Well, that didn’t turn out as expected. After an exhilarating offseason of trades, splash free agent signings, a big name head coach and national media spotlight, the Buffalo Bills fell short of the playoffs for the 16th consecutive year. While the year was disappointing as a whole, there’s still a lot to be encouraged by heading into the 2016 season, especially after finishing the year on a high note, beating the New York Jets and eliminating them from the postseason. Here at Building the Herd, we handed out awards for the best and worst of the 2015 season.
Offensive MVP- QB Tyrod Taylor
Brought in as a free agent with just one career start to his name, Tyrod Taylor earned the starting job and took the league by storm. He completed 63.1% of his passes for 3,035 yards (his 7.3 yards-per-attempt ranks fifth), throwing 20 touchdowns and just six interceptions, adding another 568 yards and 4 touchdowns on 103 rushing attempts. His 100.7 QB Rating is fifth-best in the league.
Taylor’s play kept the Bills in nearly every game, while being effective and efficient despite the constant lineup shuffling due to key injuries along the offensive line, wide receivers and running backs throughout the season.
Runner up: WR Sammy Watkins
Defensive MVP: CB Ronald Darby
During the preseason, the thought of Ronald Darby even stepping on the field was a terrifying thought. However, the rookie out of Florida State exceeded all expectations this season, recording 68 tackles, 2 interceptions and broke up 21 passes, the third most in the league. ProFootballFocus graded Darby as the No. 8 overall cornerback in the NFL after he allowed 57 receptions on 104 targets (3rd most), a 54.8% completion rate. He allowed just 660 yards and four touchdowns and his 79.0 passer rating against ranks 18th out of 74 qualifiers.
Runner Up: NT Marcell Dareus
Offensive Least Valuable Player: RG John Miller
Unlike his fellow draft-mate Ronald Darby, John Miller didn’t enjoy much success in his rookie year. ProFootballFocus graded Miller as the 80th worst guard out of 81 qualifiers, as the third-rounder allowed three sacks, five QB hits and 26 hurries in just 336 pass blocking snaps. His 34 pressures allowed were the 11th most at his position out of 81 guards, an awful number considering that only 18 of the qualifying players were on the field less than him. Miller wasn’t much better in terms of run blocking, as running backs averaged just 3.4 yards per carry and had a league-leading 21 negative plays when rushing behind him.
Runner Up: RT Seantrel Henderson
Defensive Least Valuable Player: LB Nigel Bradham
After a breakout year just a season ago in which he racked up 104 tackles, 2.5 sacks, forced two fumbles, one interception and seven pass breakups, there were high hopes for Nigel Bradham entering the 2015 year. However, the transition from a 4-3 weakside linebacker to a 3-4 inside linebacker didn’t go as planned for Bradham, who managed just 59 tackles and a sack this season before suffering a season-ending injury after 11 games.
His 13 missed tackles were fourth most at his position, while his mere 14 tackles against the run ranked 18th out of 34 qualifying linebackers.
Runner Up: CB Leodis McKelvin
Offensive Rookie of the Year: RB Karlos Williams
The Bills may have gotten the steal of the draft when they selected Karlos Williams in the fifth-round. The 6’1” 230 pounder with 4.5 speed made an immediate impact, scoring a touchdown in each of his first six games, and finished the year with 517 yards and seven touchdowns on 93 carries, a 5.5 yards-per-carry average, adding another 96 yards and two touchdowns on 14 catches. Despite dealing with nagging injuries, Williams ranked 7th among running backs, averaging 2.91 yards-after-contact and forced 18 missed tackles, ranking as ProFootballFocus’ 7th most elusive running back. Seven of his 93 carries went for 15+ yards, the fifth highest percentage at his position.
Williams is exciting to watch and should be a great complement to LeSean McCoy for years to come.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Ronald Darby
Defensive MVP as a rookie.
Best Free Agent Signing: LG Richie Incognito
We aready discussed Tyrod Taylor, so we’ll give this award to Richie Incognito. After being blackballed by the league for his bullying scandal with the Miami Dolphins, the Bills signed him to a one-year “prove it” deal, and boy did he prove himself. Incognito played at a Pro Bowl level all season, dominating in both the run and pass game.
In pass protection, Incognito surrendered just two sacks, five hits and 12 hurries—ninth fewest among 54 qualifying guards. Bills running backs averaged 5.4 yards-per-carry, gaining 136 yards on 25 carries when running behind the left guard, and that’s not including power runs in which he pulled to the edge as a lead blocker.
Runner Up: QB Tyrod Taylor
Worst Free Agent Signing: FB Jerome Felton
In order to supplement their power rushing attack, the Bills signed Jerome Felton to a four-year, $9.2 million contract that made him the second-highest fullback in the league. Despite being the seventh-highest paid player on the Bills’ offense in 2015, Felton played just 26.3% of the team’s snaps and didn’t do much to warrant his big contract. ProFootballFocus graded Felton as the 19th best fullback out of 24 qualifiers and the Bills averaged 3.6 yards-per-carry with him on the field, compared to 4.9 yards-per-carry without him.
Runner Up: DL IK Enemkpali
Most Improved Player: WR Sammy Watkins
After an uninspiring rookie season in which he caught 65 passes for 982 yards and six touchdowns, Sammy Watkins took his game to the next level this year. After a slow start, Watkins made it clear that he wanted to see more targets in order to prove he was worth the significant investment of two firsts and a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Watkins finished the 2015 season with 60 catches for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns, with 49 receptions, 900 yards and seven touchdowns coming in the last nine games, all while seeing extensive double coverage.
Runner Up: CB Stephon Gilmore
“You’ve Gotta Go”: S Duke Williams
After a solid 2014 campaign, many thought that Duke Williams in for a breakout season in Rex Ryan’s defense. Instead, his terrible play kept him sidelined for the majority of the year, seeing the majority of his snaps in dime packages or in place of an injured teammate.
He played 263 defensive snaps, 31.2% of the defensive total and was a liability in every aspect of the game. Teammates were routinely visibly upset with Williams on the field and were seen screaming at him for a blown coverage or a miscommunication.
In 136 coverage snaps, Williams allowed 10 receptions on 14 targets (71.4%) for 95 yards, 65 yards-after-the-catch, one touchdown and had a 113.7 passer rating against. According to ProFootballFocus, he missed one tackle every five attempts, the 84th worst rate out of 98 qualifying safeties.
Runner Up: CB Leodis McKelvin
Most Underrated Defensive Player: DT Marcell Dareus
Marcell Dareus didn’t have the sack numbers you’d expect from someone that signed a $100 million contract, recording just two all season after racking up 33 in the previous three seasons. However, he played more of a traditional nose tackle role this year, primarily aligning as a zero-technique directly over the center, where he was responsible for taking on double teams nearly every snap. He still managed to notch 51 tackles, five tackles for loss, while registering four quarterback hits and 25 hurries. His 30 pressures were 17th most among defensive tackles and third most among nose tackles. Dareus was a monster against the run, making 40 tackles (5th) and 28 “stops” (6thth) in 261 snaps defending the run.
Runner Up: SLB Manny Lawson
Most Underrated Offensive Player: LT Cordy Glenn
After a down year in 2014, Cordy Glenn bounced back this season, dominating in nearly every game and was worthy of Pro Bowl consideration. He allowed just two sacks (3rd-fewest), two QB Hits (2nd-fewest) and 24 hurries (11th). His 24 pressures allowed ranked sixth-best among tackles. He was dominant in the run game as well, as Bills’ runners gained 602 yards and four touchdowns on just 57 carries (10.5 yards-per-carry) when running behind or around him. Offensive linemen typically only hear their name when they get called for a penalty or give up a sack, so the fact that Glenn’s name has flown under-the-radar means that he’s been doing his job, and well.
Runner Up: TE Charles Clay