The Buffalo Bills currently have the NFL’s longest-running postseason drought, with their last playoff game coming after the 1999 season in the infamous “Music City Miracle” loss to the Tennessee Titans. A new head coach is in place for the next effort to end the drought, with Doug Marrone being hired from the college ranks, and Buffalo selected their potential quarterback of the future (E.J. Manuel) with the 16th overall pick in April’s draft.
But when looking at key players on the Bills’ roster for this season, it’s best to look toward the players who are holdovers from last season. On the defensive side of the ball, defensive end Mario Williams has the salary and production (10.5 sacks in 2012) befitting someone who is hard to replace. Running back C.J. Spiller is in line for a big season as the team’s featured offensive weapon, but Fred Jackson is a capable backup if he can avoid injuries. All things considered, who is the most irreplaceable player for the Bills this season?
Steve Johnson has averaged 79 receptions for 1,041 yards over the last three seasons as Buffalo’s No. 1 wide receiver, along with 23 total touchdowns over that span. No one else on the team had more than 43 receptions last season, and outside of David Nelson’s 61 catches in 2011 that has been the case in each of the last three campaigns. So Johnson should remain the clear top target for whoever replaces Ryan Fitzpatrick as the Bills’ starting quarterback this season, be it Manuel or Kevin Kolb.
The Bills do have an intriguing young group of wide receivers, with a trio of rookies (Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Da’Rick Rogers) joining 2012 third-round pick T.J. Graham in the mix for playing time. But as the veteran of the group, Johnson can set an important example for the younger players and he is the only pass catcher the Bills have that is immune to any change under center that may occur as the season goes on.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.