Another one. Another one. DJ Khaled said it best as another Buffalo Bills season has gone by and another one without a playoff appearance. Yet again, the Bills failed to live up to the lofty expectations from the fans and coaches. This has been the recurring theme the last 16 years. However, hope is not lost. The Bills showed substantial growth in the offense in 2015 and the defense showed flashes of dominance. Here are grades from the 2015 season:
Starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor was everything the Bills hoped for and more. Taylor led the Bills to a 7-6 record in 14 games this season. He protected the ball very well tossing over 3,000 yards with 20 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. During the course of the season he blossomed into a spectacular deep-passer as Buffalo led the league in explosive plays.
The two games that Tyrod Taylor missed were both losses and stinkers by backup EJ Manuel. EJ was atrocious at some points against the putrid Jacksonville Jaguars. It was a little better the week before against Cincinnati Bengals. He was constantly missing wide open targets and was frustrating to watch.
The Buffalo Bills led the league in rushing while having 3 players gain over 500 yards on the ground this year. All together they amassed about 2,400 yards total. Compared to last years dreadful rushing attack, this was a nice plus to this season. Despite numerous injuries to LeSean McCoy and rookie Karlos Williams the Bills still led the league in rushing.
Jerome Felton signed a four-year, $9.2 million contract. The deal contains $4 million guaranteed, including a $2.6 million signing bonus. Pretty heavy money considering how little of an impact he had this year. The Bills were actually better when he was off the field in terms of yards-per-carry average.
In the 2015 offseason the Bills made Charles Clay one of the highest paid tight ends in the league. Clay played really well despite being banged up most of the season and ending up not playing the last several games. He finished second on the team in reception (51) and 3rd on the team in receiving (528). Greg Roman’s scheme relies on multiple tight ends and features them often in the passing attack, whether as a primary receiving option, a decoy or as a run blocker. Clay proved a very reliable run blocker. When Clay went down with an injury, the Bills showed their lack of depth at the position, as Chris Gragg and Nick O’Leary were forced into the lineup and didn’t do much to help out the offense.
Richie Incognito and Cordy Glenn played the best seasons of their careers. Center Eric Wood otherwise had a pretty decent season, but not great. The right side of the line was atrocious, but the fantastic play of the left side often masked the deficiencies. When healthy, 3rd round rookie John Miller had possibly the worst season you could have as a guard and the right tackle spot wasn’t much better with Seantrel Henderson and Jordan Mills. Henderson was just as bad as Miller and Mills might have been worse.
Sammy Watkins was unstoppable during the second half of the season, but outside of him the rest of the receiving corps left a lot to be desired. Percy Harvin started the season off well and looked like he could be a contributor, but as usual, injuries caught up to him again. Robert Woods struggled with drops for the first time in his career, but was an excellent blocking receiver. Chris Hogan has proved to be a reliable option at times, but Watkins’ stellar play boosted this group to a “B” grade.
DE and OLB- B-
Rex Ryan runs multiple complex schemes which the front 7 struggled to grasp, especially early on. Mario Williams was often asked to 2-gap, which is something he’s never been asked to do in his career. He struggled just about all year and there were some questions on his lack of effort. Kyle Williams played decently until he got hurt and his season ended. Stefan Charles, who has been very effective in limited time this year played very good for his limited role, while Alex Carrington was solid as a run-stuffer before he tore his quadriceps.
Outside linebackers Manny Lawson and Jerry Hughes thrived in Rex’s system. Although he didn’t show up in the box score that often, Hughes was just as good as years past. Manny Lawson is that swiss army knife “SAM” linebacker, as he filled in multiple roles within the defense, setting the edge against the run, rushing the passer and dropping into coverage.
Preston Brown and Nigel Bradham could not follow-up on the successful seasons they had in 2014 under Rex. Brown was actually rated the worst linebacker by Pro Football Focus. Bradham wasn’t that much better in his own right, ranking in the bottom 20. When Bradham went down with an injury that kept him out the last few weeks of the season his backups, Kevin Reddick and Tony Steward, played just as bad if not worse.
Before multiple injuries the Bills had lock-down corners in rookie Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore. Darby was a top 5 corner according to Pro Football Focus and Gilmore was in the top-10. They both played at a phenomenal level until Gilmore suffered a season ending shoulder injury and Darby had to step up. Of course he had his rookie struggles as the year went on, getting burned a few times, but the Bills couldn’t ask for better play out of a rookie second-round draft pick. Nickell Robey was inconsistent at best this year as a slot corner, while Leodis McKelvin’s play was very inconsistent.
The Bills struggled a lot on defense and the safeties did too. Aaron Williams had a season finishing neck injury early on in the season which left the Bills rotating safeties often. Corey Graham had a down year allowing six touchdowns, but Bacarri Rambo, who was signed early in the season was one of the few bright spots this year, as he made big plays often in key moments.
When the Bills went blitz-heavy a few times during games you could link back most coverage breakdowns to the safeties. I’m looking at you Duke Williams.
Special Teams- D
This starts and ends with the kicker. Dan Carpenter had one of his worst seasons since coming to Buffalo in 2013. He ended up having a higher field goal % than his extra point %. The Bills return game was awful. Despite many attempts to fix it the Bills just couldn’t get that spark they needed.
The Bills set a franchise record for most penalty yards in a season. They also had the fourth-most penalties in the National Football League. Time management and timeout usage was really bad for majority of the season. They often called a timeout early in the 3rd quarter on 1st-and-10. The defense regressed mightily under Rex Ryan not as expected. However, the Buffalo Bills had one of their best offenses in a long long time. Although this season was another disappointing one the future is mostly bright.