78. He sacked Tannehill twice and forced a fumble on the second sack, which led to the Bills' game-winning field goal.
Marcell Dareus: A-
The defensive tackle has continued his strong play this year, as he posted six tackles against the Dolphins. He has been a force in the middle for Buffalo and is starting to develop into the player the front office envisioned he would become when they drafted him third overall in 2011.
Kyle Williams: B-
Kyle Williams has been playing well alongside Dareus and Mario Williams this season, and he made the play of the game with his fumble recovery in the fourth quarter.
He would have received a higher grade if he was able to pick up the fumble, though, because he would have most likely been able to score.
Alan Branch: D
Branch has done a nice job replacing Alex Carrington in the lineup to this point, but he had a quiet game against the Dolphins. He did not record a single tackle, sack or quarterback hit.
Kiko Alonso: B
The rookie middle linebacker had a fairly quiet game against Miami after his 22-tackle performance the week before against the Bengals.
He finished the game with four total tackles, include one tackle for loss. He didn't make any huge mistakes against Miami, either, and that is huge for a rookie linebacker playing in this type of defense.
Arthur Moats: B
The reserve linebacker had one of his better games this season with three solo tackles.
He continues to make plays when he gets on the field, and this should make the coaching staff feel comfortable if Moats is asked to fill in for an injured player.
Manny Lawson: C
The linebacker has seen his numbers and impact slowly decline over the past few games.
Against the Dolphins, he only had two solo tackles, but he once again failed to get much pressure on Tannehill. This is concerning since Lawson was brought in to go after the quarterback and only has one sack on the season.
Nigel Bradham: C-
Over the past two weeks, Bradham has been more involved on defense, and the team hopes this trend continues. He finished the game with two solo tackles.
Jerry Hughes: D
Hughes finished the game with one solo tackle and no sacks or quarterback hits.
Aaron Williams: A
After getting torched by Andy Dalton the previous week, the Bills secondary, as a whole, improved their play on Sunday.
Aaron Williams saw the most improvement and finished the game with six solo tackles, one pass defensed and one interception, which was in the Dolphins end zone. He would have received an "A+" if he was able to stay in the endzone for a touchback instead of being downed at the 1-yard line.
Stephon Gilmore: A-
Gilmore is still at a serious disadvantage with one hand being in a cast due to a wrist injury, but he had a solid game against the Dolphins.
He finished the game with five tackles and one pass defensed, and he didn't show as much rust as he did playing against the Bengals.
Jairus Byrd: A-
Like Gilmore, Byrd didn't show as much rust against the Dolphins as he did against the Bengals. Byrd finished with four solo tackles and looked much more comfortable in Mike Pettine's defense.
Leodis McKelvin: B-
McKelvin bounced back from his poor performance against the Bengals with a much better game against the Dolphins on Sunday.
He finished with two solo tackles, one for loss, and two passes defensed. With Gilmore back, McKelvin hasn't been asked to go up against the opposing team's best wide receiver, and this should help him moving forward.
Nickell Robey: A-
Robey didn't waste much time making the first big play of the game, as he had a pick-six early in the first quarter. The undrafted rookie made a great read to jump the pass and helped set the tone of this game.
Dan Carpenter: A+
This game had a little more meaning to Carpenter than maybe some of the other players on the Bills, as he was cut by the Dolphins before the start of the season.
He hit every single one of his attempts in this game, making three field goals and two extra points. He also made the biggest tackle of the game, when he forced Marcus Thigpen wide on the final kickoff that probably saved a touchdown.
Brian Moorman: B+
Brian Moorman made seven punts and averaged 45.4 yards per punt. He only had one punt downed inside the 20, though.