Buffalo Bills Week 11 Rookie Progress Report
Buffalo Bills: Week 11 Rookie Progress Report
We are 10 games into the season and the Buffalo Bills have seen their rookies on the field for a whole lot of playing time. They've had heavy contributions all over the field on both sides of the ball. The Bills are a young team no doubt, but it's still a disappointment for them to be sitting at 3-7 after 10 games. They've got some winnable games on the rest of the schedule and they'll try and end things on a positive note.
Injuries have been the biggest disappointment this season so far for the rookies. They lost QB E.J. Manuel for four games in the middle of the season and he is now trying to settle back into the lineup with only a little over a month remaining. The young receiving corps was hit hard as well. Manuel's favorite target Robert Woods will miss his second game in a row this Sunday, and speedster Marquise Goodwin missed four games himself at the beginning of the year. Manuel hasn't had his full complement of receivers to work with since the first half of the opening game.
There have been surprises among the Bills' rookies. For starters, who would have thought that LB Kiko Alonso would be the front-runner for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors this late in the season? There always seems to be an undrafted rookie surprise for the Bills, and this year is no exception. There was a lot of hype over WR Da'Rick Rogers and LB Keith Pough after the Bills signed them as UDFAs, but neither guy made the final roster out of training camp. CB Nickell Robey is the guy who has emerged as an UDFA.
You can expect to see a lot of these rookies over the last six games of the season as the new coaching staff takes a hard look at their first rookie class heading into year two. Here is an individual look at what each rookie has done and what you can expect from them moving forward.
UDFA: CB Nickell Robey
Despite being small in stature, Robey has developed as the Bills' primary slot corner. He has 18 tackles, an INT (returned for a TD) and eight passes defensed in his rookie season. He has already leapfrogged both Ron Brooks and Justin Rogers on the depth chart. Robey is a fine complement to starters Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin. He plays a physical game for his size and fits well with the hard-hitting safeties of the Bills in the secondary. I'd expect to see a lot more of Robey in the next few years. He looks like a keeper.
7th Round: TE Chris Gragg
Gragg didn't play much for the first eight weeks, but saw his first extensive action this past Sunday. He recorded his first career reception and TD in the game. He finished the day with four catches for 25 yards. He did have a crucial drop in the third quarter in the game that killed a Bills drive. It was said that the Bills liked Gragg in training camp and with the playoffs all but out of the picture, I'd expect to see the Bills to try to get him in there more to see what he can do. He can fit into the future, but I wouldn't be surprised if they brought in someone to play in front of him next year regardless.
4th Round: S Duke Williams
Williams has been primarily used as a special teams player in the first 10 games. He got some action on defense early in the year when there were injuries in the secondary but he's buried in the deep safety depth chart these days. His stat line reads 5 tackles and that's it. He hasn't really stood out in any way so far. Depending on what happens with Jairus Byrd in the off season Williams may have to find almost all of his value on kick coverage. So far he's pretty much a "bleh" pick by the Bills this high.
4th Round: WR Marquise Goodwin
Goodwin is no doubt an exciting player, but he missed four games early in the season. He's got 10 catches so far for 180 yards and two TDs. Obviously, the 18 yards per catch is an outstanding number. Goodwin is a guy that can make plays if the QB simply gets it in his vicinity. He is literally one of the fastest players in the league ever. It would be nice to see him become a little more well rounded and that may come in time. His one problem early is that he has trouble holding onto the ball in tough spots. That may be a byproduct of being able to simply get his hands on so many passes but if he could sort that out, he could be very dangerous. The more you see him play, the more it becomes clear that he belongs in the game plan more.
2nd Round: LB Kiko Alonso
Alonso has been the best rookie performer for the Bills and one of the best players on the team. He has 99 tackles, four INTs, a forced fumble, four passes defensed and two sacks. He is the most versatile player on the Bills' defense. He's second in the league in total tackles and tied for second in INTs. Alonso hasn't made as many big plays of late as he did in the first half, but he is still an impact player. The most impressive thing about him as a rookie are his instincts. He is constantly blowing up screens and stretching RBs to the outside on run plays. He could still use a bit more consistency in pass coverage, but he is very close to being a complete player only 10 games into his career.
2nd Round: WR Robert Woods
Woods was having a good start to the year when Manuel was playing, but his production dropped when Thad Lewis replaced Manuel during his injury. He has 26 catches for 349 yards and two TDs so far this season. His robust 13.4 yards a catch is a byproduct of both his ability to get open and his ability to get more yards after the catch. His biggest asset is his hands. He is the most sure-handed receiver on the Bills by a long shot, and he is a plus route runner. You'd think that going forward, him and Manuel will build their rapport and continue to produce. Woods is hampered with an injury now and will be out of the lineup, but he should see action before the end of the year and hopes to reconnect with his fellow rookie down the stretch and continue to build that chemistry.
1st Round: QB E.J. Manuel
Manuel has had an up-and-down season that was obviously dealt a huge blow when his knee injury cost him 4.5 games in the middle of the year. Still, the numbers aren't so bad. He is 107 of 189 for 1,140 yards, six TDs and four INTs. They are average numbers but for a rookie QB on a rebuilding team, it could be worse. December will be an important month for him as he should have shaken off any rust by then and needs to show the Bills that he is indeed the guy to move the franchise forward with. He's shown good poise so far, but he is a little quick to settle for the outlet option and he needs to improve on his six yards per completion average. He's got six games to show the Bills faithful something to get them excited for next season.
See all of these rookies in action as the Bills host their next two games at home by getting your Bills tickets here.