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2013 NFL Team Previews, AFC East: Buffalo Bills - 3rd

by Shasky Clarke on Aug. 1, 2013

2013 NFL Team Previews, AFC East: 3rd - Buffalo Bills

 

Offense

QB:

Armed with a new coaching staff, the Bills overhauled their quarterback position, replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick with Kevin Kolb and rookie E.J. Manuel. Kolb has talent but lacks top physical tools and has struggled when not given good pass protection and multiple pass catching weapons. Manuel, meanwhile, possesses top-flight physical attributes and has more upside than any quarterback in the 2013 NFL draft class. Though Manuel needs to do a better job anticipating pressure and protecting the ball, he could be a more mature, pro-style advanced Vince Young. Kolb may start the season, but expect an average passing offense to call for the talented rookie to take over down the stretch.

 

RB:

C.J. Spiller has ascended to elite running back status. This is unquestionably his backfield and he is precisely the game breaking threat, both as a rusher and receiver, that he was expected to be as a former top ten pick. Last year, veteran, 32-year old Fred Jackson struggled to show his trademark downhill burst while recovering from a sprained knee ligament. While Jackson should be more effective, he will take more of a backseat. But he is also the best option to spell Spiller and possibly contribute in short yardage situations. Overall, this group is Spiller or bust. 

 

WR:

The Bills sport an underrated group of pass catchers. Steve Johnson is a smooth, polished number one receiver. T.J. Graham has great speed and should be a dangerous, versatile complimentary piece in his second year. Robert Woods, a sound, short and intermediate talent, garners the most focus among the rookies here. However, the true diamond is undrafted rookie Da’Rick Rogers. Rogers has first round talent and if given the opportunity, could eventually combine with Johnson and Manuel to form a devastating passing attack over the next few years.

 

TE:

The story here is the return of the intermediate worker Scott Chandler from offseason surgery and the athleticism of rookie Chris Gragg. Both are skilled receivers, if uninspiring run blockers, and compliment each other fairly well. Gragg can fit a versatile, split out Aaron Hernandez-type role and create matchup problems.

 

OL:

The Bills have a sizable but mediocre offensive line. The projected starters from left to right are Cordy Glenn, Colin Brown, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik and Erik Pears. The strength will be in run blocking once again. If Kevin Kolb wins the starting job, this line will certainly be an upgrade over what he experienced in Arizona in 2012. Yet the Bills are holding a competition for the left guard spot with Brown as the favorite, holding off Antoine Caldwell and Doug Legursky. The team was also hoping to see competition at right tackle, but due to Chris Hairston starting camp on the PUP list, that idea has been delayed.

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Best Offensive Rookie: WR Da'Rick Rogers

Best Offensive Second-Year Player: WR T.J. Graham

2014 Draft Offensive Position of Need: Guard

2014 Draft Suggestion: OG Brandon Linder, Miami

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line:

The Bills are looking to utilize more three-man fronts now. Kyle Williams is a star interior rusher and disruptor. Marcell Dareus could get a plurality of looks at a nose tackle spot. Alan Branch provides another big versatile body. But the breakout candidate in a 3-4 scheme upfront would be end Alex Carrington, a long, athletic upward-trending player. The Bills are deep and good along the line.

 

OLB/Edge Rushers:

Uncertainty is the keyword for this group. Mario Williams is a freakish athlete and now very lean, but it is unclear if he can stay healthy enough to be consistently productive standing up in base packages. New starter Jerry Hughes entered the mix after an offseason trade but his Colts tenure was largely perceived as a disappointment behind Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. He has all the requisite physical tools and skill and he is a break out candidate in Buffalo. Manny Lawson is a not a double digit sack guy but is a long, athletic and versatile veteran providing depth.

 

ILB:

The Bills will blitz and be aggressive early and often and they have the skilled position athleticism to succeed. The early favorites here are Nigel Bradham and Chris White. Bradham, in particular, has the talent to be one of the best inside linebackers in the league with his speed, size and physicality. The Bills also drafted Kiko Alonso, an intense, frenetic prospect who could compete for snaps and contribute heavily on special teams. This group, together with nickel safety/linebacker Bryan Scott should not have an issue competing with athletic tight ends.

 

Secondary:

The Bills cornerback group, while not the best, is fast and quick. Second-year player Stephon Gilmore is a rock on one side with great size, speed and ball skills. Leodis McKelvin, on the other hand, has been wildly inconsistent over his career. The past couple years have seen the Bills add some scrappy competitors at the nickel spot, including Ron Brooks, Nickell Robey and Justin Rogers.

Where the secondary is at its best is at safety. Jairus Byrd, a fluid playmaker, and Aaron Williams, a fast former cornerback, should be a strong positive versus the pass. Da’Norris Searcy has great size and versatility. Furthermore, speedy rookie Duke Williams could be the future replacement of Byrd at free safety.

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Best Offensive Rookie: CB Nickell Robey

Best Offensive Second-Year Player: CB Stephon Gilmore

2014 Draft Offensive Position of Need: Outside Linebacker

2014 Draft Suggestion: OLB Kyle Van Noy, BYU