Welcome fellow Buffalo Rumblings fans, to another edition of “What’s the Diggity”. In this series, I am furthering my analysis of the Bills’ roster, where I could see us moving forward, and what we should be keeping an eye on, moving into the draft. For the third installment of my series, I will provide some perspective on the WRs that we have on our roster (in some way, shape, or form), and how they might impact the progression of the offense. Most fans think that we need an upgrade in some capacity, and I too, expect to see the position addressed in some way, before the start of next season. While some may not expect that Buddy Nix will try and entice any WR other than Vincent Jackson to come play for us, I think it might be important to consider how any addition at the position could impact the offense, and who any of the likely candidates might be. So without further ado, let’s wrap up the offensive analysis, and see where we go from there. Check out the QB/OL analysis here, and the RB/TE/FB analysis here, if you missed them.
Wide Receivers (Finally! Right?)- Solid wide receivers help to keep the defense from stacking the box, and provide the Quarterback an outlet for the ball. Wide receivers are the most productive players in the league today, and are a major reason for the nature of high pace, spread offenses, and passing attacks. Bills General Manager Buddy Nix has said another “big time receiver” to pair with Stevie Johnson (hopefully) is in the plan, and here is a look at the guys, who we already have on the roster, who would like to try and step up into this role. If you think that would be a stretch (like I do), then look for my next installment, for some potential draftees/free agent additions, that could help us out, in that regard.
Steve Johnson: As our best receiver, the first receiver in team history to manage back-to-back 1000 yards seasons (EVER!!!), and the only one to demonstrate the ability to be a starting caliber WR on the team (even though some people still think he is a better #2 option), most fans think we should re-sign him long-term. I am one of those very fans, because I personally think that our offense would be an even bigger joke, without any legitimate threat at WR. If it was up to me, and most other Bills’ fans, he will be signed long term. I think that Nix may be waiting to see what he might fetch on the open market, before deciding what his value is, or before using the Franchise Tag on him.
Donald Jones: If we went by Chan’s vision of Donald Jones, then we would have to expect that upon his return this coming season, from his high ankle sprain that basically cost him a whole season, he would man the other wide out position, not occupied by Stevie J (assuming we have him on the roster, as I am moving forward). Personally, I think that Jones was a much more effective WR in the slot (making him the 4th WR), but no more effective than Naaman Roosevelt has shown himself to be, for that matter. I also feel he was very weak on the outside, providing us less presence than necessary for a true #2 WR. Though I expect Chan Gailey to keep him around, I am certainly not sold on this young man.
David Nelson: As an advocate for an expanded role for David Nelson, I feel he still has a significant amount of untapped potential. He has shown that he can be a mismatch in the slot, he has good hands, is very big, and probably the only thing that we could knock on him, would be top end speed. I still think he understands how to attack most defenses, and how to use his body size to his advantage. I think that moving forward; he might develop into more than just a pseudo- tight end, and can demonstrate the ability to work the outside.
Marcus Easley: Easley brings with him, a significant amount of uncertainty, as it relates to whether or not he can stay healthy, and be competitive in the NFL. What little we have seen of him, he seems to have good hands, good size, good speed, and all those things put together mean he could be a successful WR, and maybe even a #2 consideration. I am very interested in seeing him in camp, as I feel he might have more talent, strength, speed, and ability that Donald Jones.
Kamar Aiken: Aiken to me is another Marcus Easley, who hasn’t been plagued with injuries. I feel like he has shown enough in the pre-season and in the last couple games to show he can block well, has good hands, is very tall, has good speed, and can be a legitimate deep threat. I think when comparing Easley, Aiken, and Jones, that Donald would be the odd man out, for MY offense. It remains to be seen if Chan is willing to play the best players, not just his favorites.
Naaman Roosevelt: After being underutilized, and second guessed in almost every way (not fast enough, not big enough for the type of WR they seem to like, not “gifted”… etc, etc) this kid has done everything right. He makes great catches on the sideline. He catches passes in traffic, and he makes plays. He manages to turn a short pass into a 60 yard long TD (not fast enough?) and in my reality, he provides many of the things Roscoe Parrish does, except maybe his “quickness” (where has that "quickness" translated? Not really sure). All in all, I think he is a relatively untapped resource, and another example of the Buffalo Bills, and Chan Gailey, failing to recognizing talent already on the roster. He might be cut, to keep the likes of Jones, or Easley, or Aiken; none of who have had the same productivity, or demonstrated the same understanding of the game, as of yet.
Roscoe Parrish: Roscoe Parrish has been a complete and utter disappointment to me, since his being selected in the second round, of a draft that we didn’t have a first round pick (due to the trade made to acquire Lee Evans and JP Losman both in the first round of the previous draft). Roscoe has never amounted to more than an above average returner, and likely won’t; at least not for us. He is probably not going to be re-signed, because it would mean not keeping a better all-around prospect, that won’t cost nearly as much (see: any and all potential WR prospects on roster, and off).
David Clowney: Probably the most intriguing add to the team, to compete as a “large body” receiver, Clowney is capable of matching Roscoe Parrish’s blazing speed, but at 6 foot tall, and around 190 lbs, he provides a larger target, as well as a potential return man that could be more durable. The biggest questions revolving around him have been consistency, getting off press coverage, and ultimately finding a way to get on the field. He certainly isn’t a “clear upgrade” compared to the similar receivers mentioned above (specifically Jones, Easley, and Aiken) but he does have many of the things that we seem to be looking for in a receiver, and has some real potential as a slot WR, at very least.
Derek Hagan: As a veteran receiver in the league, Hagan stepped in as other Bills receivers (such as Roscoe, or Donald) went down due to injury. Hagan, while maybe not the fastest WR on the roster, has demonstrated some decent chemistry with Fitzpatrick, and could end up being a holdover, should the other less experienced WRs not step up and steal that roster spot away.
Ruvell Martin: Martin has been little more than a special teamer, or reserve WR that was brought up into action, as another attempt to find a WR for Fitzpatrick to throw to, at the end of the year. While he had decent size, and hands, he is slow, and not worth hindering the development of other WRs (Aiken, Easley, Jones, Roosevelt), at least in my opinion.
David Gilreath: A return specialist in college, perhaps the Bills are looking for him to compete in the slot WR role with Roosevelt, or maybe other WR prospects added (via draft/Free agency); Buddy Nix has said that they are looking to find a guy who can be a slot threat, and not necessarily in the current mold of “larger body” wide receivers they have been adding to the roster, since their arrival here.
Brad Smith: Even with all of those candidates above, I still feel there is at least some need at WR. Though Brad Smith will likely be a Wildcat QB as a basic full time job, I think his use will still involve some other use long term development (since he was brought in as a project, and we are paying him nearly 4 million to be here- he factors into the puzzle), which could include more WR play, if the need arises. Personally, I think that he will be in the Wildcat mostly, and that his use at WR will depend entirely on the development of all the other guys on the roster, or their impending injury (this is pessimistic yes, but realistically pessimistic). Should we not find 5-6 true starting candidates (which I find hard to believe), then Smith will likely be re-introduced into the mix.
This concludes my player by player analysis for the offense. I mentioned that I feel we have some needs that this analysis has presented. Look for the next installment of “What’s the Diggity” to see my full discussion of the needs on offense, the candidates that we might consider, as well as some draftees that Bills’ fans should have a look at, as potential solutions to these needs.