Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Buffalo Bills Midseason Report

Week 9 is fast approaching in the NFL, which obviously means that week 8 is now behind us. The NFL regular season is just about half over with, and there's definitely been some shockers along the way. Who would've thought the Panthers would start the season 2-5? Who thought the Patriots would be 7-1 despite not having Tom Brady for 4 of those games? The NFL is a crazy league to say the least, but for the Buffalo Bills, it seems more of the same. High hopes, damaged dreams, questions, some positives, some negatives, wildcard hopes, "In the Hunt," big plays, dismal outings. You name it, the Bills have got it. All those phrases could also easily be matched up under the category "4-4," which is where the Bills are at the halfway mark, with a tough Seattle game looming on Monday night. There's been upside, there's been downside, but like many other years, the season is on the line here in November. Let's get to a midseason report, shall we?

Injuries:
Let's get this out of the way first. The Buffalo Bills are a banged up club, no doubt about that. In fact, the Buffalo Bills have a whopping 15 players on the injury report, which is the most in the league. The list is highlighted with names such as Marcell Dareus, Sammy Watkins, Lesean McCoy, and Charles Clay as many people know. In addition, 9 of the players on the injury report are full time starters. This team may very well be the most injured in the league. Now the biggest question is, who's fault is it? Are the players not taking proper care of themselves? Is everyone just really that injury prone? Should the Bills fire their strength and conditioning coach? Maybe, it's just a whole lot of bad luck mixed with the fact that yes, perhaps Buffalo's conditioning staff is poor. Although last season, Buffalo actually was voted the best conditioning staff in the league. Regardless, there's not much Buffalo can do but just try to heal as best they can. Injuries are not an excuse, but it can be explanation of some of the struggles on offense throughout the year. No weapons = no success. Sammy Watkins will look for a potential return at week 13, while Dareus, Shady McCoy, and Robert Woods all also look to get back to 100%. Buffalo's bye week is ahead after this Monday's matchup, so the Bills will get some much needed rest and time off to gear up for the 2nd half of the year. 

Offense:
Halfway through the year, it's still very tough to figure out where this team is, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Injuries play a huge role, yes, but at the end of the day, this offense sometimes seems lackluster, conservative, or just plain unsuccessful in what they want to do. When Shady is full go, or even Gillislee for that matter, the offense does look good. The o-line blocks quite well up front, and the top 2 RB's for this team are shifty and can find the right hole. Not to mention Tyrod Taylor still looks elusive as ever when he decides to take off. The run game is definitely the most successful part of this offense.  The passing game, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired, and despite the injuries, it falls on the shoulders of Tyrod Taylor. Taylor suffers from drops and lack of WR talent, yes, but Lynn has done the best he can trying to gameplan for the Bills QB. It's Tyrod's turn to step up, especially if he wants his extension next season. Whether Tyrod is overthrowing receivers, or just plain missing his wide open weapons, there needs to be improvement. This team's success rests on it, and average QB play will not cut it. He's shown the potential, now consistency is the key. As far as the rest of the offense goes, the receivers are still banged up, but with the reacquisition of Percy Harvin, the offense will be looking for a spark. Sammy Watkins may also return at the 13 week point as well. Health is always a big key, but the run game needs to keep it up, and Tyrod needs to play much better if the Bills want a chance this year.

Defense:
Much like the offense, it's tough to tell where exactly this defense is. This is an extremely talented unit, no doubt, but with the recent slumping of Stephon Gilmore along with the severe lack of safety depth, this defense looks shaky considering the man-coverage-heavy scheme Rex likes to run. In fact, all across the board this defense is a tad shaken up, and depth is weak. They only had 4 healthy D-linemen at practice Saturday, LB's are thin behind Zach and Preston Brown, and of course, safeties are weak once you get past Corey Graham, which is why Buffalo signed Sergio Brown this week, hoping to bolster the safety core a bit. Buffalo's biggest assets are up front with Alexander, the Browns, Hughes, and Kyle Williams. In addition, the corners/safeties need to shore up their act. Buffalo's defense is ranked 22nd in yards allowe (2,882), which again, for a Rex Ryan defense, is unexpected. Buffalo's secondary also needs to create more turnovers. There's still half a season left to improve, but the Bills need a better effort from the entire defensive core if they want extended success. 

Coaching:
Rex Ryan and company have faced a lot of scrutiny from many angry fans, and some of it is for good reason. This Bills defense 2 seasons ago was absolutely stellar, ranking 4th in the NFL. For the past 2 seasons though, this defense, statistic wise, may finish in the bottom half of the league, which is absolutely unacceptable. This defense is an extremely talented group, and has no reason to not be finishing top 15 at worst. This defensive unit has had some dominant performances, but have gotten burned just enough times to make people wonder, is this defense really legit? The sacks are there, the tackles are there, but when it comes right down to it, this defense gives up too many 3rd down conversions, and yards in general. Rex has often times seemed to stray away from the game plan, and playing more zone coverage and dropping men back in coverage, as opposed to coordinating the unique blitzes he likes to run. Rex as a coach needs to trust his players and run the scheme he is going to run. In addition. the offensive playcalling of Greg Roman/Rex has been questionable. It seems as if often times they abandon the run game if it is not going their way right away. As stated before, Rex Lynn and Thurman need to call their plays the way they usually do. Adjustments are understandable, but you cannot run away from your gameplan. This Monday, this game will definitely be a coaching matchup, and Rex will have to outcoach Pete Carroll to assist in getting a win.

Stat Check:
As it is the halfway point of the Bills season, let's take a quick moment for a stat check of each leading player on the team in the respective stat.
Passing: Tyrod Taylor - 135/230 1480 yds 9 TDs/2 INTs (319 yds/3 TDs Rushing)
Rushing: Lesean McCoy - 132 touches/695 yds/7 TDs
Receiving: Robert Woods - 290 Yds/1 TD
Tackles: Zach Brown - 87
Sacks: Lorenzo Alexander - 9

The season is still only half over, and Buffalo really does show promise. They just haven't been able to get over the hump for the better part of 16 years. This may be the most talented team for the Bills in a solid 10 years, and they have got to prove it for the remaining 8 games of the 2016 campaign, and hopefully into January. If not, this year was for sure wasted. This team must get healthy if they want a shot, yes, but this league is next man up, and each player needs to play to their strengths and find a way to win. This team has looked impressive over stretches of the season, but they've got to really put it together over the second half of the year. As far as where this team stands, they've got some conference record work to do as they are a poor 1-4 through 5 AFC games. Fortunately for them, the final 7 games are all AFC. Theres plenty of football left to be played, so only time will tell if this Buffalo team can rise to the occasion and prove that they belong, or it will be another year of "Same old Bills." Thanks for reading, and as always, let's go Buffalo!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Watkins/Darby Trade Breakdown

Image result for sammy watkins
Not even 24 hours after the first Buffalo Bills preseason game, the Bills have already made a huge splash on the roster. The Bills have traded away star-players Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby. Watkins has been traded to the Rams in return for CB EJ Gaines and a 2nd round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Darby was exchanged for WR Jordan Matthews and a 3rd round pick from the Eagles. Honestly, I don't expect that many people thought this was coming. Nearly every fan has been scratching their head, and many are shocked, angry and frustated with the trade. In fact, the word "tank" has been mentioned many times, but take it easy Bills fans. Look at the entire picture.

This trade, in my eyes, definitely alters the team dynamic, but it certainly doesn't mean the team has gotten worse. In fact, I think these trades may even fit the team's dynamic a bit better, and provides more insurance as well. The picks, at face value, are certainly an upgrade right out of the gate. Buffalo now has 2 1st round picks, 2 2nd round picks, and 2 3rd round picks in this year's draft. Let's get a little bit more into each player obtained.

(WR) Jordan Matthews:

I think many people are overlooking Jordan Matthews as a WR. He is an underrated WR, who brings a different dynamic to the team than Sammy did. Matthews may not stretch the field as much as Sammy would, but he's a versatile possession receiver who still can provide a deep ball threat. In fact, Matthews is 1 of just 5 receivers in the NFL to have 65+ receptions and 800+ yards in his 1st 3 seasons. Matthews upgrades the height of the WR core as well, as Matthews stands at 6'3". He's a "go-get-it" type receiver who also has a physical nature as well. Matthews reliability and durability has also been proven, as opposed to the risk Sammy always seemed to face. Matthews has missed just 2 games in the course of his 3 season career. Watkin's health has always been a concern, but with this acquisition of Matthews, that concern is no more. Matthews will be there, when you need him. This trade, overall, makes a lot of sense. You sacrifice some playmaking ability, but in return get a solid possession receiver who is extremely reliable. Matthews may also provide for a quicker, more efficient passing offense for Tyrod Taylor and company. Not to mention, Buffalo no longer has to worry about losing Watkins for nothing at the end of the season if they elect to not resign him.

(CB) E.J. Gaines:

Along with replacing Sammy Watkins, Buffalo also managed to replace Ronald Darby the best that they could. Buffalo acquired EJ Gaines today in their trade with the Rams. Gaines, who stands at 5'10", 190 lbs, is a smaller CB, but still provides a bit of insurance for the defense. This team is running a 4-3 this season, which means Buffalo will be running a bit more zone defense, which is something that Ronald Darby had troubles with at times. Gaines provides the upgrade as he is familiar with a 4-3 scheme and may even fit the scheme better. Gaines has NFL experience, being around since 2014, and despite missing the entire 2015 season, will look to bounce back from quite frankly an average 2016 campaign. This move may make rookie Tre White the #1 corner on this roster, but that may not be a bad thing. McDermott trusts White heavily, and wouldn't give him this role if he didn't feel he could handle it. Gaines certainly isn't the highlight of these blockbuster Buffalo trades, but he may serve as a piece to the defense's success this season.

Overall, the big picture is this; Buffalo seems to be looking to retool on the fly, but without making a lot of high risk moves to do so. Also, it appears their goal is still to win this year. In any trade, getting players back often means that the team is still trying to win, and that they see value in the players acquired. In this situation, Buffalo dodged the potential bullet of another Sammy Watkin's season-ending injury, and having him walk away for nothing. I think Buffalo downgraded in the Darby trade, but will still find Gaines serviceable, and they managed to get a couple key draft picks. It's a new day here in Buffalo, and unfortunately, the Sammy era has come to an end. It's time to look ahead, and I believe Buffalo has improved the roster and future with these trades. Thanks for reading, and as always, Let's Go Buffalo!

Monday, August 7, 2017

What Anquan Boldin Signing Means For Bills

Image result for anquan boldin buffalo bills
The Buffalo Bills have officially signed Anquan Boldin to a 1 year, $2.75 million contract. After the mention of the Bills interest in the WR several weeks ago, they have finally locked up the 36 year old for this upcoming season. The former Lion (most recently) is coming off of an 8 touchdown, 584 yard 2016 campaign. In Detroit, he found himself behind Marvin Jones and Golden Tate on the depth chart, not to mention the targets that their promising TE, Eric Ebron hauled in. Here in Buffalo though, Boldin enters a new situation. Boldin has a chance to be Buffalo's #2 WR, and a solid backup to Sammy Watkins for the #1 if Sammy goes down again. Here's what this signing means for the Buffalo Bills...

1) Solidifies the Depth: 

Saying that this signing "solidifies the depth" is quite plainly an understatement. This signing gives the Bills so much more to play with, and it's a whole lot of insurance if someone were to go down. This is what the current Bills WR depth chart looks like:

The Bills have 13, yes, 13, WR's on the current roster. That is a crazy amount of depth. The Bills may only keep 5 receivers, but may keep 6 if they elect to run with only 2 active QB's. There's a lot of combinations here, which is great for the Bills staff. Sammy, Zay Jones, and Boldin will seemingly have the 1st 3 spots locked up, and that will leave the 3 remaining spots or so up for grabs.

2) Provides Veteran Presence:

The receiving corps of the Buffalo Bills is a rather young one, with nearly half of the 13 WR's 25 or under. The presence of a 36 year old, who's seen it (and won it) all, will certainly be a huge advantage for Sammy Watkins and Zay Jones, and even for some of the older guys who might be 26 or 27. There's always room for improvement, and with Boldin providing some pro-tips of his own, every WR will be better off.

3) Another Red-Zone Threat:

The Bills have always struggled in the redzone, which has never been a secret. Every offseason, the same old discussion goes on; "We need to draft a redzone target," or "Bills need to get a big WR for the redzone in FA," etc. The Bills have now gotten one more to add. Boldin's not the tallest guy, standing at just 6'1", but his 220 lb frame and physical style will certainly be able to fight for his ground in the redzone. Add him with Sammy Watkins, the 6'4" Andre Holmes, Charles Clay and even the 6'6" QB-gone-TE Logan Thomas, the Bills will not be short in the "Redzone Target Department."

Overall, there is not one bad thing about this signing. Boldin's health seems to be the only concern here, as he is 36 years old. Still, he continues to produce at a #2-#3 WR level in the NFL, which is extremely suitable for what the Bills need. His veteran presence, his physical style, and his leadership will be a huge addition to the Buffalo Bills this season. This signing has a chance to put the Bills offense over the top, especially with the likes of Sammy Watkins, Shady McCoy, Zay Jones, Charles Clay, and Tyrod Taylor.  Thanks for reading, and as always, Let's Go Buffalo!

Image Credit: BuffaloBills.com

Monday, August 8, 2016

I've moved!

What's up guys, I am proud to announce I am now writing for the Buffalo Bills Fanatics crew! Check me out at their website: BillsfanaticsBF.com

Thank you, and as always, let's go Buffalo!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Key Position Battles After Day 1 Of Camp

It's official, Training Camp practice is here! The players are all moved in and ready to go, and just concluded their first practice today. Training Camp will be competitive as usual, as many of these fresh faces look to make an impact and solidify their spot on the 53 man roster. Even after today, many position battles are already brewing. There are a few key ones to look out for in the coming weeks.

Wide Receiver:
After Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, the Buffalo Bills receiver depth is foggy. There are currently 12 wide receivers on the Bill's roster right now, and that number will lost likely fall to 5 or 6 once the 53 man roster is set in stone. There's several key names to look out for, including Dezmin Lewis, rookie Kolby Listenbee, Greg Little, Greg Salas, and Davonte Allen, another rookie. The coming weeks will hold a lot for this team, and the best receivers will rise to the top.

Cornerback:
Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby are holding down the top 2 spots, but after that, there's some indecisiveness of who holds the final few spots. Nickell Robey-Coleman, formerly Robey, is believed to remain the 3rd CB, but with some new faces, such as Corey White and Sterling Moore, the final few spots will be tough to grab. The Bills will have a tough choice, but keep an eye on these players.

Runningback:
Lesean McCoy is of course holding it down as the #1 back, but with him aging, it is likely that the backup and 3rd string backs will see increased snaps this season. Both Karlos and Johnathan Williams got themselves in trouble, which leaves the door open for new faces, like James Wilder Jr. and Mike Gillislee. Add in Reggie Bush, if the Bills sign him, and the Bills have a stacked backfield. Only 3-4 backs will make the roster, so the competition will be very tight behind Shady. Look out for Wilder Jr, he appears to have the potential to be a real stud in this Bills #1 rushing attack.

Competition will be tough, as usual, but with our starting QB set in place, it's time to turn to other battles going on in camp. There's a lot of talent on this team, but it must all come together to be an impact in the NFL this year. Thanks for reading and as always, let's go Buffalo!

Image #1:http://prod.static.bills.clubs.nfl.com/assets/images/imported/BUF/photos/article-assets/Story-Photos/2014-july/14BB_TrainingCamp-CandF_Logo_cmyk_fin.jpg
Image #2: http://www.buffalobills.com/assets/images/imported/BUF/photos/article-assets/Story-Photos/2016-06/robey-coleman-story.jpg

Friday, July 15, 2016

Buffalo's Backfield Depth Proving Valuable As Training Camp Approaches

"I told our players to 'win July'. We won the offseason," Rex Ryan states at a post mini-camp presser back in June. We are now in mid-July and as training camp approaches, the Bills are not "winning July." In fact, some could say they are losing July. The past few days have been not pretty for the Buffalo Bills running backs, as Karlos Williams and Jonathan Williams alike find themselves in hot water. 2016 5th round pick, Jonathan Williams, was arrested this past Thursday morning and is now facing a DWI charge. Karlos, who had already shown up to mini-camp much overweight, has been suspended for 4 games after violating the NFL's PED policy. Karlos, the rookie standout, is not having a great start to his 2nd season in the NFL, and Jonathan is not having an ideal start to his NFL career in general. Both backs were expected to be productive in this offense, but in the world of sports, the show must go on.

Losing any player for any amount of time is not ideal, but with a backfield like Buffalo's, they can afford some absences if they need to. Buffalo's backfield is one of the best in the NFL, filled with talent top to bottom. Even With Karlos and Jonathan Williams out, this RB corps can still be dangerous. Led by the horse of the offense, Shady McCoy, Mike Gillislee, James Wilder Jr, and Boom Herron, it's still not a backfield to sleep on. We know all about what McCoy can do, but Gillislee and Wilder are sneaking under the radar headed into camp and into the upcoming season.

Mike Gillislee:
Gillislee made his first splash in Buffalo against the Houston Texans on December 6th, 2015. Since then, he's made his presence known as a Buffalo Bill, getting a contract extension after putting up 47 carries for 267 yards and 3 TD's in 5 games played. Gillislee stands at 5'11" and weighs 208 lbs. The 4th year back is a one-cut type running back who can pick up speed quickly once he hits the open field. The open field is truly where he thrives, as he can separate himself from defenders when he puts it into 2nd gear. Not to mention he can really make a defender look silly, as he can perform solid cuts. His production will be expected to jump in 2016 as he will be in the regular rotation for the first several games of the season.

James Wilder Jr.
James Wilder Jr. is an interesting player as he has a lot of mystery of what he can actually bring to the table. Wilder was brought in on a future/reserves contract on January 20th, 2016. Since he was signed, there's been a lot of fan hype online about what his potential may be, as his highlight reel shows he is a sturdy back [standing at 6'3" and weighing 232 lbs], who can throw men around and bounce off tacklers. The 2nd year player appears to be an excellent downfield runner who can put his head down and gain extra yards through his "second push." He's not afraid to dive for the endzone, or that extra yard either. His speed also assists in his contribution in the passing game. As a gritty, quick, all-around back, it looks as if Wilder could be an excellent addition for the Bills if he can reach his full potential.

Buffalo's done an excellent job finding RB's for the team, and the depth they've stockpiled may really begin to be seen this upcoming season. As for Karlos and Jonathan Williams, they've got to get it together. The poor decisions they make hurt themselves as well as the team. In the mean time, Gillislee and Wilder will look to training camp and the season, as they would love to make a great impression to the coaching staff. Thanks for reading, and as always, let's go Buffalo!

Stats: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/
Image #1: Mark Mulville/Buffalo News
Image #2: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/de/Mike_Gillislee.jpg/220px-Mike_Gillislee.jpg 
Image #3: https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/745828014496284672/2M_hCmNV.jpg

Thursday, June 30, 2016

How Much Is Stephon Gilmore Really Worth?

The NFL has been pretty quiet the past couple of weeks since mini-camp finished up, but there are still some "elephants in the room" as far as contract situations go. Buffalo has a few of them on their hand, such as Tyrod Taylor and Stephon Gilmore. The focus right now is on Gilmore's contract, as he has threatened to miss time if a new deal does not get done soon. Gilmore is an excellent corner who has displayed some amazing skill over his tenure here in Buffalo, and it's time he gets paid. Overall, what will Buffalo be willing to pay, and more importantly, what is he worth? Let's break it down.

There are three main categories in which I value players. Each category is rated out 1-5 (5 of course being the best). At the end, the overall grade of the player will result in how I value said player.

Pass Defense: 4/5
Stephon Gilmore is excellent in coverage, more so man-to-man. He is a physical cornerback who can frustrate receivers (ex. Odell Beckham Jr.) as well as hold his own with any receiver. This past season, Gilmore posted 3 picks, 36 tackles, and an impressive 18 passes defended in 12 games. He will challenge a receiver, and adjusts well to the ball.  He needs to continue to work on his game though, as Gilmore still struggles with reading shorter routes, such as curls. Overall, his Pass Defense rating is a 4, as he could still perfect his game.

Run Defense: 3.5/5
Gilmore, as stated above, is a very physical cornerback who is not scared to try and lay a big hit. Gilmore does not play a big role in the run defense as Buffalo's front 7 has been dominant over the past few seasons. Still, his ability to lay a big hit along with his speed allows him to make a stop when needed. His run defense is rated a 3 as his tackling is not perfect, and he is often blocked out of plays. Gilmore needs to utilize his strength to break into the route of the runningback to make a tackle. 

Tackling: 3.5/5
Despite Gilmore being able to lay out a huge hit at times, his tackling is not the greatest. He is a solid tackler, and relies on technique and form to make a successful tackle. He needs to improve his tackling in space, but overall, his tackling is acceptable.

Injuries: 3/5
Stephon Gilmore's career has had a lot of injuries, and that may be his biggest downfall as a cornerback. He's missed 11 total games in his 4 year career, having a perfect 16/16 games played only in his rookie year. He's had mainly upper body injuries, such as wrist and shoulder injuries. He's gotta learn to stay on the field to optimize his usage and prove how consistent he can be.

Overall: 14/20
I'm grading Stephon Gilmore at a 14/20, which although it seems low, I give more weight to his excellent pass coverage and physical aspect he brings to the game. Gilmore plays a tough game of football, and deserves a big payday for sure. He has the potential, with a few tweaks to his game and of course, health, to become a top 5 cornerback in the NFL. So, that brings up a question, as perhaps a top 10 corner in the NFL, how much is he worth? 

Ideal Contract: 5 years/$12.5M per year.
This is the type of contract I would offer to Gilmore. In my opinion, he is not worth $14m-$15m, especially with 2nd year product Ronald Darby on the rise. It will be interesting to see what Buffalo does, but this is where I value Gilmore.

Stats: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/G/GilmSt00.htm\
Image #1:  (USATSI)
Image #2: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports