As someone who admittedly spends way too much of their time online reading every little bit of Bills news as he can, I feel like I have a fairly good grip on the pulse of Bills Nation. (And no, I’m not including Bills Facebook, where many have journeyed, but few have returned.) So what do I mean exactly? Well, for the purpose of this column at least, I have a good idea who the fans are expecting too much out of and who they might be sleeping on. Keep this in mind while reading, think of these names as how they will impact this season, and this season alone. It’s hard enough predicting who’s going to make the team in three months (which I did actually, HERE and HERE), much less next year and beyond. With that said, feel free to let me know in the comments section, or at @geoffharkins, exactly how you feel.
I am forever an optimist and a firm believer in second, third, and fourth chances. It usually pays off to be positive and to try to make the best out of a bad situation. However, it’s this kind of attitude that led me to being the last one driving the J.P. Losman bandwagon. It happens to the best of us. You might be wondering though, “Where is he going with this?”, and I don’t blame you. Let’s be optimistic and start with a few names that might pleasantly surprise us this season.
After a lengthy courting process last offseason, Charles Clay was signed to be a legitimate, movable weapon at the tight end position for offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Getting open last season wasn’t the issue, as was Tyrod’s lack of attempts to the middle of the field. For this reason, I feel he’s almost become the forgotten man at times in the passing game at least in the eyes of the fans. This season, with understandable concerns about the depth at receiver, he can help alleviate these concerns by being a week to week matchup problem for defenses. Games like he had against the Dolphins, Bengals, and the Giants show what he can do when being made the primary focus. He is a top tier tight end who only needs the chances to prove it.
One line of thinking would say that ANY contribution you get out of Aaron Williams this year would be a pleasant surprise considering the terrifying injury that ended his season in week two last year. Everyone from Doug Whaley to Rex Ryan to Aaron himself have said that he won’t know how his neck will respond until he takes that first hit in training camp. As long as all that checks out, there’s no reason to think Aaron can’t or won’t have a career year. He’s a guy that can be moved around from down in the box for run support, to covering tight ends, to the middle of the field as a deep safety. As our own Rob Quinn pointed out back in February, safeties play a vital role in a Rex Ryan defense, and Aaron Williams is the most well rounded of the bunch. He will be relied on heavily to get the defense back on track.
Here is an example of a potential impact player getting lost in the shuffle due to a down year while also having competition brought in. While you may never have Nickell constantly lining up on the boundary against receivers who are 6-8 inches taller than him, his ultra-aggressive attitude and quickness make him an ideal player you want manning the slot. While Sterling Moore and Corey White were brought in and Kevon Seymour was drafted to help bolster the secondary, Robey still shouldn’t be a forgotten man. He’ll remind people this year just how impactful he can be.
Just because someone is on this side of the list, does not mean that I think they’re terrible or should be cut or traded. All I’m looking to point out is that they’re perceived impact to the team in 2016 might be a little exaggerated.
Right Tackle Starter TBD
I completely understand that in a perfect world you would have all five starters on the line nailed down so they can maximize reps together in camp. Whether it ends up being Seantrel Henderson, Jordan Mills, or even Cyrus Kouandjio, in the end, I don’t believe it’s going to make much of a difference. While steady play is needed, the right side of the line isn’t where the Bills offense runs through (pun intended), and it’s not even close. That would be the dreamy left side of Richie Incognito and Cordy Glenn. This same cast of characters all took snaps last year and were competent enough to be a part of the league’s number one rushing attack. I don’t expect the right side to affect that ranking much at all in 2016.
I love Shady McCoy as much, if not more than most of you do. The Bills are a better team when he’s on the field. He can make the offensive line look better by his ability to dodge the occasional unblocked defender in the backfield. So I know this is going to hurt to hear, but listen with an open mind and we’ll get through this one together.
The team’s depth at running back was crazy good last year with Karlos Williams and Mike Gillislee. Then they went and added a steal in the 5th round in Jonathan Williams who drew 2nd and 3rd round projections pre-draft.. Bucky Brooks recently on NFL.com, listed our running backs as the 10th scariest position group in the league. The amount of talent in the running back room is so good, it’s almost embarrassing. It’s because of this quality depth (not to mention the offensive line) that I believe the offense wouldn’t fall off a cliff if LeSean were to miss an extended period of time this season.