This post is part of a series entitled State of the Bills Roster, in which we're breaking down and evaluating the Buffalo Bills on a position-by-position basis. If you're confused about the number and letter classification appearing after each player's name, read this post. You can check out all previous installments of this series here.
Soon after Chan Gailey was hired as head coach of the Bills in January of 2010, he told local media that his new group of defensive backs - we're talking corners and safeties here - was the most talented group of DBs he'd ever inherited. As a result, the defensive backfield was the one major area that the team did not address in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Yet after grabbing 28 interceptions and finishing second in the NFL in pass defense during a 6-10 campaign in 2009, the Bills suffered major setbacks during 2010's 4-12 finish: the Bills intercepted 11 passes, and though they still had the league's third-best pass defense, Gailey and GM Buddy Nix are keenly aware that their statistical prowess in that area is due more to awful run defense than their own secondary play.
A look at Buffalo's group of cornerbacks lies after the jump.
Right now, the Bills have six cornerbacks in their organization. (Seems like there are more, right? Wrong.)
Drayton Florence (2-B). Signed to a two-year deal as a nickel option in March of 2009, Florence has spent the past two seasons as a starter in Buffalo. At his best, he's been a dependable player capable of making big plays; he has four interceptions and two touchdowns in two years with the Bills. But he's also coming off of a year in which he was something of a penalty machine, getting flagged 10 times on the season - including three pass interference penalties, three illegal contact flags, two defensive offside infractions, a 15-yard facemask, and a defensive holding. Florence is an impending free agent.
Leodis McKelvin (2-B). Will the light ever fully go on for this guy? He's got over two full years of pretty extensive playing time under his belt, and though he remains a fine athlete capable of hanging with some of the game's best receivers, he's also still extremely susceptible to double moves and getting absolutely torched deep. McKelvin is a good player and belongs near the top of Buffalo's cornerback depth chart, but he is not remotely the lock-down guy many expected him to be coming out of Troy.
Terrence McGee (3-E). This is Buffalo's best cornerback, folks - and that finally caught up with the team in 2010. McGee had a nerve problem in his back that caused him to have mid-season surgery, and even after he healed and returned to the lineup, he was nothing more than a sub-package cornerback. The team will likely rely on McGee to return to the starting lineup in 2011, but that may not be the wisest move: he'll turn 30 in October, and has missed 12 of the Bills' 32 games over the last two seasons.
Reggie Corner (3-E). Reggie Corner's NFL existence, even among Buffalo's fan base, can be boiled down to bad puns on his surname and vitriolic criticism veiled in absurdly lofty expectations. Corner is what he is - a good reserve. He has experience and solid athleticism. He competes on special teams and is a solid dime back. Why is that such a bad thing?
Ashton Youboty (4-F). Once considered the heir apparent to Nate Clements (how unbelievably absurd is that idea in retrospect?), Youboty has toiled in anonymity at the bottom of Buffalo's depth chart (or injured) list for the entirety of his five-year career. A free agent, Youboty's Bills career is likely over.
Trae Williams (4-F). Signed to the practice squad late in the season. Williams has some ability, but may not get the chance to make good on it in Buffalo.
Contract situations to monitor: Florence and Youboty are unrestricted free agents. Corner is entering the final year of his rookie contract, as well.
Outlook: McGee's health is of the utmost importance, and it's completely reasonable to believe that McGee won't ever be able to give the team a full season again. After all, he hasn't done it since 2004. The jury is still out on McKelvin's ability to become an above-average starter; he's got the talent to do it, but his window of opportunity is closing. With Florence hitting free agency, the depth of this group will be tested this off-season - and the Bills will need to act on this group, which they did not do at all in the 2010 off-season.
Possible Acquisition: Expect at least one import. Good arguments can be made as to whether that import should be a veteran or a rookie, but if they can get a player capable of starting, it would be for the best. The depth of this unit is rather shaky.