5 Buffalo Bills Who Mean the Most to the Team’s Future
5 Buffalo Bills Who Mean the Most to the Team's Future
The Buffalo Bills had one of the league's most interesting rosters in 2013, yet injuries and inconsistency kept the team out of the postseason for yet another year. The Bills finished a disappointing 6-10, and although they were competitive for most of their games, just being competitive isn't enough in the NFL. Despite one of the longest playoff droughts in recent memory, the Bills have a bevy of talent that will impact the immediate future of the franchise.
In his first season as coach of the Bills, Doug Marrone inherited some talented players in C.J. Spiller and Stevie Johnson on offense along with Jairus Byrd and Mario Williams on defense. In the draft, the Bills drafted their franchise quarterback in E.J. Manuel and their starting middle linebacker in Kiko Alonso. The Bills, like every other NFL team, will try to rectify their roster through free agency and the draft, but there are some intriguing pieces already on the roster who could affect the future of the Bills in the next coming years.
Those who appear on my list of the top five players who will most affect the future of the Bills will not be among the big-name players. Names like Spiller or Johnson did not qualify for this list; instead, these are players who had solid seasons in 2013 and with an added dose of luck could turn the Bills' fortunes around in 2014.
Plenty of players could have made this list. RB Fred Jackson has been as consistent as any player in the NFL, but he was already a big-name player so he did not qualify for the list. On defense, Stephon Gilmore has already established himself in this league, thereby eliminating him from this discussion.
The five Bills on this list are the players who will have the biggest impact on the team's success or failure over the next two or three seasons. A few of these players are players who were injured in 2013 or players expected to start in 2014 for departing free agents. These five will determine if the Bills continue their playoff drought or will break the dubious streak in 2014.
5. Dustin Hopkins
Yes, I decided to put a kicker here in this list. When NFL teams draft a kicker, they make a statement towards the special teams units. When the Bills drafted Dustin Hopkins in the sixth round, Hopkins was one of the most accurate kickers in college football history, but his rookie season in Buffalo was cut short due to injury.
In Buffalo, being able to kick in the swirling winds of Ralph Wilson Stadium is crucial for an offense that has plenty of room to improve.
4. Da'Norris Searcy
With Byrd holding out to begin the season, Da'Norris Searcy made seven starts last season and was a solid player for the team. With Byrd also unlikely to return to the team, Searcy can step right in and be a major piece in the Buffalo secondary.
Searcy was a playmaker for the Bills, returning his only interception for a touchdown and recovering two fumbles in 2013.
3. Nigel Bradham
Linebacker Nigel Bradham was the unsung player of the Bills linebacking corps. While all the attention surrounded rookie Alonso and free agent pickup Manny Lawson, this former Florida State Seminole will be a breakout player in 2014.
The linebacking play this year will determine if the defense is playoff-caliber in 2014, and Bradham will be the determining factor.
2. Cordy Glenn
As the starting left tackle of the Buffalo Bills, Cordy Glenn is the man who is designated as the most important player on the Bills. As the blindside protector of the injury-riddled franchise quarterback in Manuel, Glenn's play will determine whether Manuel is the real deal as the franchise quarterback or if the Bills have to find another.
1. Marquise Goodwin
With Stevie Johnson starting to break down, second-year receiver Marquise Goodwin's development will determine the future of the Bills' passing game. Goodwin's incredible speed gives the Bills a vertical threat for the first time in quite awhile.
The ability to stretch the field vertically will help the Bills in their quest to break their long playoff drought.