As the NFL Playoffs are getting heated up for the remaining eight teams, the 24 others are looking ahead to 2011.
The great Featured Columnist team for the Buffalo Bills have decided to come together once again for a round table discussion regarding the future of our beloved Bills.
Rob: To me, you have to go with Stevie Johnson as the offensive MVP for the Buffalo Bills. He went from being a seventh round draft pick to one of the National Football League’s leading receivers, catching 82 passes for 1,073 yards, while scoring 10 touchdowns.
Many believe that his stats are inflated due to Lee Evans being double covered most of the time, but if you watch the tape, he is a great route runner and is a physical receiver. He does tend to make some mental errors, but he still gets my vote as the Offensive MVP of the Buffalo Bills
Chris: This distinction could go to a few different players, but for me, it's got to be Ryan Fitzpatrick. He became the most competent quarterback we've seen in Buffalo since Drew Bledsoe and he did an admirable job with a very inexperienced and mostly unproven wide receiving corp.
Dan: Ryan Fitzpatrick. There is no question that players like Roscoe Parrish and Steve Johnson emerged this year, which was a direct reflection on Ryan Fitzpatrick being inserted as the starting quarterback.
Rob: Kyle Williams. Williams seamlessly transitioned from the traditional 4-3 defensive tackle to taking on multiple blockers in the 3-4 defensive front. Williams racked up 77 tackles, 11 of those coming behind the line of scrimmage, and managed 5.5 sacks. He plays sideline to sideline, and has become a focal point of the Buffalo Bills defense.
Chris: Kyle Williams. The guy is a complete animal and is the definition of an overachiever.
Dan: Kyle Williams. Nobody else was close.
Rob: Corey McIntyre gets the nod for special teams MVP. He doesn’t run for touchdowns, he stops them. The Bills special teams coverage unit was porous all season long, but you would always see No. 38 making a great block or a devastating hit on whoever chose to go his way.
Chris: Corey McIntyre. He always seemed to be a around the football on punt coverage, but sort of wins this title by default; no one else really stood out to me.
Dan: The special teams unit lacked anyone that really stood out in my mind as playing really consistent ball every week. With that being the case, my vote goes to C.J. Spiller for the kickoff return touchdown against the Patriots. This was a bummer year for the Bills special teams in my opinion.
Rob: Sadly, the Buffalo Bills rookie of the year was an undrafted free agent. C.J. Spiller had high expectations for the season, but saw limited time, leaving the former Florida Gator WR/TE, David Nelson with the honor of rookie of the year.
He began the year as the No. 4 receiver, but when fellow wideout Roscoe Parrish went down with an injury against the Chicago Bears, Nelson stepped up to the plate.
Nelson caught 31 passes, 20 of those for first downs, for 353 yards, while scoring three touchdowns. With Marcus Easley and Roscoe Parrish returning next season, the Bills will most likely part ways with one of their receivers.
Chris: David Nelson. Arthur Moats is a close second, but the undrafted wideout from Florida was great on third downs and flashed some great pass catching ability in tight spaces.
Dan: David Nelson, because he played a greater role over the duration of the season. Arthur Moats finishes a close second.
Rob: David Nelson and Marcus Easley tie for this. Nelson proved he could move the chains in critical situations, but fourth-round draft pick, Marcus Easley, out of Connecticut, who missed the entire season due to injury, has the size and stature to eventually take over Lee Evans’ job. This will be a very interesting position battle to keep an eye on.
Chris: Roscoe Parrish. His season was cut short to injury, but in the games he played we saw how much Chan Gailey loved to use the gadget receiver. With more attention headed Stevie Johnson's way, I think Parrish could put up even better numbers than the ones he was on pace for in 2010.
Dan: David Nelson, followed by Donald Jones. By the way, Marcus Easley is the best answer, since he received zero reps.
Rob: I actually believe that Whitner will return next year. Reports state that he is asking upwards of $7 million per year, due to his ridiculously inflated stats (140 tackles, 0.5 sacks, seven passes defended), but if he takes a step back and sees the situation the St. Louis Rams safety O.J. Otagwe dealt with last season, he may decide to reduce that number into the $4-5 million range.
Chris: No. He wants top safety money, but is nowhere near a top safety. Disregard the tackle numbers. No impact.
Dan: Gut feeling right now is that he does not. He seems to have an over-inflated sense of self-worth. He does not make game changing plays like Troy Polamalu, but is asking for money that would suggest he is a game changing safety. His play stepped up this year, but he needs to be more realistic if he wants to come back to be part of the Bills rebuilding efforts.
Rob: At this point, Paul Posluszny is an asset to the Buffalo Bills defense. This season, he recorded 151 tackles, four of which for a loss, and two sacks, while deflecting four passes. While he is undersized compared to most inside backers playing in a 3-4, he is relentless in his pursuit, and brings leadership on the defensive side of the ball.
He isn’t great against the run, but he is a blue-collar guy that keeps his head down and makes plays…when he is healthy.
Chris: Public persona. He's too slow and rarely sheds a block. With a Buffalo defensive front that features good players like Kyle Williams and Dwan Edwards, it was the middle linebacker's terrible play that was the main reason the Bills never could stop the run.
Dan: Poz is an asset, but he needs to be pushed. He guesses and gets burnt on poor gap reads too often. He also gets burnt more than I prefer on pass coverage assignments. Perhaps he needs to be spelled more during games to keep him fresh when he is on the field.
Rob: I cannot wait to see Arthur Moats next year. He didn’t see much time on the field until the end of the season, and he was a pleasant surprise to say the least. Drafted as a defensive end out of James Madison, Moats earned increased reps over Aaron Maybin, racking up 33 tackles, and 2.5 sacks down the stretch.
Chris: CJ Spiller. I just think he's too talented to be a bust. With the experience he gained in 2010 coupled with a hopefully improving offensive line, I'm really excited to see what this gifted back can really do.
Dan: Marcus Easley. Want to see him stretch the field for Buffalo and make some acrobatic catches. My second choice would be Shawne Merriman.
Rob: Aaron Maybin is definitely in the deepest trouble of being released. The combination of Arthur Moats’ strong play towards the end of the year, along with the signing of Shawne Merriman, shows that the front office at One Bills Drive is obviously uncomfortable with the idea of putting Maybin in a game.
I’m not sure what the financial repercussions would be if Maybin were to be released, but I’m confident that if he doesn’t have a stellar training camp/ preseason, he will be looking for work in 2011.
Chris: Aaron Maybin. Shawne Merriman was signed, and we know the coaching staff loves Arthur Moats' upside.
Dan: This is a no-brainer for me. Aaron Maybin, clear cut choice.
Rob: To me, Shawne Merriman has the most to prove next year, not only to the Buffalo Bills, but to the entire National Football League. Plagued by injuries over the past three years, Merriman is a mere shadow of his former self, the Pro Bowl caliber pass rusher, that made 188 tackles, 39.5 sacks, and eight forced fumbles in his first three years, only to make 44 tackles and four sacks in the three seasons since.
Chris: Shawne Merriman. After being injured 15 minutes into his first practice this year Merriman has a lot to prove. His last monster season was 2007.
Dan: Terrence McGee, followed by Shawn Nelson. Both need to show they can stay healthy and be counted on.
Rob: While I would like the Bills to trade down and acquire more picks, that doesn’t seem to be the thing that Buddy Nix would do. Last season, there were more needs on the roster than at running back, but we took C.J. Spiller. Coach Gailey made a statement to the effect that if you are drafting at No. 3 there are needs everywhere. I agree, and believe that whichever player the Bills scouts have graded highest, they should take.
Chris: The chances are getting better each and every day. If Nick Fairley and Da'Quan Bowers are gone, it's a possibility, but I still think Nix is in "best player available" mode, and knows the team has tons of holes. Then again, that could mean he'll trade down to acquire more draft picks.
Dan: If either Da'Quan Bowers or Nick Fairly are available at No. 3, the Bills have the chance to add an impact defensive player, assuming that both of these guys check out via the combines and the interview process. If not, there is the chance someone could offer the Bills a ton to leap frog over Cincinnati to draft Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green.
Rob: While the Bills are in dire need of linebacker and offensive line depth, there simply isn’t a player worthy of a No. 3 overall nod in this year’s draft. With that being said, I’d love to take a player like Louisiana State’s Patrick Peterson. He is a huge cornerback that will be able to match-up one on one with the big receivers in the AFC East such as Brandon Marshall or Braylon Edwards, freeing up safeties and linebackers to make plays.
On the offensive side of the ball, I’d like A.J. Green. Lee Evans is getting up there in age, and Green can be a strong threat opposite Lee Evans.
Chris: Marcell Dareus. After answering the last question, trading down makes great sense and he's has good value at the back of the Top 10.
Dan: Da'Quan Bowers. A rare sighting—back to back Clemson Tigers first round picks by the Bills organization.
Rob: I don’t think the Bills will make a “splash” signing a big name guy, but I think they will go along the lines of what they did last year, in picking up guys like Andra Davis and Dwan Edwards, blue collar players who know the scheme, and want to win.
Chris: No. Nix is dedicated to building through the draft, and they don't want to continue to overpay for big name players, a near certainty when trying to bring a player to Buffalo.
Dan: I think they do. The Bills are in a reasonable salary cap position as we approach the NFLPA and collective bargaining agreement. Whatever the salary cap turns out to be, Buffalo should have considerable room to add some impact players, especially if they cut loose contracts like Marcus Stroud.
Rob: While the Bills have been plagued by offensive line injuries over the past three seasons, linebackers need the most depth, and at every spot. Chris Kelsay was exposed early this year, Aaron Maybin can’t get on the field, and towards the end of the season there were guys off the street playing for the Bills defense.
Chris: Offensive tackle. Demetrius Bell made some strides this season, but who else is there? Ed Wang? Erik Pears?
Dan: Linebacker. There is no position that is constantly hit with injuries than that of LB. Right there with LB would be tight end, since it is up for debate that the Bills even have a tight end on the roster, much less any roster depth at the position.
Rob: No. With the way Kyle Williams has been playing, there isn’t any need to. If they stick to the over and under looks they have been using, Williams will be productive. Until the supporting cast around him is up to par, don’t expect to see a conventional 3-4 anytime soon.
Chris: Yes. Usually, it takes two drafts for a 3-4 defense to come to form.
Dan: No. It has already been announced that they will be a multi-set defense in 2011, shifting between the 3-4 and the 4-3. This makes sense according to the talent, or lack thereof, that they have on the defensive side of the ball.