The “Oh My God, I Give Up” Award
I’m sorry. I know I said I was done with him, mostly because I figured the team was done with him as well. Instead, the Bills decided to open up Marcell Dareus’ roster spot by moving Greg Salas to IR, so Bush remained with the team long enough to return to the site of his glory days at USC. He could be a candidate for release today, when the Bills bring Seantrel Henderson back to the active roster. He could also stick around and fill the role of “sage veteran” that it seems he’s taken to these days. Either way, I’m done talking about him unless there’s a good reason to.
The “Happy Homecoming” Award
Bush wasn’t the only USC alumnus to suit up at the Coliseum yesterday. Five former Trojans played in the game, including four for the Bills. None of them had a bigger day than the diminutive cornerback.
The Bills’ offense was sputtering coming out at halftime, and the team really needed a jolt. Enter NRC:
Back in the Coliseum. Back in the end zone.— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) October 9, 2016
What a moment for Nickel Robey-Coleman!https://t.co/S8F5pg4xRF
The score (his second of the season following a fumble return TD against the Jets in Week 2) gave the Bills a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, and it really took the wind out of the Rams’ sails long enough to limit any chance they had at a comeback. Robey-Coleman had a second interception to ice the game at the end of the fourth. It was about as good of a homecoming as one could ask for from the fourth-year defender.
The “Finally Fulfilling His Role” Award
Felton’s first season in Buffalo didn’t go nearly as well as many would have hoped, and there were few fans sad to see him go when he didn’t make the 53-man roster before the season started.
The Bills rolled out potential folk hero Glenn Gronkowski to fill his role, and he promptly failed in that regard. Gronk was cut after the first week, and Felton was brought back to help pave the road for LeSean McCoy.
Yesterday’s game was a prime example of why Felton was brought back. Felton had a number of great blocks to allow Shady to spring for yardage, and even picked up a first down on his own carry of six yards in the first quarter. Felton received the highest grade of any player on the Bills offense from Pro Football Focus for his performance (84.6), and was a big reason that McCoy was able rush for his highest yardage total as a Bill (150).
Least Valuable Player
I’m really growing tired of writing Taylor is as the LVP, but there are times where it feels like the Bills are winning in spite of their franchise quarterback, not because of him.
Taylor had a few of his trademark plays against the Rams. The 22-yard pickup on third-and-19 was something we’ve seen before (against the Titans last year) and is something that no other quarterback in the league can do. The touchdown pass to Justin Hunter was an example of Taylor’s ability to keep a play alive until his receivers can separate, although one could say that Hunter had been separated for a few seconds before he caught the pass.
Too many times, though, we saw the inaccuracy, especially on the short throws, that made pundits question the Bills’ decision to give him a major contract extension in the offseason, albeit with strings attached. He even misfired on a deep ball, once his specialty, to Robert Woods that would have likely resulted in a touchdown.
During my appearance on the Turf Show Times podcast, I mentioned something that I want to reiterate. My biggest fear with the Bills moving forward is that they pick up Taylor’s option and fire Rex Ryan. Taylor’s value to the Bills comes almost entirely from the run-first offense that Ryan and Anthony Lynn run. If the Bills handcuff themselves to Taylor while replacing the coaching staff with one that values a standard passing offense, Taylor’s value plummets.
At this point, I’d be surprised if Taylor ever puts together a full 60 minutes of solid pocket passing, and that’s fine. If he needs to scramble to keep a play alive, or take off and run, it’s entirely understandable. With almost any other coaching staff, however, he would need to remain in the pocket for the majority of a game, and he’d need to win games with his arm. That’s just not likely to happen.
Most Valuable Player
So, with one game remaining before Week 5 is complete, who do you think leads the NFL in sacks? Khalil Mack? Leonard Williams? Von Miller? Nope, nope, and nope: After three sacks against the Rams, Alexander’s seven gives him a half-sack lead over Miller as tops in the league.
When Reggie Ragland and Shaq Lawson both were placed on inactive lists to start the season, did you think that their replacements would lead the NFL in tackles and sacks, respectively, through five weeks? I know I didn’t.
For his part, Alexander is playing about as well as anybody could have hoped Lawson would have coming out of the gate, and he’s doing it while continuing to fill an important role on special teams. Alexander is basically playing like Jerry Hughes’ mirror image, but since defenses have been keying in to Hughes, Alexander has a lot of one-on-one matchups to work with, and he’s been feasting on them so far this season.
Alexander has at least half a sack in every game this season, and at least a full sack in each of the last four. Lawson will probably move into the starting role once he’s healthy, but Alexander should see enough action moving forward as a situational pass rusher that he should end the season with double-digit sacks. Honestly, he’s been playing well enough that nobody would blame Rex if he wanted to ease Lawson into the lineup for the remainder of the season.