Buffalo is in year two of a regime change, and therefore has a lot of new blood in the Red and Blue. Despite my lofty and unrealistic expectations for our rookies, when I think of the 2011 season, there are some key personnel that I’ll be leaning on to shoulder the load. They may not be the most talented (heck, they may not even start), but they’ll be needed this year if the Bills want to get a winning season.
8- Marcell Dareus
Dareus should be much higher on the list, but I’m giving him a pass because he’s a rookie-Dareus is expected to start and improve the no. 32 run defense in the league. This is why he was drafted where he was drafted, and the defense as a unit needs him to produce quickly.
7- Andra Davis
Davis was solid if unspectacular last year, but he brings experience in the 3-4 and depth to the ILB position. Even if he doesn’t end up starting, he will teach Sheppard, White, and whoever else ends up playing up the middle for the Bills, even if Poz stays.
Pending free agent Donte Whitner is more talented, but Wilson has produced when called upon, and is my current penciled in starter at SS. He can work with rookie DaNorris Searcy to groom him for the position, and is a classy individual with enough talent to lean on for 2011.
5- Kyle Williams
Williams is the best player on the team, and apparently the third best player in the league according to Pro Football Talk, or Focus, or Weekly, or whatever. Williams isn’t higher only because of the position he plays- he was the 3rd best player in the league, and the Bills were still 4-12. They’ll need him to produce again, and the thought of him taking Jasper under his wing gives me goose bumps, even if we only see that in preseason.
Even if Drayton Florence is re-signed (I’m assuming he’ll be here), McGee is Buffalo’s best CB, hands down. He is physical, rarely gets burned, and rarely draws penalties. McGee needs to stay healthy, obviously, but I’d much rather see McGee/Florence starting week one than McKelvin/Williams. Give the youngsters a bit more time, and show Williams how it’s done.
3- Stevie Johnson
The most entertaining Bill of 2010 needs a repeat year to help the young receiving corps find their groove, and make the average Fitzpatrick look all-pro. Now that he’s not a no name, he’ll need to work harder to gain the separation he enjoyed last year. Oh, and he needs to hang on to those game winning touchdowns.
Yes, QB is the most important position, and yes, ours is not spectacular, but Fitz will do enough this year to keep Buffalo in games. If the Bills can lean on him for that much, I think the other players come through for some much needed W’s. Fitz is, however, NOT the No. 1 player to lean on…..
1- Fred Jackson
Here’s hoping Jackson enjoys his best season as a Bill as the undisputed no. 1 back, an excellent supporting cast, and Eric Wood as his center. Buffalo ought to be a run-first offense, and Jackson has shown for several years now that he is capable of shouldering the load. He is, in my mind, the most reliable Bill, and therefore, the No. 1 player to lean on.
Shawne Merriman- I know he’s a vet and he’s produced before, but he hasn’t done anything in quite some time, and I’m not sold on his character. I hope he produces, but I’m not counting on it
Poz/Whitner- I think Poz will be back and Whitner won’t be, but you can’t lean on a guy if you’re not sure they’ll be here
Lee Evans- Lee is a classy guy and a great WR, but he is going to be asked to do some new things this year, and I’m not sure how he’ll handle it. He also doesn’t strike me as a “mentor” type. He’s quiet and respectful, but doesn’t go out of his way to be a leader. Purely speculative on my part.
Who do you think is the No. 1 player to lean on in 2011? Anyone I missed?