The reflective nature of the bye week continues to permeate discussions being held by Buffalo Bills fans, as evidenced by mailbag questions that continue to be sent our way via email and Twitter. One inquiry, submitted by reader Mike, was an interesting enough topic idea that I thought it warranted its own community discussion here. Mike's question:
Which five Bills players have most pleasantly surprised you this season?
My five names are below, but certainly, there are other players to consider in a discussion like this, so the floor is all yours, Buffalo Rumblings.
Nickell Robey: Undersized, undrafted free agent cornerbacks signs on to play in one of the NFL's more complex defensive systems, quickly establishes himself as one of the better players in his positional group, and becomes an important member of one of the most difficult positional groups to keep well-stocked with talent? Yeah, nobody saw that coming. Robey is one of the Bills' better undrafted free agent signings in years.
Jerry Hughes: Acquired in what felt similar to a throwaway trade with Indianapolis in exchange for a reserve linebacker (Kelvin Sheppard, who has 18 tackles and a sack this season), Hughes quickly assimilated to his new team and defense, carving out a role as a situational pass rusher with enough athleticism to get by in coverage for certain play calls. Colts fans may have been glad to see him leave, but 36 tackles, six sacks and two forced fumbles later, it's pretty safe to say that Bills fans are happy this trade was made.
Kiko Alonso: He certainly had his fervent supporters entering the 2013 NFL Draft out of Oregon, and he was always going to settle into an every-down role with the Bills right away due to the team's crying need for that type of player. Alonso has been a rousing success; productive from the start, Alonso is a Swiss army knife of skills with which Mike Pettine can attack offensive weaknesses, and he's a strong candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year as a result.
Marquise Goodwin: His selection in the third round this past April left some scratching their heads, and it had nothing to do with Goodwin's talent or NFL prospects. Hadn't the Bills just drafted a receiver (T.J. Graham) for essentially the same skill set? Injuries delayed his ascent, but Goodwin has already proven himself an elite deep threat with the potential to develop into a quality starter despite his size limitations.
Thad Lewis: When veteran Kevin Kolb was lost for the season (and potentially his career), the Bills scrambled to find help at quarterback, flipping backup linebacker Chris White to Detroit for the little-known Lewis. Pressed into action in Weeks 6-8, Lewis was hardly remarkable, but displayed enough moxie and skill in that three-week span for the team to reasonably assess that they might just have a long-term backup option on their hands.