How soon will McKelvin become a starter? (Photo Source)
Prior to the 2008 NFL Draft - in fact, prior to the free agent signing period of this past March - we took a look at the Buffalo Bills' roster position by position, breaking down then-current personnel, finding holes, and building our community needs list.
Now that free agency and the Draft have been completed, and the Bills have infused their roster with new talent, it's time to repeat our process. Where has Buffalo gotten better? Where have they gotten worse? How will additions impact which Bills veterans remain on the roster? These are questions that we've been attempting to answer for the past week or so, and will continue to do so.
We continue those discussions today with an examination of Buffalo's cornerbacks. To view our previous discussions on Buffalo's CB situation (pre-off-season), bang it here.
Terrence McGee: My opinion of McGee has been, and remains, a high one. McGee is one of the more underrated corners in the league, in my opinion - he registered 78 tackles and four interceptions last season, and is a threat to score any time he gets his hands on the ball. No, he's not a "shut down" corner, and he'll always give up some plays due to his lack of size and Perry Fewell's preferred style of defense, but McGee is a very, very solid football player. It's hard to go wrong when one of your starting corners is a sure tackler, a bit of a playmaker, and a touchdown threat.
Jabari Greer: We're all quite aware that Greer was a pleasant surprise in 2007. He stepped into the starting lineup after injuries to both Jason Webster and Ashton Youboty, and didn't relinquish his new job from that point forward. Greer is an aggressive corner with excellent speed and an ability to make a few plays, but he also leaves a lot to be desired - he's quite small, a below-average tackler, and his upside is pretty limited. Greer is a guy that any team would love to have on their roster - he's a gamer, a solid athlete and a guy you can depend on when he's in the lineup. But if he's starting at the outset of the '08 season, it will merely be in a seat-warming capacity. His ideal role is as a nickel/dime back and special teams ace.
Ashton Youboty: Once heralded as the future replacement to the now-departed Nate Clements, Youboty will have trouble earning playing time in 2008 as it appears at the moment. In the very limited amount of time Youboty has seen playing time, he's showed solid tackling ability, excellent athleticism, and some ball skills. His big problem right now is that he's so raw - in an effort to mask errors in his game, he's extremely tentative in coverage and in run support. The kid's definitely got the tools. Whether or not he gets the playing time to maximize on his potential remains to be seen.
Dustin Fox: With three years under his belt, Fox has failed to live up to his pedigree of being a third-round pick of Minnesota in '05. He was a solid special teams performer at season's end for the Bills, but with the influx of talent on the roster, he's an ultra-longshot to make the final 53.
The Additions: Will James, Leodis McKelvin, Reggie Corner, Kennard Cox
Dick Jauron mentioned in a post-draft interview that the team's goal throughout the off-season was to add at least one cornerback in free agency and at least two - but ideally three - more corners in the draft. Mission accomplished. James provides immediate competition to Greer in any capacity (starting or sub-package) and gives the unit some much-needed size. Corner is a smart, tough player that will need some coaching but has "future nickel back" written all over him. Even Cox is an intriguing prospect, as he has the talent to switch between corner and safety at will.
The real wild card of the entire CB group is McKelvin. Clearly, as the eleventh overall pick, McKelvin is going to be a starter in Buffalo sooner rather than later. All eyes will be on him during training camp - if he holds his own and makes a play or two, he should be starting, relegating Greer, James and Youboty to sub-package guys.
The Subtractions: Jason Webster, Kiwaukee Thomas, Jerametrius Butler
Let's be honest here - the Bills lost three OK cornerbacks this off-season, but the four guys brought in are far more talented than the three lost. Thomas is the biggest loss, as he spent two solid seasons as the team's nickel back. The team was rumored to be interested in re-signing Webster; when he signed with the Pats, the Bills likely turned their attention to James. This trio was highly injury-prone, so it's not likely the Bills will miss any of them heading into 2008.
Pre-Season Outlook: This position was destroyed by injury in 2007, but it wasn't necessarily a bad thing going forward. Webster and Thomas both landed on IR and Youboty struggled with injury, but with those injuries came the emergence of Greer as a viable option. Now, after an active off-season, the Bills have excellent depth at the position - there are legitimately five players (McGee, McKelvin, Greer, James, Youboty) who will fight for prominent playing time, and Corner seems like a virtual lock to make the roster as well. This is another green position for the Bills, but there's excellent depth and tons of talent. This was a job well done by Buffalo in re-building the corner position this off-season.
Change: Youth and far, far more talent.
As always, your thoughts and opinions are welcome and encouraged in the comments section.