Debate: Depression Ensues (long read)

Just a lengthy back and forth between befuddled Bills enthusiasts.  2 emails basically saying the same things, good time passer on the john at the least....

EMAIL 1: -----------------------------------
Typed this in a fury after LAST week's debacle, then thought "no, Corey, this is too darn negative, beat Miami next week, wait to see what happens against the Jets"--then the Jets get beat up by the Broncos, and I'm thinking "totally wise!"--then this...utter crap...
Basically the past three weeks I've been struck by the incredible lack of top-end talent on this team (set against the miserable draft woes)--so I went through, starting position by position, and tried to break down exactly what the Bills have in place, looking forward to next's profoundly depressing...
By my count, there are 10 guys who should be starters next year (Byrd, George Wilson, Dareus, Kyle Williams, Barnett, Stevie J., Freddy J., Levitre, Wood, Chandler), and another handful who would be acceptable IF there were upgrades ahead of/alongside them...
They desperately need elite guys at QB1, WR1, OLB/DE (pass rusher!) and CB, all positions where the surefire way to get those guys is in the top two rounds of the draft--luckily, the Bills are TERRIBLE at drafting in the top two rounds!
Anyway, here's my breakdown, with added comments post Dolphin-beatdown in bold parens--my draft analysis (whiffs) is based on a quick scan of the guys selected in the 1st round, or selected in the vicinity of one of the growing list of Bills busts:

QB1-Ryan Fitzpatrick--would be a perfectly fine QB2, smart guy who can step in and run an offense, but is only a borderline average QB1, at best--physically very limited limited, only really capable of a not so fast fastball, no touch whatsoever, can't complete at any angles, horribly inconsistent deep ball--"intangibles" are nice, but makes a lot of dumb decisions for such a "smart" guy--
I've come to like Fitz personally, and if I was looking for my QB for next week alone, Fitz MIGHT fall somewhere in the top 20, but long-term, it's scary to think that the Bills QB situation amounts to Fitz for the foreseeable future--I came up with 8 teams who have a WORSE situation (meaning no good potential guy developing or waiting in the wings) than Buffalo--KC, Den, Sea, Oak, Mia, Clev, Wash, Ariz--of those teams, only Oakland and possibly Denver have investments akin to Fitz's 5 years $60 mil, where it'd be really hard to shift gears immediately (Oakland's frittata, and Denver's stuck in weird Tebow limbo)
Bottom line: he's acceptable as a starter next year IF there's a potential legit NFL quarterback to groom
Guys the Bills have passed on/whiffed on/been afraid to go out and get: Josh Freeman (picked Maybin), Jay Cutler (picked Whitner), Rothlesburger (declined to trade up two slots when opp was there), Brees (drafted Nate Clements), Flacco (drafted McKelvin), all the high potential guys in rds 2-3 recent years...
Post-Miami-beatdown: thoroughly outplayed by Matt Moore--sad--where's the leadership? how do they not even put up a fight in that situation? and again, a whole lot of dumb errors for a beloved Harvard grad--last game it was the ludicrous long fade to Jones on key 4th and short, this game, it was pulling the ball down and running on 2nd down at the end of the half, losing 20 seconds easily, conceding loooong FG try...

RB1-Freddy--not much to say, he's a star, I love him--the only top-5 player at his position on the team (is anyone else even in the top 20?)--a shame that he's 30, particularly since it doesn't seem at all like Spiller's the type of guy Freddy can just pass a torch to...
Post-Miami-beatdown: love him, but he's 30, unsigned, and probably increasingly unhappy--I see him winning Super Bowl MVP next year...with Pittsburgh...and I'd be really happy for him...

WR1--Stevie Johnson--would be an excellent WR2, but is a below-average WR1--basically makes hay with his ability to get open--runs good, unorthodox routes, is solid physically, is a likeable guy--can beat an average CB, but not the best--lacks elite speed, elite strength, elite hands--poor at jump balls--a true WR1 should be able to make an impact even when the D is focused on him, I don't think Stevie can do that...
Bottom line: the Bills HAVE to hang on to him, since he's the only borderline pro-bowl caliber guy outside of Freddy--can be serviceable top dog, but would be so much better as a No. 2 in a great passing offense...
True playmakers the Bills have passed on: A.J. Green (drafted Dareus), Dez Bryant (Spiller), Hakeem Nicks/Kenny Britt/Percy Harvin/Jeremy Maclin (drafted Maybin and Wood), Dwayne Bowe (drafted Lynch), Greg Jennings (traded up for McCargo), Vincent Jackson (took Parrish with top pick)
Post-Miami beatdown: becoming more and more apparent that Stevie just can't carry an offense--I think he'd be serviceable with a solid, speed-oriented 1A (a la Lee Evans), but with this group of jokers, teams just take him away...

WR2--Donald Jones--is an extremely below-average WR2, would not make many rosters, might fit in as a WR4-5 some places--has had more memorable drops than catches this year, not nearly fast enough to be a "deep threat," loses jump balls all the time, doesn't adjust well to slightly off throws, poor at running after the catch, flattens all his over the middle routes so he can avoid taking hits--I know Evans has been hurt in Balt, but I can't fathom why Chan would think that this guy could be a serviceable replacement...
Bottom Line: I'm not seeing it, even a little--even as the 4th or 5th wideout, he doesn't do anything particularly well (e.g., can't be the token stretch the D speed demon, or token slot hands guy, because he's not that fast, and has poor hands)--if he's the #2 next year, I quit...
Post-Miami beatdown: I feel bad reading this because he got hurt, but it's all true...

WR3-David Nelson--above average! (for a WR3)--basically is a very tall guy with very good hands--runs decent routes, doesn't get great separation, but doesn't need to at 6'6...
Bottom Line: If he's doing the exact same job next year, with an improvement over Jones at WR2, that's terrific...
Post-Miami beatdown: feel bad here too...

TE--Scott Chandler--average--nice hands, decent athleticism, and a true bright spot, but he's not the sort of TE who can be 1 on 1 with a DB and flat out beat them (Witten did this all day today)--Chandler gets open because of the scheme, I don't think you can count on him to personally beat someone in a tight spot--also not a very good 1 on 1 blocker, outside of the trapping scheme that makes them all look good at times...
Bottom Line: probably serviceable for next year, if he can improve as a blocker, but a true playmaker would sure be nice...

OFFENSIVE LINE--Pears, Urbik, Wood, Levitre, Bell/Hairston-- I'd put Wood and Levitre at above average, although that's mostly based on reputation--I tihnk Pears is average, Urbik is below average (he quits on plays a LOT), and Bell below average (despite the improvement)--there's been some great holes for Freddy, but there's also been key 4th downs (see last week, Jets), when they just get knocked backwards...
Bottom Line: I'd love to see an upgrade over Urbik, and I'd love to see Hairston play out the year and get some good reps, but overall I think this is a group that can get better...
O-Line they could've had, instead of rubbish: Mangold/Marcus McNeill (McCargo), Ryan Clady (McKelvin), Alex MAck/Mike Oher (Maybin), Anthony Davis (Spiller)
Post-Miami beatdown: When does Wood start to drift into bust territory? I realize it's not his fault, he's had some brutal injuries, but injuries produce busts as often as poor work ethic, etc.  I don't think he's there yet, and I love the guy, but one more season-ender and I think they've got to move on...

DE--Carrington, Dwan Edwards--
both slightly below-average--Edwards has the experience, Carrington a little more upside--both have shown marginal progress, but neither makes ANY plays, and they both get blown off the ball an awful lot for 3-4 DE's
Bottom line: not clear how much they hurt/help, but a DE who can get just a little penetration, or knock an OT backwards, would sure be nice...

DT--Dareus--lord I hope he's truly an above average starter--hard not to like his ability to contribute right away, but bottom line is, this is a playmaker's league, and dareus is generally a big run-stuffer, but not QUITE big enough to be a Haloti Ngata-style NT...
DT--Kyle Williams--the other top-20 player--if he comes back strong, you do have to like the potential here...
Bottom line: no real need for an upgrade, maybe the most solid position on the team, although still no TRUE nose tackle for the 3-4...
Whiffs: Haloti Ngata (picked Whitner), BJ Raji (could've traded up easily)--I like Dareus, but I like both these guys more, and if either was on the roster, that opens up the 3rd overall pick for a playmaker (A.J. Green!)
Post-Miami beatdown: Chan Gailey=gets the most out of his players, right?  Then why the hell are the two BEST players on the team being forced into a position (NT) which is thankless and doesn't allow them to make plays? (read fascinating interview with Kris Jenkins on about horror of being NFL nosetackle). 
If they played a 4-3 next year, these two guys could wreak havoc, and the next guys on the list (Kelsay and Johnson) would suddenly have a position that fits their skills...eureka!

OLB--Chris Kelsay/Spencer Johnson-- Kelsey may be a borderline average starter, but not in a defense that relies on OLB's for pass rush--Johnson looked like a fish out of water, which isn't his fault...
Bottom line: upgrade badly needed, but seems likely that Kelsay remains starter anyway...
OLB--Arthur Moats-- below average starter--best skill is pass rush, but he doesn't have any of the key physical tools that smaller sackers need (big hind-quarters for bull rush, uber-quick first step, long arms, explosive finish)--gets pushed all over the field in run D, terrible in pass coverage--I'd certainly take the 2-3 legit pass rushes per game Maybin's giving th eJets right now...
Bottom line: I like Moats, so I'd like it if they stuck with him at one position, just to see what they've got...
Outside LB pass rushers they've whiffed on: Orakpo (drafted Maybin), Pierre Paul (Spiller), Clay Matthews (Maybin, traded up for Wood just one slot below Clay), Lawrence Timmons (Lynch), Kamerian Wimbley/Tamba Hali (Whitner), Justin Tuck (Parrish)
Post-Miami beatdown: I think this is the position that bugs me most--I know Maybin was a headache, but he had elite athleticism, and NO ONE else on this roster does--why can't "make the most of his talent Chan"  figure out how to use that?

ILB--Nick Barnett--
exceedingly average, although perhaps an upgrade over Poz--good tackler, involved in a lot of plays, can play all 3 downs--but, never makes plays behind the line of scrimmage, weak pass rush/blitz...
ILB--Kelvin Sheppard--below average, but a rookie....seems a bit slow, always out of position in pass D, but some nice plays behind the line, solid tackler, big...
Bottom line: I'd take both these guys back, but there is clearly room for a significant upgrade...
Whiffs: Patrick Willis (let 49ers steal him right out from under, when an extra 2nd would've leapfrogged SF), Rey Maulaugula (Maybin and Wood), Brian Cushing (Maybin), Beason (Lynch)

--slightly below average starter--remember when he used to be explosive? still a solid tackler, decent cover guy, but on a significant downward trend...
CB--Florence--slightly below average starter--a homeless man's Asante Samuel--the coverage on the long TD pass from Romo was insanely bad--tackles with his head down (thus missing many tackles), plays very soft, gives huge cushion, and takes worthless risks...
CB-McKelvin--below average starter--great at staying with guys, but absolutely terrible ball skills--guys who get beat to the ball this often get benched, then cut by better teams...
Bottom line: I may be leaning a little harsh here, considering how terrible the pass rush is, but it's scary to think that this alleged position of strength could use a true playmaker/lockdown corner...
Guys they've whiffed on: Darelle Revis (drafted Lynch), Leon Hall (Lynch), Rodgers-Cromartie (McKelvin), Patrick Peterson (Dareus)...
Post-Miami beatdown: isn't it shocking how easy it is for opposing QBs to play against the Bills? Romo was near perfect last week, Moore was golden this week--these guys are just flat out bad...

SS--Wilson--above average starter--physical tackler, involved in every play, nose for the ball--every once in awhile he disappears, but definitely one of my favorite bills...
--potentially above average, although I think the defensive scheme completely neuters him--I watch for him game after game, and he's constantly playing classic center field free safety, always running up towards the ball--if they'd mix it up, let him get in front of some receivers and read the QB's eyes, I tihnk the INTs would start coming back--but a real solid tackler, good player...

Below average: 11 starting positions (more than 11 players)
Average: 4 starting positions (including most important QB position, which is a real stretch)
Above average: 8 starting positions (counted Williams and Dareus at one DT spot, since they'll both always be on the field--other above average spots are safety, 3rd WR, C and G, and all-world Fred Jackson)

Sorry I know this is both depressing and overly long--I'm just pissed--just when you thought there was no way to be MORE disappointing...




Agree on everything corey.  This team is in outright disarray and a promising we-might-have-turned-it-around season is now back to the same ole never ending holes in our team.  I'm utterly PISSED I trudged all the way to the bills bar for that sad effort. 

Piggy backing on your shoulda picked analysis here.  The 1st and 2nd round picks the last 8 years are all you need to consider when trying to figure out how we got there.

1st Rounders:

  • Dareus - Should be good, wrong scheme right now IMO.  If you miss at #3 though it's unforgivable
  • Spiller - 90% chance this is a miss.  That failure to pound it in yesterday on the goalline sums it up.  The fact he's playing at WR even more so.
  • Maybin - Somehow making an impact with NY.  Nature or Nurture?
  • Wood - I like the guy and the pick, injuries aren't his fault but still can lead to a 'bust'
  • McKelvin - Will only ever be an effective nickel guy in my eyes.  NO ball skills and definitely a reach coming out of vaunted TROY
  • Lynch - Good thunder back, will only flourish though in a tandem.  Why not pass on spiller and keep this guy?
  • Whitner - Not resigned, playing serviceably with SF, not anywhere close to a #8 worthy guy.  Biggest draft failure on this list was not taking Ngata here.
  • McCargo - Out of football, never even a legit starter
  • Evans - Had flashes, has cooled down terribly in last 3 years, could retire
  • Losman - nothing much to say here.
  • McGahee - When you pick a guy that won't play for his first season it's pretty quickly an awful pick, had Travis Henry already
  • Williams - BUST x 20.  He's fat. Out of football

Of those 11 picks how many are even average starters?  Wood, Dareus right now.  Whitner, mcgahee, and Lynch on the edge.  simply terrible and it isn't getting any better under Nix.

2nd Round - slightly better, but still disappointing

  • Aaron Williams - TBD
  • Terrell Troup - Not much hope other than depth
  • Jairus Byrd - still TBD, above average if used correctly
  • Levitre - Best lineman on the team
  • Hardy - out of football, still very tall, YEA!!!
  • Poz - Chose to leave, very replaceable as we've seen
  • Parrish - Injured every year becuase he's a child, poor poor pick
  • Kelsay - 3rd highest paid defensive player yet never makes a play
  • Reed - ho hum slot guy, retired
  • Denney - out of football, never better than #3 DE

All that said, there's a pretty decent track record of OK late round picks and UFA signings (Moats, Batten, SJohnson, Bell, Jackson, Jones, Nelson).  BUT really how much can you win when that's your only bright spot on draft day and the day after?!?  A bunch of no names contributing more than expected (which is ZERO by 31 other teams) aren't going to build a sustainable team.

Buffalo radio and Jerry Sullivan have reminded me of this gross oversight.  You had a 2 year starter cut in training camp purely to save money in Hangartner (who went on to start day 1 for Carolina).  Your only player with center experience is moved from guard then goes out for the season.  Now you put in your LG slash LT slash emergency C and expect him to run in shotgun all game long with no blunders.  Awful awful awful personnel gamble and reeks of cheapness. 

BTW - a dead horse whipping boy on this front has been the money spent on brad smith for nothing, while cutting a legit NFL center.

My immediate feelings after hearing about his signing was geez, at least make the guy prove he can sustain over an entire season.  He's never showed more than good backup to OK starter talent and you blow up the bank after 4 very closely played wins and LOTS of good luck.  The league defenses have caught up to him (and the offense) and he's showing his true colors.  He's consistently inaccurate and the brilliant decision making he was lauded for aren't there anymore.  This started to show in the giants game with 2 badly underthrown deep balls to Johnson that both got pick off, basically costing us the game.  I really only wanted to see him stick around while we searched for the future QB, not anoint him as such.  If you let him play out the year there were only 2 things, maybe 3 that would have happened

A - He continues to be very good, he's loyal, realizes this scheme is what made him, he resigns for market value
B - He continues to be very good, he goes for broke and some other team overpays him...but who?
C - He regresses and you either cut ties, or resign him at his REAL value, not his week 5 inflated hype machine money

Instead we overpay him and are now stuck at least 3 years with him.  The last 3 weeks his highest QB rating is 51. 

The 3-4 scheme change seemed forced when gailey came in and it still does.  Arguable our 2 best defensive players Williams and Dareus aren't nose tackles and should thrive as the DT in a 4-3.  There aren't any distinguishable OLB on this team, which is the key to the 3-4.  No pass rush is the achilles heel this team has had for YEARS now and there's no hope in sight, compounding that is the sack masters we've passed up year to year as corey mentioned (Orakpo, Timmons, Pierre-Paul, Matthews, Hali).  The DB situation coming into this was promising.  A solid veteran duo of McGee and Florence backed by a maturing McKelvin and rookie Williams...well that's been turned upside down.  McGee is probably gone after this year, Florence having his worst season as a bill, McKelvin leveling out as a bust and not much yet from williams.  If you can't rush the passer OR cover then what can you do?

The early credit to our winning ways was given to the no-name receiving corp.  Turns out there's a reason they're no named, because they have no game breaking talent and were mostly products of an efficiently run system.  The Easley injury really saddened me because of our guys he DID have that speed and size but just needed to learn NFL ways.  His injury combined with the cost cutting evans trade put WAY too much pressure on the success of this pencil thing corp.  As corey said Johnson is barely a #1 because of his limitations, though i love his heart and work ethic, and the rest are complimentary pieces at best.  Parrish had played 20/32 games the last 2 years and has never shown he could stay healthy.  Basically all the apples were put on three 7th round or UFA (add in Roosevelt for 4) recievers which was a cute story for a minute but now is proving to be utterly stupid. 

I think the most devastating factor here has been the rash of injuries.  To begin with we're a very shallow team of overachievers and draft busts.  There was and is no quality depth, most of it being the aforementioned UFAs and guys plucked off of practice squads (especially on OL).  If you think about it our #1 pass rusher goes down in Merriman (I won't go into that gamble but in a vacuum it was a favorable risk/reward), you lose your #1 lineman in Williams, your supposed #2 WR in Parrish, and your starting LT and Center.  When you lose the only talent you do have and are throwing in players that barely make an NFL roster the results are what we've seen the last 3 weeks.  Pathetic, low skilled, uninspired play.  The fact we were out of all those games by half time is awful yet no entirely surprising

The reality here is that it was always going to be a re-building season.  The tease in the first 7 games was just that, like a wiff of modeling glue to the cerebrum.  High on success, low on reality.

The dumb "bills faith" we all re-introduced ourselves to was fleeting.  Fitzpatrick is really not the answer, the recent draft history has put us in an ominous hole, the injuries can not be ignored, luck was certainly on our side, and the brilliant coaching that got us the 5 wins has been figured out with seriously depressing precision.

Take the ridiculously dominant opening beef patty and flop it on two slices of incredible comeback win bread over oakland and NE.  Throw on convincing Eagles victory tomato with a splash of Redskins dominance lettuce.  Now give away a bite of this burger for each nail biting 3 point loss to very good giants and bengals teams.  Hopefully that is enough joy to last the year because I really don't think there's anything left in this season's basket of deliciousness for buffalo fans.

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of

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