Things haven’t went quite the way for the Buffalo Bills in 2010 as most anticipated. Don’t get me wrong… the 2-9 record is barely shocking. The reasons, however, the Bills are going to miss the playoffs for the 11th straight season are not what you would label as predictable for this organization months ago.
If you were playing Family Feud this past April and 100 people were asked “What position will be the Bills greatest offseason priority?” quarterback and left tackle would’ve battled intensely for the number one answer.
That’s no longer the case. In fact, quarterback and left tackle have actually grown into Buffalo strengths. Who would’ve thought that?
Demetrius Bell is rapidly growing into a fine left tackle before our eyes, putting the need to upgrade his position far down the priority list. Ryan Fitzpatrick may not be the starting quarterback for the next 10 years, but his surprisingly stellar play and leadership makes him a virtual lock to be the starter again next year and quite possibly beyond, short of Andrew Luck falling into Buddy Nix’s lap.
That’s not a bad thing either. Bell still has plenty of room to grow and develop and believe it or not, so does Fitzpatrick. While it may seem Fitzpatrick has been around forever, the reality is he’s just 28-years old and with a limited amount of career starts, actually has the ability to continue to get better. Don’t forget folks, Fitzpatrick did a lot of standing around when Trent Edwards was inexplicably running things this summer; he’s still learning a lot of things about Chan Gailey’s offense himself.
This drastically shifts the priority of what the Bills need most this coming offseason.
Here are four positions I identify as the positions of need, ranked in order from least important to the most.
Cornerback: It nearly seems unfathomable to think the Bills need cornerback help, but let’s look at the facts. Leodis McKelvin in his third year in the league has been up and down more than the Superman at Darien Lake. Drayton Florence has also been madly inconsistent. He earns AFC Defensive Player of the Week against Cincinnati and is abused by Pittsburgh Steelers receivers the following week. He’s also a free agent at the of the season. Terrence McGee is flat-out breaking down and has become a huge question mark. At best, Reggie Corner is serviceable as a nickel back. Buffalo may not need to spend a top-five pick on a corner, though it wouldn’t be as blasphemous as if it was suggested six months ago, but they do need to address the position for sure. Of course, a better pass rush could do wonders for cornerback production.
Right Tackle: Mansfield Wrotto has done a competent job since coming to the Bills in starting the past few games. Cordaro Howard filled in admirably as a starter after Cornell Green was lost for the season with a knee injury after just five games. Both guys could provide quality long term depth for the organization; enough that Chan Gailey could feel confident with either of the lineup, but I don’t think either is the answer as a full-time starter. Who knows about Ed Wang, who’s buried on the depth chart. At the very least, a mid-tier free agent or mid round draft pick should be in the mix as a new starter in 2011. The Bills had the right idea when they signed Green; they simply signed the wrong person.
Tight End: It’s absurd that we’re 11 games into the season and the Bills leading receiver among tight ends has seven catches, especially considering Buffalo faces tight ends who often get that in a single game. At best Jonathan Stupar should be third on the depth chart. After a promising rookie season, Shawn Nelson is already regressing. He was suspended for four games and in his only significant play this year lost a fumble in overtime against Baltimore that led to a loss. Nelson has three catches this year. Buffalo desperately needs a difference maker at the position seeing that haven’t had one since… forever. A legitimate end that can open up and stretch the middle of the field would do wonders for the offense.
Linebacker: Honestly, I don’t see a single starter on this unit that could start for about 29 or 30 other teams. Paul Posluszny may be a grinder, but it’s becoming more evident each passing week that he doesn’t have the physical tools to be an imposing all-around linebacker. He’ll be a free agent after the season and let’s hope Buddy Nix doesn’t reward his “can do” attitude as was done with Chris Kelsay, who’s simply not effective on a consistent basis. Reggie Torbor, Akin Ayodele and Andra Davis are nothing more than journeyman cast-offs from other organizations that have seen the field far too much in Buffalo. Upgrading at linebacker should be Nix’s top priority this offseason. In fact, if the Bills spend significant money on just one free agent, it should be on an impact outside linebacker. I’d also strongly consider using an early draft pick, possibly even the first pick, on a 3-4 outside difference maker. I can do without every linebacker on this roster who’s name isn’t Arthur Moats.
With Kyle Williams, Dwan Edwards and a promising Alex Carrington already in tow up front, it would make the defense a lot better and perhaps the secondary would start making more plays.