The question in my mind is when will it all end? I mean the playoff dearth, lack of depth and double digit IR seasons. That is what I intend to answer in this post. Lets RUMBBLE !!!!
First lets take a look at the depth issue. I cant remember the last time the Bills had anything close to good depth. I was born a Bills fan, but I really started to pay attention to the roster in 2008. IMO the roster was only slightly below average back then as our 7-9 record testifies to. The problem was not so much talent and depth (although below average) as it was that the guys on the roster were inconsistent underachievers that were starting to become injury prone at key positions. When Nix took over in 2010 he choose not to gut the roster as some GM's do, but he tried to use the first year to pick and choose what he wanted to keep and what to let go. In the proccess he ended up keeping a lot of the younger drafted talent, and initially a good amount of veterans as well. As for depth he signed a bunch of UFA's and generally started a youth movement. The depth was not so much bad as it was unexpierienced. The end result was a lot of learning on the job, mistakes and a lot of losses. In the 2011 offseason there was little time to build as the FA period was more like a sprint to sign everyone you could and try to fill holes in your roster than any kind of a normal FA period. In the end the Bills lost Poz, Hangartner, Stroud and Whitner, while picking up S. Young, Pears, Chandler, L. Smith, Heard, Morrison,and Barnett. They also added a few starters and depth in the draft. I think the depth going into the 2011 season was better than the year before, but the injuries the Bills sustained were devastating. There was no depth directly added to the roster in this years FA period, but obviously there has been a lot said in the last few weeks about the depth the Bills added in this years draft. All in all IMO our depth going into the 2012 season is the best it has been since I have been keeping up with it. We still have a lot of unproven young depth, so it can get better over time, but the talent level is there. IMO 2013 should be a really great depth year.
The real reason for this post as it started out was to show the progression of this team's roster as it pertains to injuries. I knew in my mind that there had been progress, but I wanted to go back and look at the actual players on the roster back in 2009 and then follow the progression over the last three offseasons to see if I could somehow measure the progress. I wanted to track how many players on each years roster fit into an "injury prone" label, along with how many new players added each year and lost each year fit into that label as well. You may disagree with a specific player that I have labeled injury prone of think that I need to add one that I missed, but the numbers dont lie. Nix is improving this aspect of the roster.
In 2009 the team had 16 players hit the IR list but the roster was filled with injury prone players that managed to make it through the year on the active roster. By my count there were 17 players that made my injury prone list. That is an astonishing 32% of the roster. Most of these players were brought in during the Dick Jauron regime, and IMO this was one of his most under reported weakness as a coach and leader of the team. It is obvious that they did not think durability was a factor when scouting a player.
In 2010 Nix came in and promised he would look into what was the cause of all these injuries. The answer would come a year later, but more on that further down. From the beginning he made it an issue for the new strength and conditioning coaches saying that this team would become bigger stronger and tougher. In Nix's attempt to keep some of his core players from the previous year he also kept a bunch of the players that made my list of injury prone. To make matters worse he added three veterans(A. Davis, C. Green, and R. Tobor) in FA and two rookies in the draft (M. Easely, and T. Troup) that made my list. Later during the season he added S. Merriman off waivers and you guessed it he made the list as well. Luckily he did thin a few off the list in the preaseason during his effort to add youth. Names that some of which I cant forget soon enough like (D. Fine, J. Hardy, E. Lankster, D. Schouman, K. Mitchell, N. Harris, M. Buggs and C.Green. The last of which he picked up, saw the error of his ways and let go in less then nine months. To recap Nix started with 17 injury prone players from the previous year, added 6 himself and then cut 8 over the coarse of the year. This left him with 15 players on the list to carry over into 2011.
In 2011 the first thing Nix did was get some guys off waivers (actually at the end of 2010) Guys like Pears, and Rinehart have some history but not enough to give them the label just yet. It was somwhere along in here that Nix was asked again about what the team found out in thier investigation of what was causing all of the many injuries through the years. Nix said they could find no clear cut answer, and that they could only say that it was bad luck. The draft was next for Nix and although it is too early to label someone as injury prone based off of one year, there is cause for a watchful eye for A.Williams, C.Hairston, and C. White. In FA The only pick up that came with strings attatched was N. Barnett. He has an injury history and it is part of what allowed Nix to get him at such a cheap price. During the offseason Nix was able to let six players that were already on the list go they include (S. Nelson, J. Scott, J. McCargo, A. Youboyt, K. Ellison, and P, Poslnszny) So to recap again Nix carried 15 over from 2010 that made my list and then added Barnett, but subtracted six from the list. That leaves nix heading into 2012 with 10 injury prone players.
So far this offseason Nix has continued to slash away at this list. He has let four more leave town by not resigning (A. Davis, R. Tobor, D. Bell and R. Parrish). That takes the total on my list from 10 down to 6. This draft was Nix's best so far in regaurds to injury with only six games missed total over the nine players combined collegiate carreer's, and all of them came from one injury to TJ Grahamm in his junior year. The other eight prospects never missed a game due to injury. Theese are some big, strong, tough dudes lets see where have I heard that before? Oops, I almost forgot about FA. I dont think M. Williams is injury prone, but he has had a couple of injuries in his six years in the NFl and the same can be said for M. Anderson.
So in my final count Nix has this team down to 6 injury prone players that is just 11% of the roster and a more manageable number considering that Easely, Wood and Troup could work themselves off the list with one good healthy year. Merriman and McGee will be resonsible for lesser roles than before so that should help them. In the end Nix has done a fabulous job cutting down the ammount of injury prone players the Bills have on thier roster going into the 2012 season. IMO the only true answer to cutting the number of IR players on our team in a given year is to do what Nix has done and carefully manage the risk reward you get with injury prone players and for the most part stay away from them if you can. I think because of the work that Nix has done to the roster in the last three offseasons we can finally look forward to a normal year with less than 10 IR's this year. That just leaves one question unanswered. When will the Bills make the playoffs? I say this year is the year to break the drought, but next year is SUPER BOWLL TIME!!!! What say you Rumblers?