Time to Look Ahead: Who the Buffalo Bills Should Keep for 2010

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Time to Look Ahead: Who the Buffalo Bills Should Keep for 2010
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There is no doubt about it anymore, the Buffalo Bills are one of the worst teams in the NFL.

This is a team that is going to miss out on the playoffs for the tenth straight year, which is unacceptable. So many things are wrong with this team, and the fans are starting to get impatient with all of these years of rebuilding.

Apparently the Bills have been rebuilding for the past decade but no good has come of it. They have had only one winning season as a team during this time. One. Let me just repeat it for a third time in case it is not sinking in, this team has had one winning season in ten years.

Sometimes you just want to laugh out loud at how bad this team is.

Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for the players on the team. They put themselves through hell to be able to be in top physical condition to play in the NFL, not to mention the beatings they take during the offseason, the weeks in practices and on Sundays.

Effort is not the problem here, it is talent.

The players on a whole just aren’t good enough to win.

So instead of writing about how I hate Trent Edwards, or how I have better hands than Terrell Owens or even how all the fans should boycott at halftime of the next home game, lets try to come up with something productive and look ahead to the next season to see just how far away the Bills are from finally reaching their goal of a playoff berth.

 

Quarterback

On the Current Roster: Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Gibran Hamdan

The NFL is a league that is dictated by quarterback play, and the Bills have fallen way short.

Trent Edwards isn’t the answer .  Most of Buffalo can agree on that.

Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t the answer either and I am not going to even waste much breath on Gibran Hamdan. The guy is a nice guy, but isn’t a very good football player, especially at the NFL level.

Buffalo doesn’t really have many places to turn to though. The free agent quarterback class is very weak this offseason, with Kyle Orton and Jason Campbell on the top of the list.

Say what you want about Orton’s numbers, all the guy does is win games. However, he will most likely be re-signed by Denver and Campbell is only a slight upgrade over Edwards, as he hasn’t really developed yet either.

Even worse, the draft doesn’t have a lot of guys who are worth taking either. Most of the projected teams that are going to wind up drafting in the top ten of next year’s draft are going to be looking at quarterback prospects and only a few jump off of the page.

Jimmy Clausen, Jake Locker, and Sam Bradford are the top quarterbacks in the draft, but they are all likely to go very early and if the Bills fall outside of the top ten, I don’t seem them trading up to get one of them.

After the top three, the rest of the quarterback class drops of in terms of talent, other than Tim Tebow, who I would personally like the Bills to take.

Like I stated before in previous articles, Tebow brings leadership and a sense of winning to whatever team he goes to. Tebow is a proven winner who could help change the losing mentality at One Bills Drive.

Who Should Stay: Both Edwards and Fitzpatrick should stay with the team, but both should be moved to backup roles. The Bills shouldn’t waste a roster spot on Hamdan anymore.

Players to Look At: Kyle Orton, Jason Campbell, and whatever quarterback they view as the best available in the draft.

 

Running Back

On the Current Roster: Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson

Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson are having sub-par seasons, especially by their standards.

Jackson started off of the year hot, but has cooled off greatly since Lynch returned to the team after his suspension. The two have combined to give the Bills the 19th best running game in the league.

A lot of the problems in the running game have been because of the poor run blocking by the offensive line. It just hasn’t show up on a consistent basis.

Now there are the Bills fans out there that want Lynch traded after this season, but in my eyes that isn’t the smartest move.

People have to remember that Lynch still has youth on his side, which is a plus for a running back. He has a unique blend of speed and power that a lot of backs lack in the league.

Fred Jackson is a great football player and will run through a wall for his teammates.  Jackson will turn 29 by the start of the next season and we have all seen what happens when running back hit 30, the best of the best start to lose the explosiveness from their game.

Jackson has only been in the NFL for three seasons but he has been a workhorse all his career. From college, to the United Indoor Football league and in NFL Europe, he had to take a pounding running the ball.

Jackson is great now, but who knows how many more carries those legs have left?

Lynch and Jackson are a perfect change of pace backs for each other. Lynch brings a lot of power while Jackson is more finesse and most importantly, each of them runs hard, breaking a lot of tackles in the process.

The NFL is turning into a two-back league and keeping these two together is a must.

Who Should Stay: Both Lynch and Jackson should return to the Bills next season, splitting time with each other.

Players to Look At: No players are really needed with the duo still together. A third running back will be needed just in case, but that could be anyone as they will barely see the field.

 

Wide Receiver

On the Current Roster: Lee Evans, Terrell Owens, Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish, Steve Johnson, James Hardy, Justin Jenkins

Let me start this out by saying that I thought that the “T.O. project” in Buffalo would work out well for both sides.

Boy was I wrong.

Owens hasn’t produced and hasn’t really given the offense a new wrinkle to throw at opponents. Poor quarterback play hasn’t helped either but he is starting to quit on this season.

Lee Evans and Josh Reed are also off to the slowest starts in their career, but Evans has a lot more upside than Owens, who might have reached the ceiling. Reed is an excellent slot man who finds the zones in defenses and keeps the chains moving. For the right price he should stick.

Stevie Johnson and James Hardy are developing and should stay on the team as both are cheap to keep around and have potential.

Roscoe Parrish is a terrible wide receiver, who is only good on screen plays, because he doesn’t recognize defenses well, has suspect hands, and can not create separation on his own.

Justin Jenkins has to be looking for a new team next season also. I understand the value of a guy like him as a special teamer, but that is all he can do. The Bills have to stop wasting roster spots on just special teams' players. You can get quality backups to play special teams just fine, and Jenkins isn’t one of them.  He is a 7th string wide receiver for crying out loud who is taking up a roster spot because he can tackle on special teams.  You can not tell me that the Bills could use the roster spot more wisely but getting a player who might see the field while also contributing to special teams too.

Who Should Stay: Lee Evans is here for the long term and if he can be brought back cheaply, Josh Reed should return to his slot duties. Johnson and Hardy both stay because of their upside as they continue to learn what it takes to be a wide receiver in the league. Owens, Parrish and Jenkins should all be looking for work elsewhere.

Players to Look At: With Owens on the way out, the Bills still need a legitimate number two wide receiver opposite Evans. There are a ton of high priced options available (Vincent Jackson, Brandon Marshall, Braylon Edwards, Antonio Bryant, and Steve Breaston), but I doubt the Bills will want to go after anyone of them. Kevin Walter, the wide receiver from the Houston Texans, would be decent candidate. He is struggling this season after coming back from an injury, but he is a play-maker. His off year might reduce how much it costs to get him, and he is only making $1.5 million this year.  A slight raise is needed, but the Bills could get a quality guy for a good price.

 

Tight End

On the Current Roster: Derek Fine, Shawn Nelson, Jonathan Subpar, Derek Schouman

The Bills have a bunch of the same guys at the tight end position, players who can block well, have good hands and can run good routes, however, none of their players now are play-makers.

The jury is still out on rookie Shawn Nelson who has shown signs of becoming a threat, but the offense now doesn’t utilize the tight end position at all, except in the play-action game.

There are some play-making tight ends available in free agency like Owen Daniels and Tony Scheffler, but both will come with a high price.  Some other options could be guys like Bo Scaife from Tennessee or Ben Watson from New England.

There aren’t really any players available though that would be an upgrade over what they have and I don’t see them taking a run at one of the play-making tight ends.

Who Should Stay: Derek Fine and Shawn Nelson will be back next season. Schouman is a free agent and he has a similar skill set as Fine, not to mention the fact that Schouman will be coming off of a knee injury, it is really not a must that he stays.

Players to Look At: Tony Scheffler has turned into a solid blocker this season, and can still stretch the field. The Bills would be foolish not to give him a look.

 

Offensive Line

On the Current Roster: Demetrius Bell, Jonathan Scott, Kirk Chambers, Jamon Meredith, Eric Wood, Andy Levitre, Geoff Hangartner, Seth McKinney

I am not going to sit here and pretend like I know all of the blocking assignments for the line. I can’t tell who’s fault it is on missed blocks, all I know is that the line as a whole is not getting the job done.

They could blow up the entire line again if they wanted too because what they have now is garbage.

There is constant pressure on whoever is behind center and the running game has been non-existent since Week 3.

The line is leading the league in one category though, false start penalties. I don’t understand how that is even possible. Sure, bring up the fact that the line is inexperienced, that still doesn’t matter. These guys have been playing football their whole life and they can’t remember the snap count?

Wood and Levitre are the only one in my eyes worth keeping. Demetruis Bell has shown upside to the coaching staff (although I haven’t seen it) so I guess he gets a pass too.  Geoff Hangartner has been ok, and he is still under contract for pretty cheap so he is staying too. Everyone else should be out of work.

Who Should Stay: Wood and Levitre because of their upside, along with Bell and Hangartner.

Players to Look At: Anyone. Really. The team needs some experience on the line, and anyone who knows how to actually block. I haven’t had a chance to look at any lineman in particular, so I guess I’ll leave that one up to the readers in the comments on who they would like to see.

 

Defensive End

On the Current Roster: Aaron Schobel, Chris Kelsay, Ryan Denney, Aaron Maybin

Aaron Schobel is starting to lose some of his speed and power that he had during his Pro Bowl days. He isn’t getting any younger either.

The problem is that the Bills don’t have anyone to turn to if they were to try to trade Schobel while they can still get some value for him. Denney and Kelsay are both the same player, good at stopping the run but disappear when they need to pressure the quarterback, and neither is an upgrade over Schobel.

Aaron Maybin has also been a non-factor in the limited playing time he has received.

The Bills don’t have anywhere else to turn to other than the draft to try to get a force at defensive end. Other than Julius Peppers, there really isn’t a true upgrade over any of the players the Bills already have. There are a lot of underachievers the Bills could take a chance on, but it doesn’t really make any sense to do so.

Who Should Stay: The Bills have their hands tied on this position. They have to keep Schobel even though his best days are behind him. Kelsay and Maybin will stay too and Ryan Denney is a free agent and should be shown the door. He isn’t worth the money.

Players to Look At: Defensive end prospects in the draft, although anyone they pick will take time to develop. Whoever they can get will come in the later rounds. The Bills can not spend high picks on defensive ends two years in a row.

 

Defensive Tackle

On the Current Roster: Marcus Stroud, Spencer Johnson, Kyle Williams, John McCargo

Defensive tackle is the position on the team that I have liked the most this season.

The stats suggest otherwise, but watching this unit every week lets me think that the Bills are set at this position.

Marcus Stroud is still a force and Kyle Williams' game has been elevated because of him.  Spencer Johnson is a quality backup who can fill in if needed. John McCargo has finally got his head on straight and is working hard to stay on the team. In his limited playing time, he has made some decent plays and is starting to show some promise if he continues to work. He comes on the cheap too.

Who Should Stay: Everyone should be back next year.

Players to Look At: None.

 

Linebacker

On the Current Roster: Paul Posluszny, Chris Draft, Keith Ellison, Nic Harris, Jon Corto

Unlike the defensive tackles, this unit has been terrible this season.

The Bills need a play-maker at the linebacker position. They have guys who can just make tackles. Posluszny hasn’t turned into the force he was suppose to be, and most weeks I don’t even realize Keith Ellison is on the field. Both can pile up tackles, but neither can change the course of a game.

Chris Draft is a decent veteran who is a good backup to have on your team. Harris is still a work in progress.

It hates me to say it, but Jon Corto should not be on the roster. He is a great story, the hometown kid playing for the team he grew up rooting for, but he isn’t a good football player. When the Bills move a safety to linebacker instead of going with Corto, you know there is a problem. He is another guy kept around just for special teams.

Who Should Stay: Posluszny, Ellison, Draft and Harris should all be back. Only Posluszny should be starting though. John Digiorgio should also return to the team as a backup (he is out with an injury). Also remember that Kawika Mitchell will be returning from knee injury next season. He is signed long term, but after watching him during training camp and the preseason the Bills might want to part ways with the under productive, overpaid linebacker.

Players to Look At: All of the elite linebackers out there will come with a high price, but they really need a play-maker. Youngsters like Barrett Ruud, Thomas Davis and DeMeco Ryans could be available and the Bills should pay whatever any one of them wants to get on the team. They could also take a chance with Shawne Merriman, who has been slow coming back after a knee injury, but that is a high-risk/high-reward chance that the Bills might not want to take. No matter what, Buffalo has to get an elite linebacker someway or another, whether it is on the outside or at the middle linebacker position.  Posluszny can play any spot on the field at linebacker.

 

Cornerback

On the Current Roster: Terrence McGee, Leodis McKelvin, Drayton Florence, Reggie Corner, Ashton Youboty, Ellis Lankster

Terrence McGee is one of the most underrated corners in the league and he continues to shut down top wide outs who line up against him. Leodis McKelvin was starting to show promise but an injury knocked him out for the rest of the season.

The signing of the offseason turns out not to be T.O. but Drayton Florence who has returned to top form  He still is vulnerable to the deep ball, but if you can get him a little help over the top, he is a solid number two cornerback. Reggie Corner has also shown some promise as he continues to develop.

Who Should Stay: McGee, McKelvin, Florence, and Corner are all locks. Youboty can provide depth as the number five guy, and would be cheap to keep. Lankster was a good preseason story, but he shouldn’t be on a NFL roster. I don’t see how the Bills could upgrade this position either through the draft or free agency. The players I named are very good, and all come responsibly priced.

Players to Look At: None

 

Free Safety

On the Current Roster: Jairus Byrd, Donte Whitner

Have you heard?

The Byrd is the word in Buffalo as rookie Jairus Byrd has been the only bright spot on the Bills so far this year. The Bills finally found the takeaway machine they were looking for when they drafted Donte Whitner is the first round of the 2006 draft.

Byrd is leading the league in with eight interceptions and he wasn’t even a starter coming into the season. With the rest of the year to learn, along with the off-season to improve his game, he could turn into an elite free safety very quickly.

While Byrd has watched his playing time increase one hundred percent, Donte Whitner is now the odd man out. The trade value of Whitner is not great so you can’t really move him and he does provide depth at both the free and strong safety position. He is also a leader on the team, and is good for team chemistry on the defensive side of the ball. He should stay as a backup, as he only makes about $2 million for the next two years.

Who Should Stay: Both Whitner and Bryd will be back in a Bills uniform in 2010.

Players to Look At: None. The Bills finally found their guy at free safety.

 

Strong Safety

On the Current Roster: Bryan Scott, George Wilson, John Wendling

Bryan Scott and George Wilson are two veteran players who will do anything to stay on the field. Wilson is exactly what am I talking about when I say that the Bills should get guys who can be backups who can not only play on special teams but can fill in when needed too.

Scott is very good against the run and taking opposing tight ends out of the game.  He is exactly what you want out of a strong safety. Wilson is a good backup and Whinter can play the position well too.

John Wendling is the odd man out, seeing as he can only produce on special teams.

Who Should Stay: Both Scott and Wilson should return. Wendling will be looking for a new home in 2010.

Players to Look At: None.

 

Special Teams

On the Current Roster: Brain Moorman, Rian Lindell

Who Should Stay: Both players are very good at what they do, and there are no upgrades available over them.

Players to Look At: None

There are some players that can help the Bills win in the future, but something needs to be done in order to help turn this team in the right direction.

The Bills should keep some of the old and then go out and get some new players to help fill in holes on their team.

A decade is long enough to wait.  The Bills need to make the playoff soon.

This season is already over, might as well start looking forward to the future.

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