Don't you dread those anxious report-card days, wondering if you aced that last test or hoping the teacher loved your project you worked oh so hard on?
Well that day has come for the Buffalo Bills defensive corps, and today, I will be the teacher handing out the report cards for 10 players.
Some will be elated, some will be upset, but hey, you earn your grades—especially in the National Football League.
When the Bills selected linebacker Aaron Maybin out of Penn State in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft, he was supposedly the next Bruce Smith-like pass rusher the lowly Bills have desperately needed over the past few years.
His rookie season, under former head coach, Dick Jauron, he wasn't fit for the 4-3 defensive scheme, as his small 250-pound frame found him out of place at the defensive end position in which he excelled in college.
His explosiveness, speed and strength, which had him ranked so high on many draft boards, couldn't get him on the field for most of the year.
This year, with a totally new coaching staff, this was Maybin's year. He would be moving to outside linebacker, where he would be rushing the quarterback without his hand in the ground...a natural position for him.
However, on the year he has recorded just six tackles. In his 24 career games, he has 24 total tackles.
The Bills selected Torell Troup, a defensive tackle out of the University of Central Florida, in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft, much to the dismay of many fans (other than myself, who watched him take on double teams every Saturday in Orlando!).
Troup hasn't seen enough playing time to give him a higher grade than a D, but he has made 18 tackles, and many have been the result of a high motor and relentless hustle.
For those who have already written off Troup as a bust, his work ethic and intelligence will show next season when he has a more complete grasp of the defense.
After playing his first eight years in the National Football League as a defensive end in a 4-3 defensive scheme, Chris Kelsay, a team captain, needed to play at a diferent position than the one he was accustomed to playing his entire career.
The Bills defensive staff moved Kelsay to the strong-side linebacker position, with responsibilities including covering tight ends, reading offensive protection schemes and reacting to play action. With little experience at the position, Kelsay struggled mightily, allowing opposing teams to exploit his weakness containing tight ends.
His inability to effectively cover tight ends eventually forced the Bills to resort to the 4-3 defense on passing situations, using Kelsay as a defensive end in the "Heavy Front" and bringing safety Bryan Scott up to cover tight ends.
Regardless of Kelsay's leadership and supposed off-the-field intangibles, he still has earned himself a D on his report card throughout the first three-quarters of the season.
After an outstanding rookie campaign in which the safety out of Oregon recorded nine interceptions, Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd hasn't lived up to expectations this season.
He has yet to record an interception this season, but we give him the benefit of the doubt due to the fact that last season he played more of a "center field" role under Dick Jauron's 4-3 defensive scheme, which put Byrd in great position to snag multiple interceptions.
This year, in the 3-4, Byrd has has struggled adjusting from that center field role to reading opposing offenses while being a force in the run game, in addition to covering the premier wide receivers such as Brandon Marshall, Wes Welker and Braylon Edwards, whom the Bills face twice a year.
Despite his struggles, Byrd has recorded 75 tackles and a sack while forcing three fumbles. The disappointment comes from his lone one pass deflection and zero interceptions, which earns him a D+ throughout the year.
Despite the energy rookie linebacker Arthur Moats—out of James Madison—has brought to the Bills, we still have to be realistic here. He has played unbelievably well in his last four games, games in which he saw a significant increase in snaps.
Moats will go down as the one who ended Brett Favre's "Iron Man" streak, after a devastating hit leading to a shoulder injury that would sideline Favre for just a week.
On the year, Moats has made 27 tackles while racking up three sacks (2.5 in the past two weeks), in addition to forcing a fumble.
He is a threat on special teams, as well, and it's easy to see his passion to get on the field and refuse to leave.
If he had started the whole season and averaged his stats, he'd earn himself a higher grade, but for now he still has that 2.0 GPA.
Donte Whitner's 124 tackles on the season are a bit misleading, more a product of the Buffalo Bills 32nd-ranked run defense, which has allowed an average of 165 rushing yards per game.
Whitner has reportedly stated that he wants to test the free agent market, despite next year's potential lockout, after the Bills selected him with the No. 8 overall draft pick just a few years ago.
He has deflected six passes while intercepting a pass and forcing a fumble. However, he often waits to make plays until after the receiver has made a reception, and constantly seems to want to show up on ESPN's top 10 hits rather than make plays.
Whitner has benefited from the versatile 3-4 transition, which has allowed him to make tackles all over the field, but a player of his size and strength simply needs to create more turnovers, which results in him taking a C+ for this season's report card.
Leodis McKelvin was supposed to be the heir when fellow cornerback Terrence McGee put up his helmet, but he has been extremely inconsistent in his play.
Filling in for McGee, he has gone up against some of the best wideouts in the game, including Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Mike Wallace and several others.
On the year, McKelvin has made 59 tackles while defending 11 passes, picking off two passes and forcing a fumble.
He has been a solid threat on special teams, as well, returning 12 kicks for 251 yards, an average of 19.3 yards per return, and returning six punts for 24 yards.
He has played solid, considering who the Bills have on defense, but he has definitely not lived up to his draft time expectations, which featured a class of the likes of Arizona Cardinals' Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Drayton Florence has been a pleasant surprise for the Buffalo Bills this season, especially since he was called to start when cornerback Terrence McGee went down.
On the year he has racked up 51 tackles, including two for a loss, while defending 12 passes, picking off three passes and forcing a fumble.
He has that "swag" and toughness you look for in a No. 2 cornerback, as displayed by his scuffle with Brandon Marshall just last week.
His contract is up at the end of the year, but I think he still has a couple years to groom the youngsters like fellow corner Reggie Corner, as he can assist him in adjusting to the speed of the game while explaining different coverages to him.
Paul Posluszny has been a fan favorite of Billievers ever since he was drafted in the second round out of Penn State University, and his relentlessness is unmatched.
He has racked up 126 tackles on the year, adding two sacks and three tackles for a loss while batting away four passes.
His inflated tackle stats are indeed a product of the struggling Buffalo Bills rush defense, but if you watch tape, he is always in on every pile, and it's a wonder to me how he doesn't wear a "C" on his jersey.
Like Florence, Poz's contract is up after this season, and we can only hope for his return.
Kyle Williams has made a seamless transition to the nose tackle position after spending his first years in the National Football League as a 4-3 defensive tackle, and he's constantly being raved about around the blogosphere.
Williams has made 75 tackles while racking up five sacks and 11 tackles for a loss...all while taking on two or more blockers at a time. His relentless and disruptive play consistently collapses the pocket and forces opposing quarterbacks into poor decision-making.
When the rest of the youngsters on the defensive side of the ball begin to learn their assignments and adjust to the scheme, Williams will be a huge force, allowing those rooks to make plays while Williams continues his Pro Bowl-caliber play.