Many of you are excited for the upcoming season. Some of you fear that a great season could be toned down by Ryan Fitzpatrick's problems. I read something a few days ago that should have everyone, including the most critical of Fitz's fans very excited. QB coach Lee said that Fitz hit 2 passes that he never thought he'd hit this early in the OTA's (not until actual camp). The 2 passes were: a back shoulder throw and the go route. He hit both of those passes with his feet in the correct spots. This is a different Fitz guys. You know what has been forgotten in all of this, not only will his accuracy increase, but, the force on the passes will also increase because his entire body is in the correct position.
I wanted to point out exactly what Buddy and Chan have accomplished in under 3 full seasons:
When they started their rebuild, they had the following pieces in play:
An unproven Steve Johnson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson
Minor stars in Byrd (great for INT, not so great run support or pass defense), Wood, Leveitre, Kyle Williams.
They decide to install the 34 because it is so hard to play against, but, have no players to really run it. They pencil Kyle Williams in as a NT, but, don't expect him to succeed there. They draft Troup to be the starter, which fails. They sign Dwan and draft Carrington, both of which aren't great moves today.
They realize their mistake and go back to the 43. Instead of continuing to try to force a square peg into a round hole, they admit it didn't work. They make hard changes. However, we all know it's the right move because of their DL.
This coaching staff has taken the "decent" players on this team and made them better pros, some are stars. Under Chan's coaching, Stevie has excelled. So has Fred Jackson. Leveitre could have made the pro bowl last year had the voting been fair and not been tainted by old pros who no longer deserve the honor. Wood was having an all pro season before he got hurt. Kyle Williams went from a good upstart to our best DL and an all pro. Byrd's game has him in the top 7 FS's in the league already. For 2 months, was there a better SS then George Wilson? In the Philly game, the announcers were amazing at his big play ability in that game.
They realize problems and fix them by assembling talent on talent. A team that was devoid of depth now has depth in several critical areas including: QB, HB, OL, DL, CB, S and I'd argue that WR and LB are better stocked then we realize.
I don't like the Vince Young signing, but, he's a decent backup and an upgrade over Thigpen. We already knew that Freddie and CJ are good. Chandler is a good TE. Stevie is at least a 1B. Nelson is a solid slot guy. The OL is good at LG, C, RG, RT and a great battle will happen at LT.
The DL has solid 2 deep at every spot. Kelsey had the best year of his career last year on a bad defense. Anderson has been a sack machine for his career. Mario Williams is one of the best DE's in the league. I don't know a single person who isn't excited over the idea of a healthy Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus getting pressure up the middle to prevent the QB from stepping up in the pocket. There won't be a pocket. There is also good depth there with Spencer Johnson, Troup, Carrington, and Edwards. If Merriman has anything left and is finally healthy, he is the wild card on the team. If he is healthy, he gives us 5 amazing pass rushers, more then defending champion NYG have from week to week.
Our LB's are solid with pros Morrison and Barnett. Shepperd is a bit of a wildcard, but, I have to have faith in the coaches. He had some good plays last year, including a great sack on Vick. I want to believe he is ready to take that next step and be a better player in year 2. The rookies show promise in one way or another.
The DB's have gone from a weakness to a strength. They are expected to be even better due to the pass rush that is downright scary now. Aaron Williams, Gilmore, Brooks, Rodgers are the future of the team. If Leo and McGee have anything to offer, that just adds to the depth, once McGee gets healthy. Byrd is one of the better FS and Wilson is a good SS that should excel due to the pass rush as well.
They even have decent backup K and P. They have a plethora of KR and PR.
Lastly, here is part 2 of how I'd rate the Bills players if I was running Madden. I already did the offense. Here is the defense: Here is a recap of the numbers:
65-71 Below Average
77-84 Above Average
This is a look only at the starters or certain guys who I think can make a difference this year:
Mario Williams is a 94. What holds him back from being a megastar is his health. I want to see him play a full season. Also, when you think of players who are megastars (Bruce, Reggie White etc) is Mario that good? I don't see that. He might get there.
Marcel Dareus - 89. He had a great year for a rookie. I can't put him above star status yet. I want to see what he does with all the talent around him. Will he regress or excel with so much talent next to him. He could easily be in the low 80s (if he struggles) or in the 90's (if he steps up). He's a wildcard.
Kyle Williams is a 94. He is a beast. I'd put him higher, but, a foot injury for a DL is bad. I need to see his explosion. What separates Kyle from other DT's is his quickness. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt, for now.
Mark Anderson - 83. He is a great pass rusher, but, is not very good against the run. I want to see him more consistent. The Bills tell us that he can be more stout at the point of attack. We will see.
Merriman - 87. He is a very solid player, except for his health. If he was fully healthy, he is one of the top 3 DLs on the team. He says he is now, we will see.
Kelsey - 81. I know this will get me some hate, but, I really think he's a decent player. He is good against the run and had his best season last year. Can he build on it now that he isn't an every down player? Perhaps he can.
Morrison is a 83. That is largely based on his previous years. He did next to nothing last year, but, I think he can still be an above average starter. I think with the reps as a first teamer, he will return to form from a few years ago.
Shepperd - 82. I think he showed a lot of promise. But, he needs to be stronger at the point of attack. Too many plays were made with him being dragged. He needs to respond a fraction earlier and change from being dragged for 4 yards to stopping the play for a 2 yard gain (by getting there earlier and being in a better position to make the play). He needs to be more consistent.
Barnett- 89. He was our best LB last year and before injuries around him made him much less effective, he was a stud last year. He is our best LB and we have to hope this isn't the year he starts to decline.
McGee - 89. He is our best CB when healthy. The problem is, he isn't healthy. He is solid in run support and can cover non-superstar WR's consistently. A pass rush will help him.
Leo- 75. I know some will give him a much lower mark, but, he is there, he just doesn't make the play. I think a good pass rush and this being his contract year will see him "reach" a new level of being at the border of average and just a tiny bit above average.
Aaron Williams is a 77. He had some plays, but, a lack of health and consistency hurt him last year. I want to see him improve in both run and pass defense, and stay healthy.
I can't judge the kids like Rodgers, Gilmore, or Brooks. They haven't played yet.
Byrd is a 93. I love his game. He is a stud. He is solid in run support, is a good pass defender and we know he can pick off passes from his rookie year. I think a better pass rush will really make the rest of the league step up and notice him, which is why I hope we extend him very soon. We need Byrd here for the prime of his career. I think he can be a superstar (95 or higher) by the end of the year.
Wilson is a 91. For the first 7 weeks, was there a better SS? In the Philly game, he was amazing. He learns, he makes plays, he is fun to watch. He might give up a bad Td, then bait the QB to try that play again and pick him off the second time. I think he is the person who improves the most from the pass rush. HE was already great, but, now, he can take more chances and we will see some elite playmaking from him.
Just for kicks and giggles
Lindell is a 89. Most kickers that make the team outright are good. He is no different. He is "money" inside the 40. He is decent outside the 40, and can make 50+ yard field goals. His kickoffs really bother me. I know the average start was the 20.7 due to his kickoffs being very well angled, but, he has no leg strength for kickoffs at all. That just bugs me.
Moorman is a 90. He is a stud still. He averaged more then 48 per punt last year. That is a great gross average. What he is losing is his ability to pin guys deep and to direct his punts. It is a shame that for the last decade, our best player was a punter and now that we are finally getting good, he might not be able to go on that fun run. It really isn't fair at all. I hope he can turn back the clock and at least see a playoff game with the Bills.