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A Talented Buffalo Bills Secondary Faces a Stiff Challenge in New England

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A Talented Buffalo Bills Secondary Faces a Stiff Challenge in New England
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

With all of the focus being on the addition of Terrell Owens to Buffalo's passing game, the depth in the Bills' secondary is easily overlooked.  They will need all the help they can get this season when they face the high flying attack of the Patriots.

Nobody seemed to notice the smart pickups New England made this off-season when they flew under the radar for guys like Joey Galloway, Fred Taylor, and Greg Lewis.  The Patriots also bolstered the tight end position with Chris Baker and Alex Smith.

Sure the names Fred Taylor and Joey Galloway won't jump out at you like they once would, but these are the types of players that go to New England at the end of their careers and flourish.

Playing with a quarterback like Tom Brady makes these types of players look like they have found the answer to time travel.  A veteran like Galloway can tack years onto his career just by putting on the Patriots' silver and navy blue.

In 2008 Galloway was bitten by the injury bug.  It was the first year since 2005 that Galloway didn't record at least 1,000 yards receiving and at least 6 touchdowns.  If healthy, Galloway should be able to return to form even at the age of 37.

Players like Chris Baker and Alex Smith might not make you jump for joy by themselves, but when teamed with what New England already brings to the table they should be able to make a nice contribution to the air attack.

Teams already have to worry about the threat of Randy Moss speeding down the  sideline like a gazelle, and Wes Welker threatening to turn a short pass into a big gain.  Now add Galloway, Lewis, and the new toys at tight end.  New England should be even scarier to defend in 2009.

If Bill Belichick decides to run the ball this year Fred Taylor will help an already steady group of runners that features the always tough combo of Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris.  Former high draft pick Laurence Maroney saw his role diminish last season, but still has a lot of talent to offer.

Luckily the Buffalo Bills have a strong core of defensive backs that hope to at least contain the assault that will without a doubt be launched on them twice this year, with the first meeting being featured as the premier of Monday Night Football in 2009.

Here is a look at the heart of the Buffalo secondary in 2009:


Terrence McGee

Entering his contract year and his prime, Terrence McGee is the unquestioned number one cornerback on the Bills' depth chart.

McGee brings excellent cover skills as well as the ability to take the ball away from the opposing offense.  Along with his ability to cover McGee has a willingness to tackle running backs, and has finished with under 60 tackles only once in his six year career.

McGee is not an elite talent when it comes to causing turnovers, but he has forced 7 interceptions over the last two years.  A strong point in McGee's game is that he never allows the receiver many yards after the catch.  This is critical against Randy Moss and Wes Welker.

The only knock on McGee's game is his short stature, but this can be said for a lot of cornerbacks in the league.  Standing only 5'9 he isn't able to compete for jump balls with a player like Randy Moss.


Donte Whitner

Whitner was selected by Buffalo with the 8th overall pick in the 2006 draft.  This pick came as a shock to most fans who thought that a defensive tackle should have been the pick.

Since being selected Whitner has been one of the leaders of a young team in Buffalo.  Whitner can constantly be seen egging the crowd on at home games trying to get everyone fired up.  Whitner is a fierce competitor with a passion for the game. 

His strongest abilities come in run support, but Whitner has been able to keep most receivers from getting behind him at safety. 

Whitner hasn't been able to produce many interceptions for a top ten pick, but a lot of that can be attributed to Buffalo's weak run defense since his stay in Western New York.

The Bills use Whitner more like a linebacker at times due to his strong hitting and sure tackling.  After a more successful year in stopping the run that featured newcomer Marcus Stroud, expect to see Whitner have more chances to get the ball back for his offense.


Leodis McKelvin

McKelvin's biggest impact was felt in the return game, but a strong second half of the season at corner back has Bills fans excited for what's in store in 2009.

After a slow start to his rookie season McKelvin was forced into the starting role due to an injury depleted secondary.  There were mixed reviews at first, but the 2008 first round pick broke out with two interceptions against the Chiefs returning one 64 yards for a touchdown.

Leodis brings everything you would want out of a corner at the NFL level.  He has the athleticism to match up with most receivers in the league, and a knack for the ball.  He started in only six games in 2009, but his improvement on the field is unquestioned.

By the end of his first NFL season McKelvin made Bills fans confident that he is the future of a talented young secondary.  It should be an entertaining battle with two great athletes like McKelvin and Moss battling for the ball twice a year.


Reggie Corner

With the departure of Jabari Greer to New Orleans and Leodis McKelvin's emergence, Reggie Corner steps into the nickle back role.

Reggie Corner will have the unenviable task of covering the slot receivers in a stacked New England arsenal.  Wes Welker's talents become maximized when he is put in the slot.  Not many nickle corners can cover a guy with the speed and elusiveness that Welker provides.

The fourth round pick in 2008 didn't see the field much until very late in the season when injuries to Jabari Greer and Ashton Youboty forced Corner and McKelvin into action. 

The highlight of Corner's young career came against the Denver Broncos in week 16 when he had four pass breakups including one against Brandon Stokely in the end zone that forced a game saving interception into the arms of Terrence McGee.

So far in mini camps Corner has been the Bills most impressive defensive back making plays day after day.  He is causing turnovers almost everyday, and could be a diamond in the rough for Buffalo.


Ashton Youboty

After falling to Buffalo in the third round of the 2006 draft Bills fans had high hopes for the former Ohio State Buckeye corner. 

Youboty was a disappointment his first two years, but in the early stages of the 2008 season he showed why he was so highly thought of coming out of college.  Youboty was consistently making big tackles on third downs, and was all over the field.

Youboty's strong start came to an end when he was put on injured reserve with a foot injury. 

His return is not expected to the practice field until training camp.  The long lay off will undoubtedly have some effect on the momentum he was starting to build, but the question is how much?


Jairus Byrd

The writing is on the wall for Ko Simpson after the Bills selected Byrd in the second round of the draft.  

Simpson's strong rookie season was followed up by lack of production, injuries, and off the field issues.

Seeking a ball hawk for their Cover 2 defense, the Bills decided that Byrd would be the perfect fit to play at the free safety spot.  The former Oregon Duck finished his career second in school history with 17 interceptions.

He brings a much needed nose for the ball to a defense that struggles to cause turnovers. If the Cover 2 doesn't cause turnovers it doesn't produce many wins.

Byrd will have a tough challenge ahead of him if he is to claim the starter's role in his rookie season.  Due to Oregon's final exams being later than some other schools Byrd has missed all of the mini camps currently being run by the Bills.

If Byrd can catch up quickly on everything he has missed he could become a key component to an already deep secondary.


Key Backups

Bryan Scott spells Donte Whitner at the strong safety spot, and has done a nice job since joining the Bills in 2007.  He is very good in run support, and hasn't been beaten for many big plays.

George Wilson is a converted wide receiver that has made a home at free safety.  Wilson had a career game against the Cowboys on Monday Night Football in 2007.  In his first career start at safety Wilson returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown, and recorded six tackles.

The Bills have a nice mixture of experience and youth.  Terrence McGee and Donte Whitner provide leadership as well as consistency and steady play.  McKelvin, Corner, and Byrd should provide turnovers and a youthful excitement to an athletic and talented stable of defensive backs.

There will be a battle through the air when Tom Brady and the Patriots dangerous receving corps break the huddle to face a Bills secondary loaded with potential.

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