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Ten Bills To Decide 2011, No. 8: FS Jairus Byrd

All spring and summer, I've insisted that Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd had a good season in 2010, despite his recording eight fewer interceptions than he hauled in during a jaw-dropping, Pro Bowl rookie season. In dropping from nine picks to one, Byrd also became a more consistent run defender, scored his first pro touchdown, and forced three fumbles on the season. Aside from Drayton Florence, Byrd was the team's best back-seven playmaker last year.

Here's the problem with my argument, however: playmaking isn't the only way to measure impact. As a rookie, teams were wary of Byrd. That was not the case last year, as opposing quarterbacks were able to exploit him on occasion. Byrd was even benched in favor of George Wilson for a short stretch early in the season.

Buffalo's defense has a lot to accomplish this season. They must improve against the run, and they've got to ramp up the pressure off the edge. They also need better safety play, and that starts with Byrd. A return to his rookie form would go a long way toward helping the Bills field a playoff-caliber defense; Byrd may never be considered a top-tier safety, but if he continues to make plays, no one will complain about that.

Your clue for the next player on this list, publishing tomorrow: he changed his jersey number a few weeks back.

Ten Bills To Decide 2011
8. FS Jairus Byrd
9. DT Kyle Williams
10. WR Stevie Johnson