We are going to take a break from the numerous Buffalo Bills head coach rumor articles for one day to remember that there is a team of football players that deserve some attention as we analyze the past season and look to the future.
2009 was a forgettable season if you are a Buffalo Bills fan. At least 20 players were lost to the Injured Reserve list at various points throughout the season. Some early on, some later on, but each move brought in another warm body to fill their roster slot.
There was a football movie made in 2000 called "The Replacements" which starred Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman. That movie could easily have been playing on a never ending loop in the lobby at One Bills Drive all season, as one new player after another would show up for a tryout.
Who knows, if the players union and the NFL can't iron out a new agreement, maybe the premise of the movie will come to fruition if the league sees a players strike. I hope not.
For all of the personnel that were hired by the Bills, how many of these replacement guys might still fit in to their plans in 2010?
The article is understandably premature in nature, because until the next head coach is inked to a contract, and the draft is concluded, some of these players that were thought to be part of the core, may find themselves to be expendable.
But, if we can gain some reasonable amount of conversation going from this article, about which players Bills fans want to see come back, and which players Bills fans want to see go, then this exercise will have served its' purpose.
We will go ahead and list the players that saw time with the Bills this year, position by position, and will list them randomly. You can go ahead and rank them according to your own preferences.
Legend for the roster includes the following abbreviations:
I.R. = Injured Reserve UFA = Unrestricted Free Agent PS = Practice Squad Member
RFA = Restricted Free Agent ERFA = Exclusive Rights Free Agent
UFA/RFA If no new labor deal is negotiated, these UFA's will then become RFA
Defense —Weak against the run. Very good against the pass, and at creating interceptions. Needs to be more durable as a unit, and be able to finish stronger in the second half. Could use some help at linebacker and on the defensive line.
Defensive Line — (14) —Aaron Schobel, Ryan Denney (UFA), Marcus Stroud, Kyle Williams, John McCargo, Spencer Johnson, Chris Kelsay, Chris Ellis, Aaron Maybin, Rashaad Duncan (PS), Corey Mace (PS), Lonnie Harvey (PS) Marcus Smith (I.R.), and Jermaine McGhee (I.R.)
Overview—Schobel showed new life in coming back from his foot problems of 2008. He is currently considering retirement. It would be a big blow to the Bills if he opts to hang them up.
Kyle Williams and Marcus Stroud had productive years, and Denney, Johnson and Kelsay had their moments. McCargo had a couple flashes and Maybin was M.I.A. The Defensive line applied steady pressure on opposing QB's which led to a number of interceptions by the opportunistic secondary.
Linebacking Corps — (10 1/2) —Jon Corto (ERFA), Chris Draft (UFA), Paul Posluszny, Keith Ellison (UFA/RFA & I.R.), Kawika Mitchell (I.R.), Bryan Scott (UFA, LB/S) Nic Harris (I.R.) Marcus Buggs (I.R. & ERFA), Ashlee Palmer, Josh Stamer, and Ryan Manalac (PS).
Overview—I am counting B. Scott as a half-LB and half-Safety, due to splitting time at both positions during the season. This unit was ravaged by injuries, with all three starters missing considerable time during the year.
Posluszny turned in some nice interceptions, but his sideline to sideline quickness and ability to be taken out of running plays due to poor gap decision-making is still a concern. What degree of health do Mitchell and Ellison have for 2010, and do they even come back? Rookie Nic Harris showed some promise for the time he was in there.
Defensive Secondary —(13 1/2)—Reggie Corner, Drayton Florence, Cary Harris (ERFA), Ellis Lankster, Bryan Scott (UFA), John Wendling, Donte Whitner, George Wilson (UFA/RFA), Ashton Youboty (UFA/RFA), Jairus Byrd (I.R.), Todd Johnson (I.R. & UFA), Terrence McGee (I.R.), Leodis McKelvin (I.R.), and Lydell Sargeant (I.R.).
Overview — This unit was largely responsible for the large increase in turnovers generated by the 2009 team versus the 2008 edition. Buffalo finished tied for second in the league in picks, as they were led by Pro Bowl rookie safety Jairus Byrd. Byrd can be something very special if he learns to be a little more physical player against the running game.
Other strong campaigns were turned in by Florence, Scott, and McGee. McKelvin's season ended way too soon, and Whitner had some moments, but has not lived up to his lofty draft position so far with the Bills.
The rest of the group — Youboty, Corner, Harris, Lankster and Wendling will be fighting for nickel and dime coverage spots and special team roles. Wendling made a number of plays in special teams this year.
Offense — Needs to stay on the field more, get a steady offensive line that can play together for a season to gel. Do a better job on first and second down so that they have more manageable third down conversions to keep driving the ball down the field.
Offensive Line —(15)—Eric Wood (I.R.), Andy Levitre, Geoff Hangartner, Jamon Meredith, Brad Butler (I.R.), Jonathan Scott (RFA) Richie Incognito (UFA/RFA), Kendall Simmons (I.R. & UFA), Christian Gaddis (ERFA), Nick Hennessey, Andre Ramsey, Demetrius Bell (I.R.), Jason Watkins (PS), Marvin Philip (I.R.), and Seth McKinney (I.R. & UFA).
Overview — There were at least 10 different starting line combinations used during the year. Levitre and Hangartner were the only two able to stay healthy all season, and they will be counted on next year as well.
Wood shows lots of promise, and Butler was counted on but had a lost year due to early injury. The line rallied late in the season to help Fred Jackson rush for over a thousand yards.
Demetrius Bell is a project that has some upside, as does Jamon Meredith. Curious to see if the Bills bring back either Incognito or Simmons to add to the mix next season. Jonathan Scott also has some upside, but was injured often.
Quarterbacks — (4) —Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Brohm, and Gibran Hamdon (UFA/RFA). This group underperformed as a whole and it wouldn't be a surprise if there is at least one and possibly two new additions to this group next year.
Overview — Between the veterans Edwards and Fitzpatrick, neither one was able to consistently get the ball to wide receivers or find ways to convert enough third down plays to have long sustained drives. Fitzpatrick won more, but had very meager stats during most of his starts.
Brohm showed some promise but Perry Fewell only allowed him the one start, so he was basically under wraps during his time with the Bills. A QB coming in the draft is something that could happen in Round One, Two or Three, based on who falls when. Somebody like Bradford or Tebow could find themselves headed to Buffalo.
Running Backs — (5) — Freddie Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Justice Harrison (I.R. & ERFA), Bruce Hall (PS) and Corey McIntyre. Fred Jackson is the class of this group and the Bills should continue to feature him next year.
Overview — Fred Jackson emerged as a special back this year, becoming the first player in NFL history to gain over 1000 yards rushing, and having more than 1000 yards in the return game in the same season. Jackson was also a solid receiver out of the backfield, ran the Wildcat formation and proved that he can be an accurate passer.
Lynch had a disappointing year, starting with the three game suspension, and then by not doing much with the games he was starting. Lynch is in need of someone coming in that can give him some discipline, while lighting a fire under him at the same time.
As bad as Lynch was, I think you need two backs in the league now, so I do not want to see the Bills trade him away, as tempting as it may be.
Wide Receivers — (9) — Terrell Owens (UFA), Lee Evans, Josh Reed (UFA), Roscoe Parrish, James Hardy, Steve Johnson, C.J. Hawthorne (I.R.), Justin Jenkins, and Felton Huggins (PS).
This unit was counted on to produce big things but the numbers were not up to expectations, due to quarterbacks not having enough time to get the ball down the field to the home run hitters — Evans and Owens. There were flashes of those kind of plays for both, but it didn't happen often enough to keep defenses honest.
Owens did more in the second half of the season than he did in the first half, and may have earned a return invitation next year. Whether or not he comes back depends on the coach that is hired, who the QB will be, and finding a way to fix the offensive line.
It was a lost year for both Johnson and Hardy, as neither caught many passes or got involved in the offense to further their development. Josh Reed was ignored for the most part, and is a free agent that may not be back with the team.
Tight Ends — (5) — Derek Schouman (RFA & I.R.), Derek Fine (I.R.), Shawn Nelson, Jonathan Stupar (ERFA), Joe Klopfenstein (UFA/RFA). Shouman and Fine going on the I.R. caused the Bills to go with Nelson and Stupar. Except Nelson got hurt, suffered from migraines, and wasn't really featured very much when he did play.
Schouman started off the year fine, so he and Nelson should be back.
Kicker and Punter — Rian Lindell and Brian Moorman. Both had fine seasons and the Bills kicking game is in good shape. Each kicker is an asset to the team and needs to be kept here.
Long Snapper — Garrison Sanborn. Did not have one bad hike on a punt all season. You can't beat that consistency he provided, so he should return as well.
Overview — The positions that need to be addressed range from offensive line, defensive line, quarterback, linebacker and a wide receiver if T.O. doesn't return.
I am not opposed to looking at a tight end, especially one like Jermaine Gresham, if he falls down far enough due to the injuries he suffered.
So, there you have it, the entire 2009 roster. If I missed someone, please drop me a comment, and I will make the correction. If you feel strongly about a certain player or want to talk about your favorite players, feel free to add your two cents.