Buffalo Bills 2010 Season in Review: Top 10 Highlights
As we approach the final week of 2010, as well as the final game of the 2010 season, it felt like a good time to reflect back on this past Buffalo Bills season and highlight the top moments.
On the surface, for a team that is in last in the AFC East and tied for the second worst record in the NFL, there may not seem like there are going to be a whole lot of highlights to mention. But, if you have followed this team closely, you would know that there are some definite highlights, not only from the team perspective, but also from the franchise viewpoint as well.
So, on with the show. There is still hope out there, Bills fans, and if you would like to add your opinion for a player not mentioned, feel free to add a comment.
#10) The Trade of Marshawn Lynch to the Seattle Seahawks
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After week four, the Bills traded away running back Marshawn Lynch to the Seattle Seahawks for two draft picks. The Bills get the number four pick in the upcoming draft from Seattle, as well as either a fifth or sixth round pick in 2012. That latter pick has yet to be determined.
Lynch has scored six touchdowns for the Seahawks this year. He never topped the 100 yard mark in any game, but did have two games where he went over 80 yards.
For the Bills, moving Lynch allowed Fred Jackson to be the main benefactor by freeing up the workload. C.J. Spiller also got his share of touches, which would have been tough to do if Lynch was still with the team.
Trading Lynch also freed the locker room from major distractions, as well as the threat that Lynch would pull some antics that were regrettable and against NFL rules.
#9) The Release of Trent Edwards
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Leave it to Trent Edwards to come up with new and innovative ways to avoid a sack.
Edwards continued to set the Bills offense backwards by his lack of mobility and being void of any playmaking ability.
How on earth did he ever beat out Ryan Fitzpatrick during training camp? Edwards was too slow to get rid of the ball in the pocket, and then he became too indecisive with his feet when he realized that he was about to get hit.
He took the safe route with the ball, despite having some strong weapons on his side, as Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to demonstrate so well.
After two games of watching a stagnant offense to open up the season, Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix had seen enough and they unceremoniously gave Trent Edwards his release. The Bills didn't even attempt to get anything back for him, they just wanted him to be off of the roster.
In my opinion, this move was one of the highlights of the season because it established Ryan Fitzpatrick as the clear starter at quarterback.
#8) Bills Hire Buddy Nix To Become the General Manager
There are still probably some Bills fans that are not sold on Buffalo Bills General Manager Buddy Nix.
They would be in the minority though. I am of the opinion that most Bills fans like what they see in Nix.
Nix has not panicked. He is trying to rebuild the Bills team to be a winner for years to come by bringing in as much young talent as he can find. His draft was solid, but not spectacular.
His draft picks were C.J. Spiller, Torell Troup, Alex Carrington, Marcus Easley, Ed Wang, Arthur Moats, Danny Batten, Levi Brown and Kyle Calloway.
From this group Easley, Wang and Batten were hurt and missed most of the season, if not all. Spiller, Troup, Carrington and Moats received some decent playing time and now have their feet wet regarding the NFL.
Levi Brown is still untested. Kyle Calloway didn't impress and Ed Wang is still on a sharp learning curve.
Spiller has flashed some talent but needs to improve his running style to be more effective at this level.
Regarding free agents, Nix brought in veterans like Andra Davis, Dwan Edwards, Reggie Torbor, Cornell Green and Akin Ayodele to help fill out the roster. Of the quintet, all the veterans made solid contributions, with the exception of Cornell Green. Green proved to be limited and was released once the team placed him on I.R.
It is the work that Nix and his staff did after the draft ended that brings in the most accolades. Signing undrafted rookies like David Nelson, Naaman Roosevelt, Donald Jones, Antonio Coleman and Joique Bell.
The rookie receivers have shown great promise and upside.
During the year, Nix brought in other veterans like Kraig Ubrik, Scott Chandler, Mansfield Wrotto and Shawne Merriman to shore up areas that needed help due to injuries.
Going forward, Nix has a better handle on the Bills needs. He is going to be drafting with a very high pick, so what he does with it will go a long way towards shaping the future direction of the Bills team.
#7) Continued Development of Bills Offensive Line
The trio of young Bills offensive linemen, Demetrius Bell, Eric Wood and Andy Levitre, have continued their development during the 2010 season.
For one thing, they managed to go through the season without suffering any major injuries. In fact, Wood and Bell will be that much closer to being at 100 percent by the start of the 2011 season.
Sure, Eric Wood missed a few starts due to injury during the season, but this year was much different than 2009, when Bell and Wood were each placed on I.R. due to serious leg injuries.
The trio has pass blocked, run blocked and formed a stronger bond and chemistry with each other.
It would be a feather in the cap for this offensive line if they can allow Fred Jackson to come up with 108 rushing yards on Sunday against the Jets, who are already said to be treating this upcoming game as an exhibition game.
If Jackson gets the 108 yards, that means the Bills will have a 3,000 yard passer (Ryan Fitzpatrick), a 1,000 yard receiver (Steve Johnson) and a 1,000 yard rusher in Jackson. That is a feat not often accomplished and is a testament to how potent Chan Gailey's offense is.
Geoff Hangartner had a reasonably solid season at center, so it will be interesting to see what moves are made in the off-season to attempt to upgrade the offensive line. With all of the musical chairs at right tackle, it is difficult to say who, if any, of the incumbents will be back in 2011.
#6) Stretch of Games From Week 7 Through Week 12
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Starting out 0-5, the Bills entered the bye week six with feelings of frustration. Reggie Torbor called for a team-only meeting during the bye week and the air was cleared by the entire team.
Starting with the following game in week seven against the Ravens, it appeared that the team had turned a major corner, as the level of their play took a noticeable step in the right direction. They proceeded to gain over 500 yards in offense against the strong Ravens defense. They lost in overtime due to shaky fumble call against Shawn Nelson.
Week 8 was more of the same when the Bills took another playoff team to overtime on the road, only to lose when kicker Rian Lindell was iced by a time out and bounced a kick off the goalpost.
Week 9 was the Bears game in Toronto and the Bills took the No. 2 seed in the NFC to a three point loss, again demonstrating that they could play with anybody in the NFL.
The team was gaining momentum and that set the stage for a mini two game winning streak against the Lions and then the huge second half comeback win against the Bengals.
The Bills then saw their winning streak stopped by losing in overtime to Pittsburgh in the Steve Johnson dropped-pass game. The winning streak could easily have been extended to three and would have served as the Bills signature win of the season.
#5) The Trio of Undrafted Rookie Free Agents
David Nelson, Donald Jones and Naaman Roosevelt.
This trio of undrafted rookie free agent wide receivers have been a breath of fresh air this season. At one time or another, each of them have come up with some very difficult catches, or been laid out after vicious hits, but have managed to hold on to the ball and keep the chains moving.
Naaman Roosevelt, of course, was the local kid made good, coming over from the University of Buffalo. He was the last of the trio to see regular season action, but he proved his worth against the New England Patriots by leading the Bills in receiving yards.
Donald Jones has been a force on special teams, but it wasn't until injuries hit Roscoe Parrish and then Lee Evans that Jones was asked to get more involved with the offense. He had a big game against the Bengals and has demonstrated some very nice "Steve Johnson-like" ability to run with the ball after a catch.
David Nelson has been solid all year. He will unfortunately miss the final game against the New York Jets due to his rib injury he suffered against the Patriots.
Nelson made one clutch grab after another and demonstrated toughness going over the middle. He was riding a three game touchdown streak that was ended due to the rib injury. He looks to be a key contributor for years to come.
#4) Head Coach Chan Gailey Takes Control of the Buffalo Bills
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Chan Gailey was a big reason that the 2010 Buffalo Bills played an exciting brand of offensive football.
Gailey was able to create plays and design formations that allowed the Bills to become a strong offensive unit, something that had not been seen in Western New York for many prior years.
Gailey needed to learn what each of his players was capable of doing. Fred Jackson was hurt almost immediately once the pre-season started and as a result, Gailey was forced to go with C.J.Spiller and Marshawn Lynch more in the beginning of the season.
Even before the season began, he called out fans for booing Trent Edwards in summer camp.
Gailey made Roscoe Parrish a more prominent part of the Bills offense and Parrish excelled in his role. It was too bad that Parrish suffered the season ending injury against the Chicago Bears up in Toronto, because he was putting up solid numbers.
Gailey had the wisdom to see that Trent Edwards was not the answer and reacted swiftly to rectify the mistake by releasing him from the team.
Handing the ball over to Ryan FItzpatrick and making him the clear cut starter was a gutsy move, but Gailey made it and did not look back.
During the season, he stood behind Steve Johnson after his drop, and behind Ryan Fitzpatrick and every other Bills player that laid an egg during the season. He was direct and honest about certain players lack of production—Aaron Maybin comes to mind, which was a refreshing change of pace.
The Bills became a force in the red zone for the first time in a long time.
Now, with a better handle on his talent level, getting a healthy Marcus Easley back in 2011 and with the experience that C.J. Spiller gained this year, I suspect that Gailey will install an even better offense next season that will continue to stretch defenses to their limits.
#3) Steve Johnson: Bills Exciting 1,000 Yard Receiver
Steve Johnson was having a solid season until he emerged to steal the spotlight against the Cincinnati Bengals' dynamic duo of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco.
The "Why So Serious" T-shirt game was Johnson's chance to shine against two of the more publicly known wide receivers in the game.
Johnson shone brightly, as he came up with eight catches for 137 yards and three touchdowns in the big comeback win. The following game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was the infamous overtime drop in the end zone, which would have provided the Bills with their third straight win.
Johnson questioned God in the ensuing twittermania and showed remorse in his post-game press conference for the drop. Since then Johnson has lost Lee Evans to the I.R. list, which meant that defenses were going to be placing more emphasis on covering him.
Johnson has still managed to top the 1,000 yard mark for the season in receiving yards and has recorded double digits in touchdowns with 10. He just narrowly missed number 11 against the Patriots, as one of his feet grazed against the end zone sideline as he was hauling in a fade route.
The future looks bright for Steve Johnson. He excels at picking up yards after the catch and is as difficult a receiver to tackle as any that have played for the Bills in the past 10 to 15 years.
Johnson will play an important role of the Bills development over the near term.
#2) Nose Tackle Kyle Williams
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In a year where the Buffalo Bills rush defense got routinely shredded for one big running play after another, it was difficult to give this unit much attention regarding season highlights.
True, the defense did have a nice stretch where they started to create some turnovers, but from an overall season reflection, this unit was the source of too much anguish and frustration for Bills fans to endure.
Kyle Williams, on the other hand, was a bright light and over-achiever all year. Williams takes on double teams in the middle of the line, yet finds a way to penetrate the backfield and come up with sacks or tackling the ball carrier for one loss after another.
By taking on multiple blockers, Williams frees up the gaps for the linebackers to come in and make plays on the ball.
Due to the limitations of the players around him, it is a wonder that Williams is able to make the plays that he does make. It would be a shame if Williams is not voted to the Pro Bowl team, because he is truly worthy.
Williams ranks second in the entire NFL in tackles for a defensive lineman, trailing Cleveland Browns' defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin by four. Williams leads the Bills in sacks with five and a half.
Williams is a great example of a player being overlooked because he is too small to be able to play a certain position, but then proving everyone wrong that he can be great due to his drive.
#1) Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills 3,000 Yard Passer
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Ryan Fitzpatrick assumed control of the Buffalo Bills offense in week three and never looked back.
Once Chan Gailey deemed that it would be Fitzpatrick's offense to run, Ryan took the ball and ran with it, literally. There are so many qualities about Fitzpatrick that I like, it was difficult to sit there and watch him commit one turnover after another against the New England Patriots.
But that is part of what goes with the territory on any given Sunday...
The attributes of Fitzpatrick that the team has come to enjoy are numerous. Let's address them.
Tough, smart, fearless, gunslinger mentality, belief in his younger teammates, and the desire to win. He doesn't have an ego. He hangs in the pocket until the last split second to allow his receiver to break free or to complete his route before he releases the pass, knowing that by doing so he is going to get laid out.
He puts the ball in places where other quarterbacks wouldn't even consider because he thinks his receivers can make a play on the ball.
He gives up his body to throw a block on an end around or to help out Fred Jackson or C.J. Spiller if they reverse the field during a run. When he scrambles, he looks to punish the first defender that comes up to tackle him.
You know that Chan Gailey probably lectures him about that, but deep down he respects Fitzpatrick for his mentality.
We don't know yet if the Bills will be in the playoffs in 2011 or not. But you have to think that if Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey can continue to improve the quality of talent on both sides of the ball, Ryan FItzpatrick will find a way to keep the Bills in the vast majority of games and give them a chance to win.