While Gailey certainly didn't have his best coaching effort, I thought the biggest problem on offense was easily that nobody could get open. When Stevie Johnson is having the most success getting seperation and he's being covered by one of the best players in the league, I'm not sure how you create a scheme that actually moves the ball.
I also think people were a little too easy on the defense. They deserve credit for hanging in there and doing a good job on run D, but Plax, Holmes and Keller had their way with the Bills secondary and you know that Buffalo is going to struggle to pressure any non-Redskins QB. I know the refs didn't help, but Jets skill players were running open far too often and Sanchez had more than enough time to find them. I'm not sure how that changes before we play them again.
It's sad that I'm actually cheering for Miami to win football games just because I don't want them to draft a player. Too bad Miami won't pick closer to 10 and that Ted Ginn isn't in this draft.
I think the idea of physically wearing a team down via time of possesion is a total crock. Even with the Jets having the football for two thirds of the game, it's still only 40 minutes of actual football over a three hour period. And how much of that is actually spent during live action in between the whistles? These are professional athletes. And the offense is on the field playing too, why doesn't anybody ever talk about how an offense couldn't run out the clock because their 300 pound, least athletic players on the field, only position that doesn't get rotated and has to play hard every down, offensive lineman were too tired because their TOP was so high?
I bring this TOP thing up because it's always been a statistical pet peeve of mine and because the Bills game is the perfect example of it. The Jets RBs average 3.7 yards a carry, but they crush the Bills in TOP because they're getting first downs and Buffalo isn't. They're not winning the game because of TOP. They're winning TOP because they're winning the game. When analysts and experts go into a game talking about how you have to win the TOP battle, they might as well be talking about something that means just as little before the game starts, like "the key to this game is running for more 4th quarter yards than they do." I bet that's a great stat, the team that has more 4th quarter rushing yardage probably wins like 90% of the time. But, obviously, it's meaningless because you don't win games with 4th quarter rushing yardage. You end up with those late rushing yards because you're winning the game.
Shawne Merriman ...... Here goes ..... The usual argument for bringing Merriman back is kind of a "why not?" We're not losing much, it's worth the risk, worst thing that could happen is he ends up back on IR. And it's a completely valid argument. In fact, according to that ProFootballTalk story, the Bills are already on the hook for 3 mil of Merriman's salary regardless of what they decide to do, so they'd only be saving about 2.5 mil by dumping him after the season. Here's where I disagree: any time you're talking about risk, you're point of reference is reward. IMO, using a roster spot on Shawne Merriman is like playing the lottery. It's only a buck a week, but you're never going to win. I understand that some people actually do win the lottery, but the odds of it happening are so awful that it's an embarrassingly poor decision to actually do it often (also, not judging people who play the lottery. It's an embarrassingly poor decision to start drinking, by yourself, at 2 in the afternoon, on a weekday, and then keep drinking until you eventually fall asleep, but hey, I do that every once in a while, nobody is perfect).
Merriman's Achilles injury - Is not like Takeo Spikes or anybody else. IMO, that his surgery is preventative and not to fix a serious rupture is actually worse. Who would you have more confidence in coming back from an injury, somebody who broke his arm, had it set and had to let it heal and then rebuild the strength OR somebody who doctors thought couldn't play because the risk of breaking his arm was so high that he needed a rod inserted in to protect the bone? Here's the history or Merriman's achilles issues:
October of 2006, Merriman's 2nd year in the league and the season he recorded 17 sacks despite playing in 12 games (he missed those games with an achilles injury/suspension). "Linebacker Shawne Merriman left practice yesterday with a flare-up of Achilles' tendinitis. He was limping after practice but said he has experienced the tendinitis before and will play Sunday night against Pittsburgh." Two weeks later, "Merriman was in a boot Monday after injuring his heel in Week 8." He then dropped the appeal of his suspension so that it would coincide with his recovery. The achilles bothered him the rest of the season: "The swelling in his right foot had subsided enough that he could fit it inside a shoe, but the foot remained tender enough that he used crutches to get around."
In 2007, Merriman was limited in practice a number of times (example, example) due to soreness in that calf/heel/achilles region. Merriman played through the injury recording 12.5 sacks in 15 games. 2008 was the season that Merriman missed after having surgery to repair his LCL and PCL. It was that offseason where ProFootballTalk reported that they had been "hearing that there's "quiet concern" in the Chargers' organization that Shawne Merriman's career could be over." Norv Turner dismissed the reports about Merriman scheduling an unusual visit to see Dr. James Andrews well after the doctor performed his surgery by saying "He’s had some soreness. I think he wants to get it checked out."
2009 was the disappointing 4 sack season where Merriman struggled through injuries and was the beginning of the end for his career. Here's a quote from December of 09 about Merriman's calf struggles: "Painful foot tendinitis that forced him from the past three games and other “nagging” injuries could keep Shawne Merriman from playing Sunday in Cleveland and perhaps beyond." and "Since coming back from major knee surgery that forced him to miss the final 15 games of 2008, Merriman has been bothered by a groin injury, the foot tendinitis and what Turner described recently as myriad other “nagging” injuries." At one point he had missed three straight weeks of practice: "Shawne Merriman participated in his first full practice in three weeks." and then immediately started struggling through practices again: "Shawne Merriman began wearing a protective boot Monday to further rest his ailing left foot."
The Achilles immediately got in the way 2010: "An Achilles’ injury Merriman has battled for several years flared up Tuesday night, and Merriman will almost certainly miss Saturday’s game." Here's Merriman on the injury: ""His Achilles’ has troubled him “on and off for years.” Merriman said it gets extremely sore and swollen and rest is the only solution". San Diego started to figure out the seriousness of Merriman's injury pattern. "There is concern linebacker Shawne Merriman will miss the season opener and about when or if he will again be the force he once was. Merriman did not play in the preseason due to his two-week tardiness and then an Achilles’ injury."
Merriman was placed on IR on October 13th, passed his physical in San Diego on November 2nd, was claimed by the Bills the following day and passed his physical to become a Bill within a week. Then he had the, what should now be infamous, re-injury in his first practice as a Buffalo Bill on November 10th. Which, of course, "wasn’t anything major." Two weeks later, Merriman was placed on IR, ending his season. Curiously, the Bills remained optimistic about Merriman giving him a contract that, IMO, no other team would have come remotely close to giving him. Over the offseason, Merriman claimed that "they've pinpointed what had caused the strained achilles to be re-injured." But Merriman's achilles bothered him through the preseason and he missed the 2nd and 3rd preseason games. He played through pain the first five games of the season before the injury forced him to sit out in week 6. With a bye in week 7, Merriman said he'll ''be ready'' to play in week 8. Eight days later, Merriman was put on the IR after team doctors decided he needed the preventative surgery.
If you've skipped or skimmed previous Merriman stuff, at least read my final opinion on Merriman: Shawne Merriman has a clear pattern of injuries. The achilles problem seem degenerative, at least in that it's only been getting worse over a long period of time. Bills fans need to understand that there is no such thing as a healthy Merriman, only a player healthy enough to actually play. All the talk from the fanbase about a potential Pro Bowl caliber player came entirely from a lack of information. The Bills need to realize that what we got from Merriman this past season is the absolute best that is possible to get from him. With Merriman, you're getting an injured player who is largely un-treatable, whose effectiveness changes from day to day or even hour to hour and who is a marginal player 90% of the time. It's not that the risk with Merriman is too much to stick with him, it's that the potential reward is worse than what you'd get with a young, journeyman FA who you would pay a couple mil per season. Over the offseason, I mentioned Antwan Barnes a number of times as an intriguing young FA. He stuck with SD for two years at 1.6 mil per season. He's got six sacks and a pair of forced fumbles this year. Think of roster moves like Urbik, Pears and Chandler and tell me that there isn't more upside in going into FA and giving a little money to somebody without much of a track record than there is in bringing back Shawne Merriman.
I still disapprove of Buddy Nix's performance so far. I know that puts me in a very small minority, but I when I look at his decisions, I mostly see mistakes. I think his first draft was a swing and a miss. It's obvious Nix didn't know what he had in Fred Jackson or Kyle Williams, not like either Troup or Spiller have really deserved playing time other than being backups. Carrington and Moats look promising and obviously, Nelson and the UDFA WRs were a bit of a coup. But that's not enough, IMO. That Spiller pick is downright embarrassing. It was luxury pick we didn't need and the Bills aren't even finding ways to use him. He's got 17 carries this season and is averaging a big 22 yards of offense per game.
Free agency has been pretty mediocre. Dwan Edwards has been a decent, solid move. The Fitz contract is pretty good. Nix did what needed to be done in resigning Florence, but it gets pretty weak after that. The Kelsay contract doesn't really look any better today than it did last year. Kelsay is 32, playing out of position, a pretty ineffective pass rusher and even only has 8 tackles this year as he's struggled through injuries. I've already gone on too long about Merriman. Cornell Green was a bust signing. Brad Smith is way overpaid, hasn't done anything other than pick up a few first downs via the wildcat and was a signing that never made much sense to begin with. Nick Barnett is a name that will be brought up in defense of Nix, but I think that was just dumb luck. Poz had already signed in Jacksonville when Barnett was cut. Nix tried to resign Poz, but he left entirely based on wanting to play in a 4-3. Money wasn't an issue and Nix was willing to give him a pretty huge contract. Barnett had three options after being cut. He could go to Washington and play out of position, next to London Fletcher. He could go to Detroit or he could go to Buffalo. He visited the Bills and had a visit scheduled with Detroit. News broke that Detroit signed former Jim Schwartz LB Stephen Tulloch and the Lions had already signed Justin Durant and had DeAndre Levy as a recent 3rd round and established starter. Barnett signed with the Bills in what was essentially his only option.
The positives that Nix has going for him is that he seems to have a gift for turning other teams garbage into our treasure. Scott Chandler, Kraig Urbik or even somebody like Lee Smith. David Nelson fits this too because he was a guy who was just misused at Florida and never did much there as a result. Mid/late round picks like Moats and Hairston are already making an impact. He hasn't screwed up an early pick and much more by taking a QB, something I would have done. The QB situation shows me that Nix will stick to his guns and trust his gut. Same with the switch over to the 3-4 even though the team had practically no personnel for it. All that leads me to believe that the organization is in good hands with Nix. I think he'll do a better job over time. I just don't think he's done a particularly good job so far.
Drafting a WR - I think WR will be an interesting discussion headed into the offseason. I see a lot of people talk about how the Bills need a deep threat, but I think it's much more than that. The problem is that it's tough to find a deep threat who fits this three step drop, ball comes out quick offense. A one dimensional deep threat does very little for this offense and I think they're no better off with a 4th or 5th round burner than they are now. The Bills could really use a serious upgrade at their #2 WR spot. They need somebody who excels at getting off the line and getting open in the three step drop game, but also has the ability to beat a CB down the field on fly routes. I think Nix will be less concerned with speed than he is with the ability to get open quick and body control / jump ball ability. With Chan Gailey in his ear, it could be very tough for Nix to pass on Michael Floyd or even Dwight Jones in the first round. My early guess is that Buffalo either goes WR in round 1 or 2 or doesn't bother to take one at all.
Here's my Bills' needs list:
1 - Elite QB - I no longer think Buffalo should address QB, but in a hypothetical situation, QB is still at the top of the list. What I mean is, if Aaron Rodgers is on the trade block and you could get him for Fitz and a first, wouldn't you do it? Or if we had Indy's 1st overall pick from a previous trade, would you go Luck or Matt Kalil, Alshon Jeffrey, Justin Blackmon, etc...
2A - Pass rushing OLB
2B - CB - I won't even bother to try and distinguish what the bigger need is. They're both massive enough to not really matter.
4 - WR
5 - CB - The position needs to be overhauled. Florence turns 31 in a month and it's not a long list of corners who have success into their 30s. McKelvin and McGee need to be replaced over the next couple offseasons.
6 - OLB - Kelsay is 32 and you know what I think of Merriman. The position needs both impact and depth.
7 - ILB depth - Barnett is 30 and Chris White might be the only backup ILB back next year
8 - OL depth - I know the OL looks pretty set on paper, but Bell is injury prone, are Hairston, Pears and Urbik really proven yet? and Rhinehart as the interior backup could use competition.
9 - TE depth - I like Lee Smith, but when it's only him and Caussin behind a solid, but not exactly proven and certainly not dynamic Chandler, it's a good position to address.
10 - DL depth - We've got a solid rotation of six guys for next year, plus Heard. But competition is a good thing.
11 - OL depth - I'm reaching, but the team doesn't have a true backup center and something about the roster just leaves me hoping the Bills bring in a lot of solid camp bodies next year.
12 - Developmental QB - roll the dice in the 6th-7th round or on an undrafted kid. It's a nice way to develop a cheap backup.
Mock Draft - I like to use somebody else's full 7 round mock draft to simulate an actual draft when I mock. I make the pick for the Bills based off who is available and am careful to not look ahead and see which players get taken and when.
1 - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame - I couldn't pass on Floyd's upside and fit in the Bills' offense. I figured that my picks would be so defense heavy that I could go offense in round one. Courtney Upshaw was strongly considered, but I couldn't pass on Floyd, the better player IMO.
2 - Ronnell Lewis, rush LB, Oklahoma - A bit of an under the radar junior who only started a few games last year. Lewis is a great athlete who plays with an extreme level of intensity and passion. He's known as a big hitter and the type of player who flies all over the field with reckless abandon. He's not the thickest built player, so get your Maybin comparisons ready and he's going to have to work on setting the edge, but I think Lewis is going to be a first rounder this spring and an impact pass rusher.
3 - Shea McClellin, rush LB, Boise St. - I think McClellin is underrated. How can Boise be so good with so few high draft picks? McClellin is a big, athletic, productive player. I like how Boise uses him in a variety of ways, you can tell that their defensive coaches scheme specifically for him. It's also tough to ignore that his best games have been the big out of conference, opening game matchups against Georgia and Virginia Tech. He had a pair of sacks in each of those games.
4 - Donnie Fletcher, CB, Boston College - A smart corner who will actually attempt to locate the football and has the height that Nix seems to like (he's 6'1'')
4 - Marcus Zusevics, OT/OG, Iowa - Wes Bunting likes him and it's tough to argue with those Krik Ferentz taught, corn fed lineman. Profiles well at RT or guard and gives the team both depth and a potential eventual starter.
5 - George Bryan, TE, NC St. - A solid athlete and receiver and a big player (6'5'', 270) who flashes plus blocking. Excellent potential to be a great backup TE who contributes every way a backup TE can.
6 - Omar Boldin, CB, Arizona St. - Missed this season with a knee injury, but has already said he will enter the 2012 draft. Great athlete who plays aggressively, but is also natural at defending the deep ball.
6 - GJ Kinne, QB, Tulsa - Kind of reminds me of Fitz in some ways. He's a coaches son and has steadily improved his mental side of the game. He's short, but tough and moves around pretty well. Shows good arm strength when he's set and has solid touch and accuracy. Limited upside, but seems like a good fit and potential backup.
7 - Ernest Owusu, DE, Cal - Already plays in a 3-4 and has flashed pass rush ability. Might be worth a look to see if he can make the team.