The Buffalo Bills have officially reached their 2009 bye, entering their week off with a not-altogether-unexpected record of 3-5. We've been down this road before; with 7-9 finishes in each of the past three seasons, the Bills are on pace for yet another similar result.
The bye week can be used as a time of reflection - not just by the Bills themselves, who'll use it for that reason as well to fix a growing pile of errors and perhaps get healthy for the first time since July - but for us fans, as well. This two-week period without Bills football gives us a chance to boil the team down to its most basic elements as we put on our GM caps and think about not only the second half of the season, but beyond 2009 as well.
There are topics of conversation that we don't need to touch on, or already have. The Bills need a GM - that's a conversation we've already had. Buffalo likely getting a new head coach is something that's discussed on a daily basis, so it doesn't really need coverage here. Those changes have a very strong chance of happening. From there, we move on to players. The purpose of this post is to identify the current Bills players that aren't just worth keeping around, but are bona fide stars (or stars-in-the-making) and players around which a perennial playoff contender can be built.
This will be a community exercise. I'm only throwing one hat into the ring (bet you can't guess who!). The rest will be up to you in the comments section.
Jairus Byrd, free safety. I'm not ready to proclaim him a superstar yet, mostly because he still has tackling issues and is much more of a one-dimensional safety than the elite players at his position. Still, four-game runs such as the one Byrd just wrapped up are virtually unprecedented, even for those aforementioned elite players. Byrd has registered 7 interceptions in those four games, including two each off of Mark Sanchez, Jake Delhomme and Matt Schaub in the Bills' last three games. He's not forcing the turnovers, per se, but rarely has a defensive back at this level shown such efficiency in turning bad throws into big plays. Case in point: Byrd has defended (i.e. gotten his hands on) 9 passes this season. He's caught 7 of them. That might give him better mitts than Terrell Owens.
As it stands today, Byrd leads the NFL with those 7 interceptions (and will continue to lead the NFL, unless New Orleans' Darren Sharper picks off two Matt Ryan interceptions on Monday Night Football). Is this just a random rookie getting superbly hot, or is this run legit? Only time will tell, but two factors lead to optimism: Byrd is doing his damage on one of the worst defenses statistically in the league, and he's doing so without the Bills sporting an elite pass rush. I think he's legit. He's certainly going to be in Buffalo for a while based on his tremendous rookie season.
Yeah, I took the easy one from you guys. There are other players that could garner consideration in this discussion; if I may be so bold, I'd like to offer up Lee Evans' name as the next nominee. Yes, you can name names such as Eric Wood (who has a better shot at becoming a franchise cornerstone as our center, if you ask me) and Aaron Maybin, but neither's play yet warrants such an honor.
Get cracking. Are there other players on this team that a new regime, without attachments to players young or old, would build around? Discuss.