Another year has come and gone for the Buffalo Bills, and it’ll be another year without a playoff appearance after going 6-10.
Let’s take a quick look back with a season wrap-up.
Biggest Surprise: I was tempted to give this to a unit as opposed to a player based on the Bills setting a franchise-record for sacks in a season with 57. But it wasn’t really surprising that Mario Williams performed as he did, nor was it that Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams enjoyed resurgent seasons.
No, the biggest surprise comes from Jerry Hughes. The former first-round pick of the Colts was thought to be a bust. This massive disappointment was traded to Buffalo for utility linebacker Kelvin Sheppard who has done nothing in his new home. Hughes more than pulled his weight for the defense this year with a career-high 10 sacks, good for second behind Super Mario.
Biggest Disappointment: I will go the group route on this one. It would be easy to look at E.J. Manuel as a disappointment, but he’s a rookie quarterback who dealt with injuries throughout the year. He was going to struggle pretty much no matter what.
No, the real disappointment (if you want to avoid someone blatantly obvious like C.J. Spiller) is the receiving unit for the Bills. Stevie Johnson battled injury all year on his way to just 52 catches for 597 yards and three touchdowns. Still, those three touchdowns tied for the team-lead. It took Robert Woods awhile to get going before he became a factor. Marquise Goodwin and T.J. Graham seem to be only capable of running in a straight line. And if you want to throw Scott Chandler and his fumblitis in there, you could.
If the Bills offense wants to take a big step forward next season, this group has to be better.
Team MVP: While I want to give this to the defense, I think it’s about time to give a hand to Fred Jackson. He’s never been the flashiest back, but he’s efficient and consistent. He’s a leader both on and off the field, he plays through injuries – he dealt with a bum knee and, later, a rib injury – and he’s dependable. That last bit can’t be understated in the NFL today.
His 1,283 combined rushing and receiving yards and 10 touchdowns made him look closer to 23 than 33 (which he will be in February). He doesn’t have much left, but he’s still one of the most effective weapons the Bills have.
Biggest Need: To me, this is a two-horse race. While Woods and Johnson certainly have the skills to be successful at receiver, they were wildly disappointing this season. The Bills have tried to go the speed route with guys like Goodwin and Graham, but they need a big, dependable target. Someone like Texas A&M’s Mike Evans comes to mind. Either way, they need to give Manuel as many weapons as possible to aid his development.
This also means they could look to upgrade tight end. Chandler is an okay receiver, but his hands have been an issue at times. He battles drops and fumbles and lacks the speed to stretch defenses down the seam. If the Bills could find a matchup problem at tight end it would help Manuel exponentially.