S Simpson having disappointing year (buffalobills.com)
When the Buffalo Bills are 6-8, eliminated from playoff contention and have lost seven of their past eight games, it's difficult to find any topic of conversation to write about here that will engender warm and fuzzy feelings - especially considering we've praised Marshawn Lynch repeatedly over the past few weeks. Is there anyone else to write about besides Marshawn that might actually put a positive spin on the Bills' current situation? Probably not. So, in the spirit of the not-as-popular Scrooge outlook this holiday season, I thought it'd be - well, not fun, but perhaps interesting - to discuss which Bills have been the biggest disappointments this season.
I'm quite sure that many of you will have your own names to add to the list, and that's fine - go right ahead. I'm going to guess, however, that the following six nominees get mentioned the most, so we'll vote on these six candidates:
QB Trent Edwards: Sure, he started the season out on fire. Sure, statistically he's still been pretty solid this year, sporting an 85.1 passer rating and completing two-thirds of his passes. He's thrown 10 touchdown passes, rushed for three more and thrown 10 interceptions. He hasn't been terrible, but his mediocre play was also one of the biggest factors in Buffalo's slide over the past two months. Now he's nursing a groin injury, and it's debatable as to whether he'll play again this year. We've seen a lot worse out of the QB position, clearly, but we'll also need better play if we ever hope to end our near-decade-long playoff drought.
WR James Hardy: Please dispense with the "bust" label; to label any rookie wide receiver a bust is incredibly premature. With that said, the Bills quite simply needed a lot more out of Hardy as a rookie than they got. Prior to his tearing his ACL this past week and landing on IR, Hardy's rookie season consisted of just 9 receptions and 87 yards - monumentally below even the most modest of expectations for a rookie receiver. What's more, he never even saw much playing time in the area where he was supposed to make his biggest contribution - the red zone. His rookie season will be remembered for one reception, his game-winner in just his second pro game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Beyond that, Hardy was largely invisible this year; the Bills need him to take great strides this off-season.
The Offensive Line: In the spirit of fairness, Buffalo's offensive line has been borderline dominant over the past half-dozen games. The run blocking has improved greatly, and quarterbacks not named Losman have only been sacked 20 times (Losman has taken 15 in 14 quarters of play). The line clearly hasn't been the biggest issue for this team, but all too often, they spring a leak that leads to a negative play (see: Jason Peters' whiff last weekend in New Jersey). Each lineman has taken their turn as the "goat" this season, so the whole unit makes this list. Again, they've improved dramatically as the season has worn on, but more work needs to be done on this unit.
DE Chris Ellis: Now, don't get me wrong. Expectations for rookie third-round picks should be tempered. But Buffalo had a dire need for an edge rusher last off-season, and Ellis was drafted to be that situational guy. Simply put, he wasn't. Ellis barely saw the field until he was forced into action by other injuries (Aaron Schobel and Copeland Bryan most often), and couldn't even beat out practice squad fodder like Bryan on the depth chart. Now he's on IR, and there's very few fans out there who believe he can make an impact as a second-year pro in 2009. His coaches might be right there with us.
LB Paul Posluszny: "Poz" is obviously one of Buffalo's most popular players, and with good reason - he's a tireless worker, a big hitter, and the embodiment of what makes Bills fans respectable. He fits well with this team and this city. He is also Buffalo's leading tackler with 96, 77 of those solo. But in terms of impact plays, Poz has been largely invisible; it may not entirely be his fault, but it is a problem. Posluszny has not registered a sack on the season despite blitzing frequently; he's recovered one fumble and his one interception came off of a convenient bounce last weekend against the Jets. Now there are whispers that the Bills may look to move Poz to the outside in the off-season. He's here to stay, but there's got to be a way to get more production out of our most popular defender.
FS Ko Simpson: I don't want to sway anyone's vote, but Ko is getting my tally. Simpson was a bit of an enigma entering this season, considering the fact that he missed all but one quarter of his sophomore season with a broken ankle. He won the starting free safety job in the pre-season, as expected, but his play has been largely terrible this year. He's racked up 58 tackles - strangely, good for fourth on the team and tops amongst defensive backs - but has quickly gained a reputation at being one of the Bills' poorest tacklers. Simpson is usually the guy chasing down big, game-changing runs by our opponents because he's the guy who missed the runner in the hole. He has zero sacks (not that he blitzes often), zero interceptions and zero fumble recoveries. Now, he's lost a starting safety spot, as Donte Whitner has assumed his free safety role with Bryan Scott our starting strong safety. There was a reason the Bills courted safety Marlon McCree last off-season; they'll likely be doing the same once again in a few short months.