The Buffalo Bills are re-building, and as such, we've witnessed some brutal football through the first two weeks of the NFL season. Two games might not be a fair point to begin measuring the success of the first rookie and free agent classes brought in by GM Buddy Nix, but hey - you try finding interesting things to write about regarding this team.
Free Agent class: Buffalo made it quite plain that in their modest approach to free agency, they were looking for mid-to-low-priced veterans that could start for the team for the duration of their contracts. In defensive end Dwan Edwards and linebacker Andra Davis, they appear to have found exactly what they're looking for - dependable players that will be starters now, next year and possibly beyond.
Cornell Green, on the other hand, looks like the free agent bust we all expected he'd be. He's struggled, to put it very mildly, at right tackle, and it'd be a huge upset if he ended the year as the starter there.
The team is still awaiting any sort of impact from some later free agent signings (all occurred after the March spending spree), including linebackers Reggie Torbor and Akin Ayodele, tight end David Martin and guard Kraig Urbik (who was a veteran acquisition, but was not technically a free agent addition - he came via waivers).
Rookie class: Nix wanted an impact player in the first round, but with the way his team is handling the implementation of C.J. Spiller into the offense, they haven't exactly gotten it yet. From the second round on, the Bills were looking for the best players - instant-impact and project status notwithstanding - but they appear to have gotten something of a project player with their Top 10 pick, as well.
A few rookies - all of them undrafted - have exceeded expectations, mostly because they've contributed despite their status. David Nelson has seen a solid chunk of playing time as the fourth receiver, and has performed fairly well. Donald Jones, another undrafted free agent receiver, has looked excellent in his role as a punt gunner, and lines up with Spiller to return kicks. Cordaro Howard acquitted himself about as well as could reasonably be expected at left guard in Green Bay.
I'd argue that two rookies - nose guard Torell Troup and linebacker Arthur Moats - are the only ones "meeting expectations" at this point. Troup has been steady in his limited role defensively, while Moats has been, as expected, solid on special teams.
As with Spiller, the team is still awaiting impact from tackle Ed Wang, end Alex Carrington, and undrafted outside linebacker Antonio Coleman.
Lack of impact is predominant. Yes, it's early. Yes, the judgment passed here carries very little in the way of long-term meaning. But the early returns on the first major player overhaul of the new regime aren't especially promising.
Exceeded (meager) expectations from the undrafted trio aside, only Davis, Edwards and Troup have lived up to their billing as higher-profile, instant-impact players. Spiller clearly has that ability, but for whatever reason, the team is holding him back. Most of the players brought in haven't contributed in any form, while others have barely seen the field.
Nix wasn't kidding when he said that this re-build would take a while. It'd be a major win for the Bills if, by season's end, they got a lot more production out of their first group of imported players.