No matter how young an NFL team is, there are always veteran players on the roster with plenty to prove in the new season. That's the case for this year's Buffalo Bills, who have four veterans (as well as one youngster) that have plenty on the line with the new league year beginning. Here's a rundown of our top five Bills players with the most to prove in 2011.
5. RB C.J. Spiller. The No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft didn't exactly set the league on fire last year, accumulating just 98 offensive touches throughout his rookie season. Chan Gailey claims he knows how to use him now, and Spiller claims he knows what he needs to do to reach his immense potential. If he gets there quickly, Buffalo's offense will reach new heights in Gailey's second season.
4. CB Terrence McGee. The 30-year-old cornerback (31 in October) has missed 12 games over the past two seasons, and was a sub-package defender for the Bills last year even when healthy. Now that the team has re-signed Drayton Florence and drafted Aaron Williams, the pressure is on McGee to earn his keep in a very deep cornerback rotation.
3. LT Demetrius Bell. 2009 was a mistake, as Bell was thrust suddenly into the starting lineup far sooner than he should've been. 2010 was a necessity, as the Bills didn't have anyone else to try at left tackle, and it was also an improvement, as Bell flashed serious ability amidst highly inconsistent play and underdeveloped technique. He's still a necessity in 2011, but this year, he can take that next step and prove himself a mainstay.
2. OLB Shawne Merriman. Sure, he's getting a lot of publicity at the moment for looking good in training camp practices working against tackles that Bills fans are quick to decry far and wide at any opportunity. It's about more than staying healthy for Merriman this year; he also needs to prove that he has the explosion necessary to beat the league's best tackles and be a force for this defense.
1. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bills made it very clear early this off-season that they'd be content building around Fitzpatrick if they didn't see a young quarterback they liked, and that's exactly what's happened. Fitzpatrick is the man, and he'll have every opportunity to make that more than a one-year arrangement this year. Add in the fact that he's entering the final year of his deal, and nobody is close to Fitzpatrick on a list like this.
Any other names that you'd consider for this list above who we've included? Full disclosure: Lee Evans and Leodis McKelvin were very close cuts for us.