For the next installment of “What’s the DIggity”, I decided to approach the defense in reverse, and look at the Defensive Backs first. My reasoning for this is that most Bills’ fans agree that we have quite a few needs, on the defensive side of the ball. With the Combine looming (just 2 more days!!!), fans certainly have their favorites, and many of them include defensive linemen, and linebackers, along with a handful of corner prospects. To begin though, we should identify who our current players are, what they bring to the table, and whether clear upgrades are available whether through Free Agency, or via some rookie that you might be able to see perform this week. One thing is for sure regardless; this is the week of the biggest interview of any NFL hopeful’s life, and many fans will be heavily influenced by the results of these workouts, and the view of the media outlets that will be covering it. The draft is just around the corner people; soon, we will have new Bills’ players to root for, and a few of them are likely to be in attendance this week. I know that I am excited, and that I will be watching. But before we can get to that, we have a couple more days for analysis of where we are… to decide what we need to get in order to get where we would like to be. So, with that, let’s have a look at the defensive backs. For the most recent post in the series (which links to the others), check out part 4 of “What’s the Diggity”.
Defensive Backs: Defensive backs include corner backs, and safeties. The safety is the last line of defense, and they share in the coverage responsibilities that often are the corner’s primary role. Check out what we have to offer.
Jairus Byrd: Jairus became a household name for Bills’ fans, and NFL fans alike, during his rookie campaign, where he managed 9 interceptions. While his interception totals dropped off in his next two years, he has shown great improvement in his ability to run defend. He demonstrated the ability to transition from the 43 defense, where he found so much success, to the 34 defense, where many thought he would fail because of his size. With us going back to a somewhat simpler defense, that he had great success, Bills’ fans should be excited to see Byrd return to the defense that made him so prolific as a rookie.
George Wilson: Wilson is a project player for the Bills; George as most Buffalo fans already know, is a converted WR who now plays safety for our squad. George improved in many ways over the last couple years, and some would argue he was playing safety at the Pro Bowl level, prior to being injured. While he might not be the “future” of the position; he is certainly a solid starter on our team, and likely to be around for this season, and possibly beyond.
Bryan Scott: As a pending Free Agent, Bryan Scott might not be a Buffalo Bills player moving forward. That said, with the team spending 65% of their time in the nickel package, where Scott played as the OLB… He might be a definite need for our defense. Another solution, might be to ask Nick Barnett, or a “new” LB addition (via Draft?) to take over this role. Scott won’t command huge money, but as a veteran, he will certainly cost more than a draftee in the later rounds. This is an interesting role that the Bills will probably need to fill, and may or may not be filled by Scott.
Da’Norris Searcy: Searcy has shown some solid ability, particularly when draft position is considered. As a fourth round pick out of North Carolina, Searcy was a large safety, who managed 30 bench reps at the combine last year, and was considered better in pass coverage, and ball skills than in run support. As he demonstrated throughout the season, he was raw, but flashed ability both in pass coverage AND run support. Searcy is an interesting prospect for the Bills still, who have questionable safety depth, should Scott be gone, as he and Jairus and George, are the only players with any safety experience.
Joshua Nesbitt: Nesbitt is a QB converted to Safety, out of Chan Gailey’s former college team, Georgia Tech. While Nesbitt has played some QB for the scout team, he currently resides on the roster in the form of a safety. He is a relative unknown, having not been active for any games (or at least not seen the field for any).
As for our cornerbacks, we have some aging veterans, and young prospects both, including a couple guys who probably fall between the two.
Terrence McGee: If not for his injury history, McGee would likely be our best corner. However, not only has he missed 24 games in the last 4 seasons, but he is getting older, and could just be losing a step, in general, even if healthy. At 6 million dollars: many people expect his release is a foregone conclusion. While the possibility exists that we could restructure his deal; it is likely we will be adding talent at cornerback via free agency or the draft, and that could mean the end of Terrence’s time with the team.
Drayton Florence: Having just been re-signed last year, to a fairly lucrative contract, Florence isn’t the first person who might be cut from this group. His penalties, and lack of speed, could be his demise however. Just the fact that Nix has said we try to add a couple of corners each year, coupled with the possibility of Williams AND Rogers both being starters (whether in the nickel or otherwise); Florence certainly is going to need to show that he is worth the money he will make. I have proposed maybe he could be additional safety depth or a possible replacement solution for Bryan Scott, if we can’t come to reasonable terms with him.
Aaron Williams: Aaron Williams is arguably our best corner back, even coming off his first season, where he was injured for a good portion of the year, with collarbone, and lower leg (ankle) injuries. Still, Williams managed to gain consistency, and step in for the injured Terrence McGee, and perform pretty well, given the fact he was a rookie, who was not only in his first year in a new defense, but had no offseason training program, and was new to really… EVERYTHING and everyone. That said, he has been fairly consistent, and has the size, the ball skills, and at very least enough speed, to man the boundary. Williams will likely be a day one starter, if only at nickel (somehow?).
Justin Rogers: One of the more intriguing selection, Rogers has shown flashes of abilities, in multiple phases of the game. His ability to return kicks and punts had Chan questioning himself as to whether or not he should have given Rogers a shot sooner. On top of that, Rogers played pretty well in our Nickel package, manning the slot corner position. He was around the football, managed some pass deflections (that MAYBE should have been interceptions) and all in all, has many Bills fans optimistic in his abilities. Expecting him to take over as a starting CB might maybe be a little overzealous.
Leodis McKelvin: To most, Leo has been a general letdown, and another example of a “miss” for a first round selection. While most are quick to be hard on a player playing on a struggling defense… I am quick to note that he has flashed enough ability to still leave question as to how good he could be, if he had better players around him. Now, while some might say this is clearly a sign that he was a “bust”; I could agree, to a degree. However, the only way to be sure he is incapable is to see him fall on his face as the starter this season. He should be in line for the #2 position, which he had at the beginning of the last two seasons. With his effort, and attempt at gaining maturity this past season, and the trials that the staff has put him through; He should have no more need for motivation, in this, his contract year. He BETTER play well, or he will be playing special teams, until free agency begins next year.
Reggie Corner: Corner has the most potential for improvement still on this roster, that hasn’t been mentioned already. While that might be a little cynical, moving to the 43 helps Corner, in that he is a veteran, with some experience, some familiarity, and some playing time in the corner position in a number of defenses and situations. That really means that he can play with some speed (as much as he has) in a simplified defense. He has been through camps (unlike our most recent and incoming rookies) and he should be a contender to unseat Terrence or Florence. It will be interesting to see, if he himself ends up cut again, when he proves to be as solid as Leodis, or Florence, after Terrence is gone. There is a chance that an incoming rookie corner, will spell the demise of Reggie, and Terrence, and POSSIBLY even Florence.
Doyle Miller: I got nothing. I can’t find anything more than he is 5’11” 185lbs, and from California.
I fully expect the Bills to add corners, as the need still exists, even with some quality candidates. What this group is lacking, is a true man-to-man corner back, preferably of the 6'+ and/or 200lb (or so) variety. That would help us if we have to cut Terrence McGee, might not then keep Corner, and even if we do, we have Williams, Rogers, Florence, New Guy, and then Leo or Corner... which isn't too bad, even if you aren't a fan of Leo, or Florence.