At the time of this writing many of us are trying to be kind to our families, refocus for the coming week, and generally forget the horrid display of football we just saw in the Cowboys dismantling of the Bills.
While the Bills played horribly, I believe a few key injuries have devastated this team's abilitiy to field a competitive team. After the jump I give my thoughts on the injuries that have neutered the Bills.
The losses of Merriman and Kelsay have stolen the only arguably respectable OLBs on the roster. While Merriman was far less than the player he once was, he was able to pressure offensive tackles and move his defender into the pocket disrupting timing in the passing game. He was also one of the staunchest Bills against the run. During the second half of last year and the begginning of this year Kelsay proved to be very adept at setting the edge against the run. Kelsay also provided push against the passer. He was never remotely considered a sack artist, but was at least able to get pressure when opposing QBs decided to hold the ball for 5 seconds. With these two off the field the Bills have suffered against the rush, and hemoraged against the pass, allowing QBs 4 + seconds to get rid of the football. (The Redskins game was an anomaly, where the Bills faced a woeful line and a QB who seemed determined to take sacks).
Batten and Moats are just not starting caliber OLBs. The momoment a tackle locks onto Moats he is stuck where he is, as in set in cement stuck. While Batten has been a pleasant surprise in coverage, he is absolutely unable to generate any pressure on QBs. Only some phenominal run support by McGee and other members of the secondary erased at least 3 instances where Batten an Moats failed to set the edge against the Cowboys.
Kyle Williamsinjury robbed the Defense of its most skilled passrushing lineman. Romo would not have had the time he enjoyed today had a healthy Williams been in the game.
On offense the team is really missing Roscoe Parrish. I was never a huge fan of Roscoe and under appreciated his long term importance to this group. It is clear the Bills miss Roscoe's quickness and speed. Roscoe is the type of player that is difficult to play in tight man coverage. Defenses would be much more hesitant to committ heavily to stopping the short pass if they had to worry about Roscoe creating space from his defender. Donald Jones is simply not a #2 NFL receiver. Jones is more a a #4 or #5 receiver being forced to matchup against superior athletes and football players.
Marcus Easley'sheart ailment probably gave Chan heart palpatations. It appears clear that Easley was being counted on to keep defenses honest and provide the vertical stretch the Bill's passing game is missing.
Stevie is effective with an equal across from him. Nelson is a strong number #3 receiver. Jones would be a good 2nd slot receiver to use with Nelson. Together this unit forms a strong blocking unit as well. However, they are missing the speed that makes defenses stay honest.
Lastly, I believe the injury to Demetrius Bell has really hurt the Bills cohesiveness as an offensive unit. While Hairston might have been able to hold his own at LT, the Bills were able to leave Bell alone against most pass rushers, allowing the Bills greater flexibility and the ability to more quickly put receivers into patterns (no chipping, helping, etc.).
As many have spoken of the last couple of weeks, it is imperative the Bills bring in a legitimate pass rushing threat at OLB, and a legitimate #1 or #2 WRto couple with Steve Johnson, assuming they are able to re-sign Johnson. These two additions, coupled with the return of a healthy Williams, would change the complexion of the team. I would also like to see the team attempt to bring in a talented every down TE with enough speed to threaten the deep seam.
As for the rest of this season on offense? On offense, I would suggest the Bills use CJ at WR. If nothing more, the Bills should have CJ run a lot of Deep posts and Fly patterns, paired with appropriate intermediate break off routes. CJ's speed draws attention. Hopefully his use in this manner would open up the short and intermediate middle of the field by demanding safety help with CJ. If the Bills can hit CJ a few times (1 or 2 two completions won't do it), teams will be forced to cease flooding the short zones and back off the tight man coverage.
With no skilled pass rushers in the front 7 and McKelvin and Florence at CB, I have nearly no clue how to improve this defense. If not for McGee, I would have forgotten what a good Bills CB looks like. That said, I would suggest the Bills learn how to back out of a blitz when everyone in the stadium, most importantly the opposing QB, sees it coming. There were at least two times today that members of the secondary gave away the blitz and then stayed in the call while Romo effectively changed the play.
On a positive note, If the Patriots win tonight the Bills still control their destiny. On a negative, but likely more realistic note, I started imagining we had the 11th pick in next year's NFL draft.