2010 Buffalo Bills Offensive Report Card: Steve Johnson Valedictorian
After a humiliating 34-3 loss to the New England Patriots, which brought the Buffalo Bills to a 4-11 record on the year, I couldn't bring myself to compose another article detailing the sheer hideousness of yet another loss.
Last week I handed out report cards for the defensive players on the Bills, and this week, it's the offense's turn.
Despite the 4-11 record, the Buffalo Bills offense has been far more exciting than it has been in the past three or four years, and the grades handed out may be a bit of surprise.
Being a Bills fan, it is difficult to be impartial, but the players earned these grades themselves. Feel free to comment on who you believed was graded too high or too low.
The Buffalo Bills have utilized 14 different offensive line combinations since opening the season against the Miami Dolphins, a number similar to last year's dreadful offensive line woes.
The Bills brought in veteran right tackle Cornell Green during the offseason in order to offer experience to the youngsters on the line that included second year guards Andy Levitre and Eric Wood, as well as third year tackle, Demetrius Bell.
However, Cornell Green was placed on injured reserve early in the season, and a series of unknowns such as Cordero Howard, Mansfield Wrotto, and Kraig Urbik were left to fill the void.
The Bills offensive line collectively allowed 30 sacks on the year, seven of them coming in the first two games with Trent Edwards under center. The right tackle position has had absolutely no continuity, and that earns the entire position an F for the season.
WR/PR Roscoe Parrish-Incomplete
After being in former head coach Dick Jauron's doghouse for the past two seasons, wide receiver Roscoe Parrish had a resurgence for the first eight games of the season. He caught 33 passes for 400 yards to start the season, finding the endzone twice before suffering a season-ending injury against the Chicago Bears.
Parrish excelled in the slot receiver position, and forced opposing defenses to be honest, creating space along the sidelines for fellow wideouts Stevie Johnson and Lee Evans.
He added 12 punt returns for an average of 10.9 yards per return as well.
With the emergence of young receivers such as David Nelson, Donald Jones, and Namaan Roosevelt, it will be interesting to see if Parrish can keep his role as the No. 3 receiver when the 2011 season begins.
RB C.J. Spiller-D
When the Buffalo Bills selected running back C.J. Spiller out of Clemson with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the decision was initially scrutinized due to the more obvious needs throughout the roster. Most people weren't considering the excitement of a game changing, explosive player that was a threat to find the end zone every time he touched the ball.
Well, throughout the first 15 games of the year, C.J. has found the end zone just twice; once on a kick return in week three against the New England Patriots and the second on a reception in the same game.
He has struggled to turn the corner quick enough, and hasn't adjusted to the dramatic change of speed between the ACC and the NFL.
On the year, Spiller has rushed just 71 times for 278 yards, for a dismal 3.9 yards per carry average, while adding another 24 receptions for 157 yards and a touchdown; hardly numbers you'd expect from a No. 9 overall draft pick.
He has contributed on special teams, returning 40 kickoffs, averaging 23.3 yards per return, and 10 punt returns for 13.1 yards per return.
WR Lee Evans-C
Lee Evans has been a fan favorite of "Billievers" for his entire seven year career in Buffalo. However, for the second year in a row he has been under the radar as far as the stat sheet goes.
Last year, the spotlight surrounding Terrell Owens made Evans the No. 2 receiving option, allowing him to score seven touchdowns on 44 receptions for 612 yards,
This season, the unknown Stevie Johnson took away the spotlight from Evans, as defenses were often double covering him, unaware of the threat on the opposite side of the field.
Evans' role has changed from being a go-to threat to a secondary option, which is unacceptable for someone earning top dollar at one of the premier positions in the NFL.
WR David Nelson-B-
In April of 2010, David Nelson, a tight end/wide receiver out of the University of Florida was passed over in each of the seven rounds of the NFL Draft. However, the Buffalo Bills brought him in as an undrafted rookie, and he fought his way onto the opening day roster.
He made an immediate impact, making three receptions in his first career game against the Miami Dolphins, and has been an integral part of the Bills offense, especially after injuries to Roscoe Parrish and Lee Evans earned him increased playing time.
On the year, Nelson has caught 31 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns, and is one of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's favorite targets on third downs, as 19 of his receptions have moved the chains for first downs.
The B- grade may seem a bit high, but when you go from an undrafted free agent with little to no expectations to a solid option at receiver, he has earned it.
G/C Eric Wood-B
Second year guard Eric Wood was drafted out of Louisville, where he played center for his entire collegiate career, and has made a great transition to the right guard position.
He earned a place on the USA All-Fundamentals team for his outstanding play and sportsmanship, which is a credit to the second year guard who switched to a position that he hadn't played prior to entering the NFL.
To make his grade even higher, he got into a skirmish with fellow first round draft pick, Aaron Maybin, in which he told the bust to, "Earn some of his f-ing paycheck!"
Coach Gailey has expressed his concern with making the offensive line bigger and more physical, which may lead to Wood returning to his natural position at center, where he has excelled in recent weeks.
LT Demetrius Bell-B
With the offensive line being a major concern for the Bills, it may seem awkward that left tackle Demetrius Bell earned himself a B grade on the season, but trust me, it is well deserved.
Bell was a former seventh round draft pick out of Northwestern, and sat behind former Pro Bowler Jason Peters during his first season in the league. He also missed most of last season with a leg injury.
2010 was his first season as a full-time starter, and despite the nagging leg injury, he continued to play pretty decently.
Following every game of the year, I can only blame around five sacks on Bell, which is astounding considering the strong pass rushers the Bills have faced this season.
RB Fred Jackson-B+
Fred Jackson is an under appreciated running back in the National Football League. He's a grinder behind a subpar offensive line on a losing team, but he gives 100% on every play no matter what the down, distance, or score.
After earning his first 1,000 yard rushing season last year, Jackson entered the season in a timeshare with Marshawn Lynch and rookie C.J. Spiller. When Lynch was traded to the Seattle Seahawks, Jackson began to shine.
On the year, Jackson has rushed 209 times for 892 yards and five touchdowns, while catching 30 passes for 202 yards, and another two scores.
It's doubtful that Jackson will rush for 108 yards against the stingy New York Jets defense next week, but he has still played at a high caliber that even earned him praise from the "master" Bill Belichik himself.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick-B+
Aside from Sunday's humiliating three interception performance, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been absolutely great for the Buffalo Bills since taking Trent Edwards' job in the third week of the season.
In 13 games, Fitzpatrick has completed 225 of his 441 passing attempts, throwing for 3,000 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.
Furthermore, in non-Trent Edwards fashion, Fitzpatrick isn't afraid to take a hit, as he has rushed 41 times for 269 yards, moving the chains 13 times.
Fitzpatrick has a gunslinging mentality, which has been both good and bad at times, but it has made watching Bills games exciting for the first time in years, despite the losing record.
WR Stevie Johnson-A
Stevie Johnson went from being an unknown seventh round draft pick out of Kentucky to being a household name. After dropping a crucial catch in overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a tweet to "God" had his name all over the media, as he was talked about on Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Letterman Show, and even the View.
Despite that one drop, Johnson has still put up better numbers than the elite receivers in the NFL, including Terrell Owens, Miles Austin, and Brandon Marshall.
On the year, Johnson has caught 77 passes for 1,001 yards, and 10 touchdowns, but still refuses to accept any credit, passing it off to his buddy Ryan Fitzpatrick, the quarterback he gained chemistry with for the past year on the scout team.
Johnson has had an unprecedented year, and should be on his way to Hawaii in February.