In 2010, the Bills ended the season at a miserable 4-12. Of those 12 losses, five of those were eight points or less. Let’s take a quick look at those games:
Week 1: Sep 12, MIA 15 @ BUF 10
Week 3: Sep 26, BUF 30 @ NE 38
Week 7: Oct 24, BUF 34 @ BAL 37
Week 9: Nov 07, CHI 22 @ BUF 19
Week 12: Nov 28, PIT 19 @ BUF 16
Last season, the Bills defense ranked 24th with 361.6 yards per game (YPG), rush defense ranked 32nd with 169.6 YPG, which was 15 yards more a game than the 31st ranked rush defense (Denver) at 154.6 and 24.4 YPG more than the 30th ranked rush defense (Arizona). The Bills rush D gave up on average 4.8 yards per attempt (YPA), which means after two runs, the opposing offense gained 9.6 yards and only need less than a half yard for a 1st down on 3rd down. Buffalo’s pass defense ranked 3rd at 192.0 YPG, but had the 2nd fewest pass attempts against them at 473 (Oakland had 470). Because of how bad the Bills were on defense, Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey’s focus this offseason was to fix the defense as best as they could through the draft by selecting seven of nine players for the defense: DE/DT Marcell Dareus, CB Aaron Williams, ILB Kelvin Sheppard, SS Da’ChuckNorris Searcy, ILB Chris White, CB Justin Rogers, DT Michael Mt. Jasper. Nix stated his focus was to stop the run first, then worry about rushing the passer. Dareus and Sheppard were drafted to help Buffalo’s rush defense woes, to go along with Kyle Williams and last year’s picks of Troup and Carrington. With the combination of the draft picks from 2010 & 2011, plus Kyle Williams, the Bills are hoping their run D woes will finally be coming to an end. With the possibility of the run D improved, will the defense be able to get off the field quicker and give the offense more time to produce? It’s very possible, but only time will tell. Should fans feel confident that Buddy Nix can build a good, respectable defense for the Bills, let’s take a look at his time with the Bills from 93-00 when he was a regional scout for John Butler and the Chargers where Nix was Director of Pro Player Personnel (00–01), then Assistant General Manager. In 1993, during the Bills superbowl run, the Bills D ranked at 27th (out of 28 teams) at 347.1. The Bills improved every year until finally becoming the #1 defense in 1999 at 252.8 YPG. In San Diego in 2002, the Chargers D ranked 30th giving up 377.1 YPG. In 2006, the Chargers D improved to 10th at 301.6 YPG. While all the credit for the Bills D of the 90’s & the Chargers D of the 00’s can’t all go to Nix, fans should feel confident in Nix’s ability to know what
kind of defense works and in Nix’s ability to get the right players.
Let’s take a look at the offense. In 2009, the Bills offense, under Jauron/Fewell ranked at 30th with 273.9 YPG, rush: 16th at 116.7 YPG and pass: 30th at 157.2 YPG. In 2010, the Bills offense under Gailey ranked 25th at 304.9 YPG (a 31 YPG improvement), rush: 18th at 107.5 YPG and pass: 24th at 197.4 YPG (a 40.2 YPG improvement). In 2010, Gailey had a three way open competition for the starting QB position. Edwards, Fitzpatrick and Brohm all had to share reps with the starting unit during training camp. Capt Checkdown got the starting nod for the first two games before getting the boot by Gailey. In those two games, the Bills offense looked offensive, averaging 176 YPG, 87 rushing YPG, 89 passing YPG and 8.5 points per game. In weeks 3-16 with Fitz as the starter, the offense averaged 335 YPG, 116 rushing YPG, 219.6 passing YPG and 19.9 points per game. In the three games that Fitz did not play in last season, the offense averaged 171 YPG, 70 rushing YPG, 101 passing YPG and 8 points per game. Also, Fitz had two games in which he passed for over 300 yards (382 & 308), something that wasn’t done in a Bills uniform in years. Working in the Bills favor this year is Fitz is the entrenched starter for 2011 and will get all the reps (if there is a training camp, etc…); Wood and Bell are another year removed from their injuries; Wood most likely will be the teams permanent Center; a better option at RT to start the year than Cornell Green (either Pears or Hairston); Steve Johnson, David Nelson, Donald Jones and CJ Spiller will all have a year of experience under their belts; the offense as a whole will have another year under their belts under Gailey’s system.
Between a beefed up defense, the addition of a proven defensive coach in Dave Wannstedt and the offense having another year in the same system, there’s reason to think that the Bills will finally be able to win close games in which they lost in the past and start to actually compete against the best in the league. But, as a sad reminder, this is all dependent on the current labor situation.