Outside pass rush:
Marcell Dareus is the Bills sack leader. How many other teams in the NFL can say that their sack leader is a rookie DT? Not saying that its a bad thing for Dareus (obviously), but it just show's the lack of depth of the Bills pass rush. Guess how many guys the Bills have with more then 1 sack...wait for it.. 3!
- Alex Carrington, the player who so many people had hoped to be a pleasant suprise this year..isn't. He's a DT playing outside linebacker and Defensive End, and when teams get around the corner, it shows. He has accounted for 1 sack all season, and has looked pittiful with run support.
- Dwan Edwards has had 4.5 sacks in his entire career. I guess he's ok with the run defense, but if the guy can rush the passer (which he clearly can't) why is he on the field?
- Chris Kelsay has started 9 games this year, and he only has 1 sack. Again, its clear that at this position, he isn't productive enough to warrant getting the playing time that he does.
- Nick Barnett, who is 2nd on the team in sacks with 3, has been a pleasant surprise. I have nothing to complain about with him because he's the teams defensive MVP. (That doesn't mean the guy is the best LB or anything. In all honestly he reminds me of a much more athletic Posluszny. He gets out of position a lot, and makes few plays before the line of scrimmage, but because he's such an athlete he's able to make up for that where Poz wasn't)
How to fix: DRAFT, DRAFT, DRAFT! (and I don't mean in the 5th or 6th round) The Bills have been made fools in the past by going out and spending (relatively) big money on below average free agents. The Bills aren't a franchise that is able to take average talent and turn them into something special (a la the Pats). So if they decide that they can go and get a guy in Free Agency next year who only has had 4 career sacks, and turn him into a worth-while pass rusher, then they will be sadly mistaken.
Honestly this is a tough position for me to critique. When a defense puts no pressure on the opposing QB, it will be impossible for the defensive backs to keep great coverage. Add to that the constant injuries and lack of continuity at the position and I want to give the DB's a pass. But then I think back to the beginning of the season.
- Against the Raiders: 323 pass yards allowed
- Against the Pats: 383 pass yards allowed
- Against the Bengals: 298 pass yards allowed
- Against the Eagles: 315 yards allowed
Needless to say, the Bills DB's have been pretty helpless, even before injures riddled the team.
How to fix: Improve the pass rush, and allow the DB's to develop. Our DB's are a good mix of young (Williams, Searcy, Byrd, and Rogers) and older (McGee, Scott, Florence and Wilson). If the vets can stay healthy, and allow the younger guys to develop at an appropriate rate (rather then just being thrown into the fire), then I think our secondary has some real potential.
I don't buy the injuries as a legitimate excuse for the Bills lack of WR depth. Prior to injuries, the bills were planning to rely on a group that consisted of:
- Stevie Johnson (45 games played, 157 receptions = 3.49 receptions per game)
- David Nelson (28 games played, 81 receptions = 2.89 receptions per game)
- Roscoe Parrish (77 Games played, 134 receptions = 1.7 receptions per game)
- Donald Jones ( 23 games played, 41 receptions = 1.7 receptions per game)
- Brad Smith (89 games played, 83 receptions = .93 receptions per game)
- Marcus Easley (2 years in NFL, 0 games played, 0 receptions)
Now, yes, there is alot of younger guys on that list, with lots of potential (Johnson, Nelson, Easley). But is that a line-up of WR's that is going to let you compete with teams such as the Jets and the Pats? I don't believe so.
How to fix: Get a bonafide #1 or #2 WR to compliment Johnson via the draft. I don't think Johnson is a great WR, but he is good. But without another real threat on the other side of the field, the other teams are going to be able to key up on him more and more.
Nelson is invaluable. He's got great hands and makes catches over the middle. But he's not a real #2 WR.
I might be alone in this one but Jones is nothing more then a good #3 WR. He's fast, but has some pretty bad hands.
Easley is a question mark, but his ability to stay off the IR is a serious concern.
This is probably the least of the Bills worry, but its something that stands out to me. Looking at the Bills stats, the special teams is getting beat, on both sides of the ball.
- The opponents have a combined punt return yardage of 390 yards, compared to the Bills who have returned punts for 183 yards.
- The opponents have only called for 4(!!!) fair catches all season, as compared to the Bills 16 fair catches. Think about how many less yards a team would have if we were able to get down and prevent the other team from returning the ball.
The Bills quite a illustrious group of return men on their team, who have combined for 0 TD's and 2 returns for over 30 yards (both by Spiller..a 35 yard Kick return and a 45 yard punt return)
- CJ Spiller (who was drafted part for his RB abilities and part for his return abilities) seem's to be getting the lions share of the punt returns. Hasn't looked bad, but hasn't broken a return for a TD yet this year.
- Brad Smith (we spent 15 million on him, basically because he's a good special teams player) has been getting most of the load at kick returns. He's averaging 18.8 yards per return and his long is 28 yards. He isn't ranked in the top 25 returners in the NFL this season.
- Terence McGee (ranks in the top 25 ALL TIME on in Kickoff Return %).
- Leodis McKelvin (2008 All-Proc Kick returner).
- Roscoe Parrish (3 punt returns for TD in his career.. was injured first game into the season).
Needless to say, the special teams play has been severely underwhelming. They are allowing the opposing teams to start with much better field position, and at the same time, our return men are failing at giving our offense any advantage.
How to fix: Keep doing what they are doing. The guys returning the kicks are way to talented to not break any kicks. The new rules with kickoffs are making it harder for the return guys to make plays.