Football Nation Preview: The 2013 Buffalo Bills

By Justin Henry
June 12, 2013 9:38 am
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Stevie Johnson 2012 Record: 6-10

2012 Downfall

Rock Bottom Run Defense

After Buffalo filled Mario Williams' bank account with $96M over six years (with $50M of it guaranteed), the notion seemed to be that Buffalo's defense would improve from 2011, when it allowed 27.1 PPG, the third worst average in the NFL.

Good news: Buffalo climbed to just the seventh worst average in 2012. The bad news is their average actually increased to 27.2 PPG. Williams contributed with 10.5 sacks to Buffalo's decent total of 36 on the year, but the run defense is where things stall.

Buffalo allowed 139 rushing YPG in the NFL in 2011, fifth worst average in the league. A year later, they fell to second worst, giving up 145.8 YPG, and falling 30 yards shy of the worst mark in the league. Three times, Buffalo gave up 240+ rushing yards in a game, including 311 to the 49ers.

Turnovers, Especially Fumbles

But of course, any defense is going to be susceptible to rising flood waters as long as the offense puts them in position to fail. Although Ryan Fitzpatrick mostly had a decent season with 24 touchdowns and 3,400 yards, he did throw 16 picks, which leads to another concern.

As a whole, Buffalo had 34 giveaways in 2012, half of which were lost fumbles. Of those 17 cough-ups, 6 came from Fitzpatrick (who had just 2 in 2011), 4 from running back Fred Jackson, and 3 from CJ Spiller. Jackson's and Spiller's losses were the only times they fumbled in 2012, meaning when they put the ball on the ground, it wasn't coming back.

Buffalo ranked fifth from the bottom in turnovers, and fourth from last in fumbles lost. In five games last season, Buffalo turned the ball over 3 or more times (including a 6-turnover disaster in Week 4 vs. New England). No surprise; Buffalo went 0-5 in those games.

2013 Projected Wins: 5

Top 3 Rookies

-EJ Manuel, QB (1/16): Lone QB taken in the first round and Senior Bowl MVP can power-run like Cam Newton, and complements that with raw power and mature leadership.

-Robert Woods, WR (2/41): No-frills receiver overcame a slew of injuries to be productive at USC, and will compliment Steve Johnson as he did longtime teammate Marqise Lee.

-Kiko Alonso, LB (2/46): Youth is needed in a muddled linebacking group, and Alonso has enough flexibility to cover both the outside and the middle.

Other Moves

There have been no grandiose deals doled out like the one Williams received last year, or the one Fitzpatrick signed for in mid-2011. In fact, Fitzpatrick was released March 12. About four weeks later, Buffalo signed the rather unlucky-so-far Kevin Kolb to a $2M deal, though he could be backing up Manuel if the rookie has a smooth summer.

It's been the defensive side, however, that's received critical attention. The team released its two leading tacklers, Nick Barnett and George Wilson, and franchise tagged their hawking safety, Jairus Byrd. Once-reliable DE Chris Kelsay retired after a 10-year career.

Among the newcomers to the defense are sizable linebacker Manny Lawson, after two serviceable years in Cincinnati. Hulking defensive lineman Alan Branch comes over from Seattle, and team re-signed corner/returner Leodis McKelvin to a four-year contract.

Potential Starting Lineups
QB - Kevin Kolb
RB - C.J. Spiller
FB - Dorin Dickerson
WR - Stevie Johnson
WR - T.J. Graham
TE - Scott Chandler
LT - Cordy Glenn
LG - Sam Young
C - Eric Wood
RG - Kraig Urbik
RT - Erik Pears

DE - Mario Williams
NT - Marcell Dareus
DE - Kyle Williams
OLB - Mark Anderson
ILB - Nigel Bradham
ILB - Kiko Alonso
OLB - Manny Lawson
CB - Leodis McKelvin
CB - Stephon Gilmore
FS - Jairus Byrd
SS - Da'Norris Searcy

K - Rian Lindell
P - Shawn Powell
LS - Garrison Sanborn


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