Extra Point: Letdown in Miami sets the stage for empty finale

Just one more game until Bills fans can unite and begin to prognosticate and mull over the draft. One more game after Sunday’s loss in Miami.

Buffalo’s loss to the Dolphins was about as meaningless as they come which is really only unfortunate in the sense that 2012 makes a baker’s dozen worth of seasons in which all four December games were dead air filling three hours on a Sunday afternoon.

Sunday’s loss wasn’t all that different from most of the losses this season. The Dolphins enjoyed success with their ground game, managed to include an offensive wrinkle that baffled the Bills’ coaching staff and they forced Ryan Fizpatrick to try and make plays to change the game.

This recipe can be found on page 13 of the “How to Beat Chan Gailey Cookbook” offered at retailers across the country.

Trying to make heads or tails of another one of these losses is beyond pointless. Unlike some of the games earlier this season, Sunday’s defeat brought nothing new to the table. Mario Williams, Kyle Moore and Shawne Merriman were ineffective off the edge in what was truly the most unimpressive game from that trio in a few weeks (Seattle excluded due to the overall awfulness of the defense that day). The defensive tacks and secondary were also quite average for most of the game themselves. As for the linebackers, they might be better off seeing if the other team will play eight-on-eight rather than keep those three on the field.

Now, it is important to realize that because Mario Williams did not have a three sacks and wasn’t a factor on each and every play of the game that he is not only horribly overpayed but an overrated and pampered talent that is going to drag this franchise to the ground. At least that is what Jerry Sullivan will lead you to believe.

In fact, this lost season will fit nicely atop Super Mario’s mantle for no other reason than him being anointed as the player who would save the team and begin to drag the franchise from the depths of mediocrity this season. Count me among those who bought into the philosophy. The Bills hadn’t had a game changing defensive talent on the roster since Aaron Schobel was good six years ago. Williams was that player and more before he even put on a helmet and despite what Buffalo’s resident pessimistic jackass columnist will have you believe, he was that player.

Williams is the first Bill to eclipse ten sacks since Schobel did it in the mid-2000s and is just on the outside of the league’s top-10 for sacks this season. What is going to be overlooked by many in Buffalo is that Williams play through the middle portion of the season was a catalyst for the Bills success. When he hasn’t played well, the defense hasn’t played well. But when he is making plays and wreaking havoc, the Bills are a better team. At the end of the day that is exactly what he was signed to do.

Go ahead and beat your drum about his contract and being overpaid. You might as well hitch that wagon to the Ryan Miller horse while you’re at it. While many arguments about Williams and his play have validity, most of this white noise just shows how ill-prepared Buffalo is to have a true superstar.

Whether it be Miller or Williams (or any future big name that is signed here), Buffalo fans (and some media members) seem to live under the misguided pretense that this player is to be a god-like figure who will singlehandedly carry his respective team to glory. Most of the time it just leads to whiner line calls and columns referring to fridges and other nonsense but sometimes there are intelligent people having intelligent conversations. While I might not be the brightest bulb, I can certainly see what Williams was able to contribute to an otherwise pitiful defense.

Missing the Mark

While plenty of press will revolve around the shortcomings of the coach, quarterback and defensive unit, I wonder why Marcell Dareus hasn’t received more scrutiny. Dareus has had a very difficult year and I commend him for being strong in the face of the tragedy he has faced. What I certainly don’t know is how it has affected his play and I wouldn’t dare speculate to that degree.

What I do wonder is how things may have differed if the Bills had landed Von Miller in that draft. While Cam Newton was the assumed #1 pick, Miller and Dareus certainly could have switched places. Would Miller have brought more to the defense? Was Dareus a consolation prize for the Bills at #3? Or is this just another instance of “Buffalo Sports Luck” and the team finding the lone bust in a rich top-five? I don’t hate Dareus as a player and I think he can be a difference maker, he shows as much at times in each game. However, he doesn’t seem to have the same motor as Kyle Williams. Perhaps Dareus is a little overweight and isn’t capable of playing as the dominant force he was at Alabama. I’d like Dareus to come back in 2013 after dropping about 20 pounds and committing to a more nimble and agile game.

Linebackers MIA

The play of the linebacking corps has been the Achilles heel of this Buffalo defense. Kelvin Shepard was drafted as a 3-4 inside linebacker and hasn’t done much to prove his worth in a 4-3. Nick Barnett has been capable as a three-down player but is clearly an aging commodity. As for Nigel Bradham? He has been average at best and hasn’t done much to appear to be improving as the year has progressed. He may have the most upside of the three and that is a scary thought.

None of the three were visible difference makers on Sunday and that has been a near weekly occurrence this season. Linebacker may be the biggest need for the Bills and could most definitely be in the cards when they come to pick in the first round.

MVP: CJ Spiller has continued to build on his impressive breakout campaign. Good for him for showing how effective he can be with more than 20 carries.

LVP: Passing offense. For a coach who showed so much creativity early last season, his approach and offensive play calling has been horrendous as of late and the inability of the offense to move the ball without CJ Spiller was appalling.

It was over when Reggie Bush scored his third touchdown of the game. Based on the way the passing offense was working, the Bills weren’t coming back from that deficit.

Extra Point: History is made out west

If Taylor Swift was a Bills fan, she would have a limitless collection of material. She probably could have written a few songs based on Sunday’s performance.

Buffalo shot out to the West Coast for their second-straight game against a member of the NFL elite and came up with their second-straight black eye. While the team is only 2-3, the way they have gotten to that record has been cause for concern – or outrage, depending who you are.

There is no reason to rehash the numbers from Sunday’s loss. Any and all media members will be pounding those numbers down your throat in a similar manner that the 49ers run game pounded the football on Sunday. However, the second-straight historic let down is nothing to ignore.

Entering the year, the defense was expected to be the strong point of the team. As of now, even the new-and-improved front four have been invisible. There were some who saw the linebackers as a major weakness and others who had lingering questions about the secondary. Some even had fears that both of those units would be the downfall of the defense. As of week five, everyone is right.

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Field Goals: Linebackers shaping up

Now that Bills training camp is truly up and running – it is closer to the end than the beginning, actually – it seems like a safe time to look into a few more position battles.

One of the most intriguing positions on the roster is linebacker. While the Bills re-vamped defensive line has fans and media drooling over the potential they may hold this season, the linebacking corps leave something to be desired.

Entering camp, the Bills base defense would start Kelvin Sheppard at mike with Nick Barnett on the weakside and Kirk Morrison on the strong side. However, as Joe Buscaglia reported today, it seems as if Arthur Moats has the inside track on the starting strong side position.

Moats, who also received some complimentary press last week, appears to have finally settled into a position that suits his skillset as a somewhat undersized pass rusher. After originally being slated as an inside backer in the 3-4 after his draft year, Moats floated to the outside and gained instant fandom for his hit on Brett Favre. However, he still struggled to see playing time since his 6’0” frame is not ideal for and outside linebacker position in a 3-4.

For than matter, his size isn’t ideal as a defensive end in a 4-3 either. Although he does have the pass rushing skillset that is desired from a rush linebacker in an even set.

However, Moats’ promotion shouldn’t be welcomed with sunshine and lollypops. It is not much different than if a late round pick or undrafted free agent managed to earn regular playing time. Simply put, it isn’t necessarily an ideal situation. Continue reading

Few positions up for grabs as Bills prep for camp

Training camp is just around the corner for the Buffalo Bills and this marks a camp that should provide a whole different look at the upcoming season.

Until this offseason, the past few years have been quite lean for Bills fans. Offseason signings were a bit more prudent and balanced rather than the type that were geared towards making strides in the win column. With so many names already inked into the starting lineup for 2012 (see: Williams, Mario), camp should serve as a tool to dig up quality depth players for the Bills. With depth being one of the main culprits for last year’s collapse; having the ability to dig up quality back-ups could go a long way for Buffalo’s success.

Training camp is a tool used to find sleepers and back-ups. No matter how strong or weak a team is expected to be, your starters are usually set by the time camp is set to open. What is different for the Bills this year is their starters are truly starters.

There is potential for a few starting spots to be taken away from the incumbent starter but, for the most part, the real battles will be for second-team roles.

Cornerback and wide receiver are the two positions with the most competition and the most room for movement. Figuring out who falls where with the linebacking corps will be an interesting competition to follow along with, along with left tackle.

The rest of the positions are going to see more competition for the second unit, with the ultimate goal of finding some diamonds in the rough for the upcoming season.

Thanks to the acquisition of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, the Bills have the ability to keep an extremely talented group of players on the first and second team. Even the third men through on the defensive line are going to be capable of being contributors for the Bills, this is not a bad problem to have.

The interior offensive line and offensive backfield fall under the same umbrella as the defensive line. There are set starters and talented back-ups who will be vying for playing time. I expect that the players the Bills have brought in to compete to provide the Bills with plenty of options as training camp moves along. Continue reading