It’s that time of the year if you’re a bad team, like the Buffalo Bills, that misses the playoffs by a mile: end of season positional review time!
Over the coming days, yours truly is going to break down each position group by three factors: depth, reliability and performance. They’ll be graded on all three of these factors accordingly.
Today, we’ll be looking at one of the most disappointing units on the team: wide receiver.
Before the year began, it looked like the team was in a good position from a depth standpoint. Thanks to Stevie Johnson occupying the defacto No. 1 receiver spot, there was plenty of space for talented youngsters T.J. Graham, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin.
Woods emerged as a legit threat as the year went on, but this was by far Johnson’s worst season. He missed four games this season and was hobbled in a few others, limiting his performance. Goodwin was used sparingly – only 27 percent of the snaps – and Graham, though seeing almost 71 percent of the snaps, was hugely disappointing.
With Johnson around and healthy, this would have likely gone far better for the Bills. Grade: B-
As stated above, Johnson battled a myriad of injuries this season: back and hip issues caused him to miss four games while hamstring and groin issues hampered him in several other games.
Woods dealt with an ankle injury that cost him some time and Goodwin broke his hand before having to deal with hamstring, elbow and knee injuries as the season wore on. While the team found a pair of keepers in Woods and Goodwin, you can’t help but look at how the injury woes not only affected their performance, but their ability to strike fear in defenses. It’s hard to find consistency when you can’t keep guys on the field. Grade: C-
As we’ve beaten to death by now, it wasn’t a great year for Johnson. Even when he was on the field, he struggled with injuries and it showed in his production. He finished the season second on the team in receptions (52) and yards (597), while tying for the team-lead with three touchdowns. For the passing game to be successful, Johnson has to be healthy and back to his old self.
Woods struggled to start the season and came on as it progressed. He finished with 40 catches for 587 yards and a team-lead three touchdowns. He developed a rapport with E.J. Manuel as the season wore on and could be that very good possession-type receiver the Bills have been in search of for years.
Goodwin was good in limited action, turning three of his 17 catches into touchdowns. He’ll likely get an expanded role next season and could even take over for Graham, who managed just 23 catches and two touchdowns this season. Grade: B-