Buffalo Bills: 5 Players Who Should See Their Roles Expand in 2014
The Buffalo Bills have made a number of moves so far this offseason, including trading for Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Williams. If they hope to make the playoffs though, they will need certain players on the roster to play bigger roles.
The Bills have done a good job of drafting quality prospects over the past couple of drafts and are at a point where they need those players to contribute more in 2014. These five Bills should have larger roles this upcoming season in the team's success.
The Bills signed Stefan Charles at the end of October to replace defensive tackle Jay Ross. It took until Week 17 for Charles to get significant playing time. He stepped into the starting role for Marcell Dareus, who was benched the first half of the game.
Against the Patriots, Charles played 21 snaps and finished the game with five tackles, one sack and one forced fumble, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He was a disruptive force on the defensive line and should see more playing time in 2014.
The defensive tackle position is one of the strongest on the Buffalo Bills with Pro Bowlers Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus and reserves Alan Branch and Charles. The team can rotate these four players throughout the game, keeping them fresh as well as tiring the opposing offensive line.
Tight end Tony Moeaki was signed by Buffalo at the beginning of December but did not have enough time to get on the field last season. The former Kansas City Chief has struggled with injuries since being drafted in 2010, but if he can stay healthy, he could have a big role in this offense in 2014.
After his breakout season in 2010, when he caught 47 passes for 547 yards and three touchdowns, he suffered a torn ACL in a 2011 preseason game. He came back in 2012 and finished the year with 33 receptions for 453 yards and one touchdown.
Injuries struck again when he suffered a fractured shoulder before 2013 and was eventually waived by the Kansas City Chiefs. At only 26 years of age, he could push Scott Chandler for playing time, particularly because he is a better run-blocker, if he can stay healthy.
Marquise Goodwin was drafted in the third round last year and was one of the most explosive players on the Buffalo offense. The problem was that he would disappear for weeks at a time and was not consistently involved in the game plan.
He finished the year with 17 receptions, 283 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Unfortunately, a majority of his receptions came from deep routes and nothing else. With Goodwin's speed, Buffalo should be trying to get him the ball on more than just streak routes.
This coming season, the Bills should call more screens and end-arounds for the wide receiver. With his blazing speed, Goodwin can pick up yards in chunks quickly and run past defenders.
One of the key training camp battles to watch this year is at free safety to determine who will replace the Jairus Byrd. The race is most likely to come down to Da'Norris Searcy and last year's fourth-round pick Duke Williams.
The leading candidate at this point in the offseason is probably Searcy because he stepped in last year at the start of the season when Byrd was dealing with plantar fasciitis. Searcy played well last year between the starting role and third safety role, finishing with career highs in tackles (74), sacks (3.5) and passes defended (seven).
EJ Manuel's rookie season did not go the way he hoped, being sidelined on three separate occasions with knee injuries. He was put in a tough situation, thanks to missing a majority of training camp and valuable practice time throughout the season because of these injuries.
This coming season will hopefully be different for Manuel, who will have a full offseason to rehab his knees and be healthy in time for OTAs. The Bills hope that he can stay healthy over the 2014 season and show he can be the franchise quarterback they thought they were getting when he was drafted last year.
He showed flashes last year of being that guy, particularly with his game-winning drive against Carolina, but he was inconsistent over the year. This could be attributed to the fact that his season kept starting and stopping due to the injuries.
If he can healthy, Doug Marrone and the offensive coaching staff might open the playbook a little more because of Manuel's experience. It would not be surprising to see the team put the game more on his shoulders and put him in position to win.
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