When it was announced last Friday that Buffalo Bills cornerback Terrence McGee would return to the active roster for the first time since Week 3, most assumed that Leodis McKelvin would go back to the nickel role in which he started the 2010 regular season. That did not come to fruition, as the Bills are clearly being cautious with McGee, limiting him to mostly dime work in yesterday's 14-12 win over the Detroit Lions.
McKelvin - who was beaten soundly by Earl Bennett for Chicago's game-winning touchdown in Week 9, and who had been struggling in general - had his best game of the season yesterday.
Buffalo ran zone coverages for much of the afternoon, as the team spent a lot of time blitzing Lions quarterback Shaun Hill. As a result, Lions receivers - Calvin Johnson (10 receptions, 128 yards, 1 TD) in particular - were able to find some soft spots for easy completions. McKelvin was one of a handful of defensive backs that missed tackles on the back end, allowing Johnson and company to pick up some extra yardage on otherwise ordinary plays.
But McKelvin was as technically sound as we've ever seen him in coverage, and made some nice plays on the ball, breaking up three passing attempts during the game. He only registered two tackles on the day, and by no means was he perfect, but he erased the glaring weaknesses for a game, and was very competitive with the ball in the air.
McKelvin also proved valuable as a specialist, as he became the primary kick and punt returner when C.J. Spiller left with a hamstring injury. He had a punt return touchdown called back on, in your humble narrator's opinion, a highly questionable holding call on Jon Corto, but also muffed a punt, prompting Chan Gailey to put Fred Jackson in the punt returner role for one rep. Again, just like his defensive play, McKelvin wasn't perfect, but his performance was admirable, and something to build on.
McGee is getting healthier, but if McKelvin can develop some consistency and play closer to that level every week, there's no reason for him to exit the starting lineup.