KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 11: Running back C.J. Spiller #28 of the Buffalo Bills rushes in for a 9-yard touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during the fourth quarter on September 11, 2011 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Bills beat the Chiefs 41-7.(Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
The Buffalo Bills are what they are, and right now, they're a middling 5-4 football team that hasn't shown up to play a game yet in the month of November. Yet somehow, they remain a game out of the division lead despite their recent ineptitude. That's what the team has looked like on the whole this year, and that's what their record says they are.
There's not a whole lot Buffalo can do to get better this season aside from the obvious: better game plans from the coaches, and better execution from players. As far as personnel goes on both fronts, not a lot is going to change. Bills fans need to understand that George Edwards isn't going anywhere any time soon, and that the team isn't suddenly going to find an elite pass rusher or a competent vertical threat. The Bills are a known commodity right now.
With that said, there are still a few tweaks that the Bills can make right now to try to inject some life into a team that has been blown out 71-18 over the last two weeks.
Change No. 1: Start feeding C.J. Spiller. Chan Gailey has repeatedly gone to bat for Spiller this season, saying it's not his fault that Fred Jackson is awesome, and that Spiller is such a small part of the offense because of Jackson's play. It's time for Gailey to realize that there's room for two running backs in a modern NFL offense. The Bills aren't even using Jackson as much as they should be; what's the harm in making Spiller a bigger part of the offense if that's the case?
Jackson has been the entirety of Buffalo's offensive attack for far too long. The rest of Buffalo's skill players aren't getting the job done; Stevie Johnson is struggling to get open due to all of the attention he's getting; the rest of the receivers are being erased (save David Nelson in the red zone) or erasing themselves; and Scott Chandler - while solid - isn't going to strike fear into opposing defenses.
Spiller has 31 touches this season. That's barely more than three touches per game. No, he has not shown anything on the field of play that mandates that he get more touches. I am advocating that Spiller become more involved almost by default. If the rest of the offense isn't getting the job done - and they clearly are not right now - it's time to see if your former Top 10 pick can. It's that simple.
Change No. 2: Stop pretending Spencer Johnson is an outside linebacker. I get why the Bills have been toying with Johnson (as well as Alex Carrington) at the position this year: they just don't have much at the position, particularly in the way of good run defenders. The Bills call themselves a 3-4 right now, but with the heavies playing the Jack (weak-side outside linebacker) spot, it's effectively a 4-3.
Here's the thing, though: Johnson isn't any good as an edge defender. Teams target his side of the line on misdirection plays because Johnson has no change-of-direction skills. Opponents can get the edge on him because he's a 300-pound man trying to run down running backs. It's laughable when he's asked to drop back into a throwing lane. There comes a point when veteran savvy can't mask a positional weakness or make up for a player being completely out of his element; the Bills were at that point with Johnson many weeks ago.
Play Johnson where he belongs: inside at defensive tackle. Get him off the edge, even if your young, overmatched outside linebackers (minus Chris Kelsay, of course) take their lumps. At least they're learning something.
Change No. 3: Play your young guns. There are at least four young players - Spiller notwithstanding - that need to be on the football field more. That list starts with Chris Hairston, who needs to be playing left tackle as soon as he's physically able. It could not be clearer that Hairston will be the team's starting left tackle next season, and he needs as much good experience as he can get.
Carrington also needs to be on the field more. I'd argue that he needs to be on the field as often as Marcell Dareus is, if he's physically up to it. He and Dareus are the only defensive linemen that consistently flash the ability to make plays, and there's no reason that Carrington should be giving up reps to any other lineman at this point, aside from the need to rest. He can really play.
Aaron Williams (when he's healthy, of course) and Justin Rogers should be playing, as well. Terrence McGee has been Buffalo's best corner of late, but he doesn't have the size that the team likes at the position, and he's been physically outmatched by bigger receivers this year. Drayton Florence and Leodis McKelvin have, to put it very lightly, left much to be desired over the last month (if not longer). Williams and Rogers were hand-picked by the current regime, and McGee and McKelvin seem like they're not long for the roster after this season. Get these two young corners onto the field, then.
What other changes would you consider, Bills fans?