Buffalo Bills: 5 Players Facing Make-or-Break Seasons in 2013
Players facing a Make-or-Break Season for the Bills
Fans in Western New York have been waiting since 1999 for their team to be relevant once again. That was the last time the Buffalo Bills were in the playoffs. Of course, the playoff game itself is one that western New Yorkers have tried to forget, but every time the Bills play the Tennessee Titans, they are reminded of the "Music City Miracle."
After this past season, Buffalo fired their head coach Chan Gailey and hired Doug Marrone from the University of Syracuse. With a new coach and a new general manager, they are hoping to turn around a franchise that has a rich history of postseason play, but hasn't been there in 14 years. The Bills, once nicknamed "the Loveable Losers" because of their four consecutive Super Bowl losses, are hoping their first-round draft pick will do the trick. E.J. Manuel, the quarterback from Florida State, has all the potential according to many scouts and NFL Draft analysts.
However, Manuel can't do this all by himself. There is a reason there are 53 men on the roster. It takes all of them to do the job. This year, the Bills need some veterans to step up and take on the leadership role. They need to become the players they were brought to Buffalo to be. Some of them are coming off of injury and others have yet to live up to the hype. Here is a list of five players facing a make-or-break year in Buffalo for the 2013 NFL season.
Fred Jackson - Running Back
In 2011, Jackson was emerging as a threat for the Buffalo Bills. However, his season was cut short due to an injury. He only played in 10 games, but he ran for 934 yards in those 10 games and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. In 2012, Jackson had another injury riddled season and his numbers decreased. In 10 games for the Bills he only had 437 yards and only averaged 3.8 yards per carry. Look for Jackson to have a bounce back this season. If he doesn't, Buffalo may look to move him on.
Marcell Dareus - Defensive Tackle
The big defensive tackle is entering his third season for the Bills. The former Crimson Tide star defender has registered 11 sacks total in his first two seasons. Dareus also has had 82 total tackles during his first two years with Buffalo. Look for him to excel this year and take the next step for Buffalo as they try to anchor down a defense that was terrible against the run last season.
Jairus Byrd - Free Safety
Jairus Byrd had his best year for turnovers in 2012, however, it was one of his worst years as far as tackles. Playing in all 16 games for the Bills, Byrd only had 53 solo tackles as opposed to 75 the year before. He did have five interceptions and four forced fumbles during the year. This is the season in which he must take his game to a consistent level and stay there. Fans in Buffalo are waiting for him to emerge as an elite player on defense.
Leodis McKelvin - Cornerback
This cornerback has been in the league for five seasons and has only recorded six interceptions during that time. That's just over one interception a season for this first round draft pick out of Troy. He's electrifying at times and has had some amazing kick off returns during his career. His most famous return, though, was against the New England Patriots on a opening day in 2009. It was Monday Night Football and Buffalo had the lead late in the fourth quarter. McKelvin decided to return a kickoff from his own end zone and fumbled the ball. The Patriots eventually scored and won the game 25-24. This is the year that McKelvin either becomes the elite player the Bills drafted him to be or he could possibly find himself with another team.
Mario Williams - Defensive End
Williams, the former number one overall draft pick by the Houston Texans, has never really lived up to that billing. He's had moments of greatness, but has never been the dominating threat he could be. Last year, he signed a $96 million contract to play for the Bills. His numbers weren't that great as he only registered 37 solo tackles and 10.5 sacks. It was revealed last week that Williams was having some off the field issues. Text messages emerged that showed Williams was having suicidal tendencies and thoughts. This year, the Bills need him to be 100 percent focused as they try to get their defense back on track. Williams must have a bounce back season for the Bills or they may be forced to decide if he's worth the trouble.