Buffalo Bills Positional Review: Cornerbacks
It’s that time of the year if you’re a bad team, like the Buffalo Bills, that misses the playoffs by a mile: It’s 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 true strengths of the team this season: the cornerbacks.
Going into the season, things looked really uneasy. Past Stephon Gilmore there seemed to be big questions about the second and third corners.
As the season went on, though, this group became a strength thanks to the performance of undrafted rookie Nickell Robey and a career-year from Leodis McKelvin. Gilmore missed time to start the season and the defense clearly struggled, but once they got him back this group became a real strength.
With the emergence of Justin Rogers or Ron Brooks, this group would have fantastic depth. Grade: B
This was a little harder to judge given the injuries in camp and preseason along with the uncertainty surrounding Robey. Once Gilmore returned, this group was a solid and consistent as you could ask for.
Robey locked down the nickel spot – an increasingly important spot in the NFL these days – while McKelvin looked like the first-round pick the Bills thought they were getting five years ago. Gilmore even bounced back from injury and inconsistency to be a shutdown corner as the year came to a close. Grade: A-
A few rough weeks to begin the season aside, this group ended up being a pleasant surprise. McKelvin was a solid presence regardless of who he matched up against, and Robey was used as a weapon in the pass-rush (three sacks) and in pass defense (third on the team with 10 passes defended).
The shutdown play of this group helped other areas (see: linebackers, safeties) thrive and may have given the vaunted pass rush an opportunity or two that wouldn’t have been there without some great coverage. Grade: B+