Let’s face facts: this season is, for all intents and purposes, over for the Buffalo Bills. They’re 4-9, having lost five of their last six, and face two hot teams down the stretch that both need wins in the run to the AFC playoffs.
So, naturally for Bills fans, it’s already time to look ahead to the offseason and what the team can do to finally not suck so badly. There is definitely talent there, but this is a young team with all of their parts seemingly working independently of one another. One week, the defense is strong while the offense struggles. The next week, it’s the inverse. Never are they on the same page.
Experience will obviously cure some of those issues, but the team still has things to address. Here’s what they should be looking to improve in the offseason this year, in hopes that they can end this 15-years-and-counting playoff drought.
In the NFL, you can never have enough quality offensive linemen. It seems as though half the teams in the league are facing massive casualties along the line by the end of the year, missing as many as three or four starters at a time. It’s rough playing in the trenches, and injuries are apart of the game.
That said, the Bills’ offensive line is okay in their current, healthy incarnation, but they’ve struggled to keep E.J. Manuel – or Thad Lewis when Manuel was hurt – upright consistently this year. They have some talent in Cordy Glenn, Eric Wood and even Kraig Urbik, but could stand to upgrade the left guard and right tackle spots.
Bringing in more talent on the line would go a long way towards aiding the development of Manuel and bettering the future of the Bills.
With all due respect to Manny Lawson and decent young talent Nigel Bradham, this unit would be an utter disaster if it wasn’t for the performance of rookie Kiko Alonso this season. A defensive rookie of the year candidate for sure, Alonso is a gamer and will have the middle locked down for a long time.
The key will be to get someone in next to him that can play sideline-to-sideline and help stifle the run. Lawson has been solid in a pass-rushing role, but the team as a whole has struggled to stop the run, and that usually starts with the linebackers. They need someone who can fight off blocks and make the tackle before it gets to the secondary.
On a defense that has shown it can swing momentum, the ability to shut down the run would go a long way towards helping make the Bills a winner for the first time in ages.
Stevie Johnson has been a quality playmaker as the Bills’ No. 1 receiver over the last few years, but injuries and inconsistencies have hindered his performance this year and left Manuel in bad spots.
Behind him, there is promise in possession man Robert Woods and burner T.J. Graham, but the Bills need more of a big-talent receiver in the lineup. Bringing in someone who could be the undisputed top receiver would benefit Manuel and would make the others better by taking the attention off of them.
The Bills have shown the ability to air the ball out this season. If they can bring in a game-breaker at receiver, that aspect of the offense could turn into a real strong point.
It’s a long way to the offseason, so the Bills will have time to consider their needs, but shoring up those issues could help the Bills find unfamiliar territory: the playoffs.