The Buffalo Bills will be the next team we feature on the NFL 32 Team overviews. Buffalo hasn’t been to the Playoffs since 1999 and have only one season where they’ve finished with more wins than losses. The Bills have seen 4 head coaches and one interim alternate through the position. Doug Marrone has been hired as the Head Coach for 2013. He’ll be responsible for seeing the franchise return to being a more popular topic of conversation again. In his 4 years as Syracuse’s Head Coach (2009-2012), he held a record of 25-25; before Syracuse, he was a part of the Jets, Titans, and Saints. Doug Marrone is more known for his coaching on the Offensive side of the football, where he’ll help a Bills team that ranked 19th in Total Offense.
Offense: A fluid rushing game that placed 6th in the NFL in 2012, the Bills have a dangerous set of 2 Running Backs in Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Both are duel threats out of the backfield, which can hit a home run at any time, and should be a huge impact for Buffalo next season. Jackson has had leg injuries that have cut his last 2 seasons short — Spiller combined for 1,703 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2012. C.J. ran for 54 first downs and had 12 rushes for 20 yards or more. During the Offseason, the Bills added many players at Wide Receiver in hopes the 25th ranked passing offense would be more explosive. Stevie Johnson has been a pillar of consistency lately and registered his 3rd 1,000 yard receiving season in a row. Johnson tied for the team lead in touchdowns (6), while leading the Bills in yards (1,046) and plays over 20 yards (12). Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin were selected in the 2013 Draft. Woods put up 32 touchdowns in three years at USC. He’ll bring great route running and reliability in key moments to Buffalo. Goodwin is a speedster from the University of Texas who looked much like Mike Wallace on deep routes during Senior Bowl week. Marquise should be an instant deep threat for whomever is throwing the football. T.J. Graham is another notable Receiver for the franchise in 2013, along with un-drafted free agent Da’Rick Rogers. Graham caught 4 touchdowns for the Bills Mafia in his rookie campaign. Rogers was an extremely talented pass catcher in 2011 for Tennessee but, after failed drug tests and character concerns, was kicked off the team and finished 2012 with Tennessee Tech. If he can prove to have his immaturity issues behind him, Rogers could turn out to be the most productive un-drafted rookie. Eric Wood is the most talented Offensive Linemen for the Bills. He’s the starting Center and is going into his 5th season with the team. With the departure of Andy Levitre, Wood is going to have to be the solid anchor of this line. Cordy Glenn (Left Tackle) will pair with Chris Hairston (Right Tackle) to form Buffalo’s starting Tackle duo. Glenn was drafted by the Bills in 2012 and played fairly well in his rookie year. Chris Hairston is the favorite to win Right Tackle but will be in competition with 8-year veteran Erik Pears. Hairston, a 4th round pick in 2011, has started 15 games for the team since ’11. Sam Young, Colin Brown, and Doug Legursky will be fighting for starting Left Guard. Kraig Urbik is expected to be the Right Guard starter but, with the addition of Legursky, could be in competition for his spot as well. Tight End Scott Chandler has been an effective security blanket for the Bills scoring 6 touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. He’s recovering from an ACL injury but, if 100% when the season starts, will be key for the player who wins the Quarterback competition. E.J. Manuel was taken in the 1st round of the Draft to compete for the job with Kevin Kolb. Manuel was the most talented player at his position in the Draft and will become a player that Buffalo fans will gush over quickly. He’s very mobile with a strong arm that will struggle at times with accuracy. Kevin Kolb has never been able to start a full 16 game season due to injuries, and is facing his possible last stop in the NFL with the Bills. Never throwing for over 2,000 yards in a season, Kolb has 28 touchdowns with 25 interceptions over his 6 years. Kolb has a big arm but I feel E.J. is going to win this battle in camp. His mobility, with the weakness of the Offensive Line, is going to be a factor throughout the season. The Receivers and Backs are such talented playmakers with the ball in their hands that, as long as Manuel doesn’t turn the ball over, Buffalo could score a ton of points this upcoming season.
Defense: 22nd overall last year, the Bills struggled against the run (ranking 30th) but played the pass very nicely (ranking 10th). Mario Williams was brought in to put stress on signal-callers, which is just what he did in 2012 with 10.5 sacks. He’ll be one of the cornerstone pieces at Defensive end in Buffalo’s 3/4 scheme switch, making Kyle Williams the other. Williams led the team with 6 tackles for loss last season and put up 5 sacks. He’s a solid player who is a bit overlooked with the other talent that surrounds him on the line. Marcell Dareus, 3rd overall pick in 2011, has registered 5.5 sacks in each year in the NFL and will anchoring the line at Nose Tackle. Dareus did a good job of swatting passes last year, deflecting 6 passes. This group of players is extraordinarily talented and will be the biggest factor in the Defense’s success next season. Kiko Alonso, who was chosen with the 46 overall pick in the Draft, should get the start at Middle Linebacker. He’ll be accompanied by Nigel Bradham who started 11 games for the Bills in his 2012 rookie campaign. Combining for 57 tackles, he and Alonso will be very intriguing to watch this year. The speedy Manny Lawson was signed during Free Agency, and Jerry Hughes was traded for from the Colts to be the starting Outside Linebackers. Hughes, picked in the 1st round of 2010, had a career high 4 sacks last year. Lawson hasn’t been a full time starter since leaving San Francisco in 2010 and played with Cincinnati the last few seasons. Mark Anderson is a notable player at this position; he only played 5 games with the team last year due to knee issues. He’s always been fairly good at putting pressure on the Quarterback when healthy. The Secondary for Buffalo has a few big time players. Jairus Byrd has intercepted 18 passes since entering the league in 2009. The team was worried about losing him to Free Agency, since he was thought of as one of the best available, so they placed the franchise tag on him for this season. One of the best Free Safetys in the NFL, Byrd is key to this Defense. Strong Safety will be a competition between Duke Williams, Da’Norris Searcy, and Jonathan Meeks. Meeks and Williams were both middle-round Draft choices in 2013. Searcy played for the organization the last two years but has only started 3 games. Stephon Gilmore quietly had an impressive rookie season for the Bills with 61 total tackles, 3 forced fumbles, an interception, and 16 pass deflections. He can prove to be one of the better Cornerback’s in the game with the same stats and a few more interceptions in year two. Leodis McKelvin was the Bills 11th overall pick in 2008, but hasn’t played up to the expectations with only 6 career interceptions. They’ll combine to be the starting Cornerbacks with Crezdon Butler, Justin Rogers, and Ron Brooks vying for playing time as the backups. As long as Buffalo can put a ton of pressure on the Quarterback in 2013, they’ll be just fine. Their new duo of Middle Linebackers is going to have to be solid versus the running game as well.
End Result: I had the Bills 5-11 when grading out all of the teams in June. After all of New England’s troubles during the Offseason, if the Offense gets rolling with Manuel (assuming he’s the starter), they could win more games than 5.