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NFL Buffalo Bills

Top 5 Most Surprising Buffalo Bills In 2013

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The Top 5 Most Surprising Buffalo Bills In 2013

Bills - Dolphins
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 season has been wildly disappointing for the Buffalo Bills. Granted, with a rookie quarterback and a disappointing defense returning, the Orchard Park faithful didn’t have the highest of hopes coming in.

But when it’s been nearly 15 years since your last playoff appearance, you have blind hope all the time because you’re just hoping there will be validation for all the time and emotion you invest into this mostly fruitless venture. Something; anything.

A few impactful injuries and missed bounces later, the Bills are 6-9 and probably on their way to a tenth loss as they head to New England on Sunday playing a Patriots team that needs the win for AFC Playoff positioning. It feels like the hundredth year in a row that the Bills will have a losing record and another season ending where I’m already looking forward to next year.

Still, it’s not totally disappointing. The team has had more than a few bright spots and, as said above, was a few bounces away from being 9-6 at this point. They should’ve beaten the Patriots in Week 1 and the Chiefs at home before Jeff Tuel pick-sixed it away. They had a chance against the Browns until the final drive, lost in overtime to Cincinnati and Atlanta (a game they literally fumbled away -- twice), and actually managed to beat Carolina on a last-second E.J. Manuel touchdown pass.

Not only that, but the defense has taken a huge step forward. They’ve set a new single-season team record for sacks with 56 (and counting), besting 1995’s 50-sack effort. They’re the fifth best defense in the league against the pass and are marginally better against the run than they were last season.

With all that said, let’s take a look at the five biggest surprises for the Bills during the 2013 season.

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5. Kiko Alonso

Kiko Alonso
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously a talented player, Oregon’s Kiko Alonso was one of the Bills’ second-round draft picks who slotted in as the starter at middle linebacker mostly by default. There really was no one else. But as the season progressed Alonso proved that he not only belonged, but that the Bills had gotten themselves a steal in the second.

He leads the team with 137 total tackles (78 solo) and 11 tackles for loss. He’s also tied for the team-lead with four interceptions. He’s made the defense far tougher to throw the ball on thanks to his great athleticism and motor. He flies all over the field and has a knack for making plays.

Part of the reason the defense has taken as big a step forward as it has is because of the emergence of Alonso. The Bills have been desperate to find someone, anyone, to step in and be an every-down linebacker. Well they found just that in Alonso.

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4. Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams
Kiko Alonso

Though he’s faded into the background a bit as the season has gone on, Aaron Williams’ impact on the defense cannot be underestimated. When there were injuries early in the year to Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd and star corner Stephon Gimore, Williams stepped in to play pretty well at corner.

When those two returned, he slid seamlessly into the other safety role opposite Byrd and continued his strong play. He’s tied for the team-lead in interceptions with four, is second on the team in passes defended with 11 and is second in tackles (82) as well.

Williams has done it all this season and came up big for the Bills when the secondary was devastated by injury. Sure, the team is 6-9, but without him they may have not even been in a position to win those games so things may have looked a lot uglier without his stellar play.

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3. Robert Woods

Robert Woods
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s take a break from the defense for a minute to focus on a surprise on the offense. His stats may not be the greatest, but Robert Woods has experienced somewhat of an emergence this season.

He started out non-existent, but as Stevie Johnson has struggled this season Woods has gradually improved his play and flashed the skill that made him a second round draft pick. He’s caught 36 passes this year but has been targeted 75 times – second only to Johnson. He’s tied for the team-lead in touchdown receptions with three and clearly looks like bigger things are on the horizon.

If the Bills hope to take the next step Woods will be an important cog. He’s shown the potential already. It’s time to put everything together and make a big impact next season. If the Bills are going to make the push towards the playoffs he will be a big reason for that.

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2. Cordy Glenn

Cordy Glenn
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe it’s not a surprise to that many people since he was a second round pick last year and tabbed for big things right away, but the play of Cordy Glenn has been a big bright spot this season.

Glenn slid over to left tackle this season and has been a model of consistency. He’s big and violent in the run game, clearing a path for the second-best rushing attack in football (142.5 yards per game) and displays enough athleticism and quickness to keep up with any edge rusher.

For a team that has had offensive line struggles for years and used high draft picks on busts in the trenches (hey, Mike Williams) it’s huge that they’ve managed to find a bookend to keep E.J. Manuel safe from blindside hits. Now if they could get a few more guys like him along the rest of the line they’d be pretty set.

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1. Jerry Hughes

Jerry Hughes
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In case you haven’t gotten it by now, the defense has been a bit of a revelation this season. This was what the team was supposed to be getting last year after Mario Williams signed, but a year late isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Part of the resurgence of the defense has come from the pass rush, and perhaps no one is more of a surprise in that department than Jerry Hughes. Traded by the Colts for a utility linebacker who has done nothing since the trade (Kelvin Sheppard), Hughes has come alive for the Bills. He picked up his 10th sack on the year against the Dolphins on Sunday.

Hughes may not ever be an every down player, but if a team can get double-digit sacks out of a situational pass rusher that’s a pretty good trade off. Knowing they can put Hughes on the field and get a solid pass rush is huge for this Bills defense.