This was another disappointing season in a long line of many for the Buffalo Bills. They finished 6-10 for what feels like the umpteenth time, missing the playoffs for the eleventy-billionth time.
But we’ll get to the depressing aspects of the Bills’ season another time. In Buffalo, this is always time to be depressed. Instead, let’s focus on the good. Surely, some good had to have come out of this season, right?
Glad you asked, alternate personality!
There are three things in particular that jumped out as big positives this season and could be huge pluses going into next season when the Bills will get all of our hopes up again and, hopefully, will not dump all over said hope. Here are three big positives to take away from the 2013 season.
Obviously, how was I not going to lead with this? It was far and away the strength of the team, picking up a team-record 57 sacks on the season. Mario Williams, coming off a disappointing debut season in Western New York, had a resurgent year with 13 sacks. Kyle Williams had a career-high 10.5 sacks and is headed back to the Pro Bowl. Heck, even Marcell Dareus and all of his issues with being punctual managed 7.5 sacks. Oh yeah, they also got 10 sacks out of assumed-bust Jerry Hughes.
Pressure was a constant and it came from everywhere, but the line was the catalyst. This is what we all expected last year, but I guess it’s better late than never. The best thing about the pass rush is that it comes from everywhere. The line was dominant, sure, but they got sacks from 11 different guys. Rookie Nickell Robey contributed three as the corner blitz man. Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd tacked on one of his own. Quarterbacks knew the rush was coming, but they never knew just where it would come from.
If the Bills can repeat this effort next year, this defense will be one of the best around — provided they ever figure out how to stop the run.
Yes, this kind of goes hand-in-hand with the pass rush, but you can’t entirely credit the success of the pass defense to the pass rush. The group finished fourth in the NFL, a surprise that not many saw coming.
But it helps when you have Stephon Gilmore continuing to develop into a shutdown corner, Leodis McKelvin having a resurgent year and Aaron Williams seamlessly sliding to safety to have a career year.
It also helps that everyone on the team is capable of picking off a pass or two. They finished third in the league as a unit and a whopping four guys finished tied for the team lead with four interceptions while ten total had at least one. Getting those kinds of contributions certainly goes a long way towards a top-five pass defense.
This is one of the few bright spots on the offense, and this group was considered disappointing despite finishing second in the league in yards per game.
But that’s what happens when you’re C.J. Spiller and the world is expecting 2,000+ yards and double-digit touchdowns. Instead, he finished with a team-high 927 yards but just two touchdowns. He battled an ankle injury and inconsistency all year long, failing to live up to the lofty expectations set by his performance last year.
Thanks to the contributions of Fred Jackson, however, it’s hard to do much better than the Bills did on the ground this year. Jackson rushed for 896 yards while picking up a career-high 10 total touchdowns. He was the rock for the Bills — the consistent force out of the backfield whether it was running the ball, catching it or laying down an important block.
If Spiller can figure things out next year, just imagine what the ceiling is for this group.