It has been a long run of football futility in Buffalo. This is mostly due to a search for a franchise QB that the team has endured since the decline and retirement of Jim Kelly. Coaching has been an issue also, with the franchise going through 7 head coaches since the start of 1998. The Bills and their fans are starved for a playoff appearance, last getting into post-season in 1999. Does this team have enough to break the drought in 2014?
UBIC – Defense
Leodis McKelvin, CB (#21) So far this season, teams have thrown to and ran towards McKelvin’s side of the field frequently. It is perhaps a statistical anomaly that two games into the year, McKelvin leads his team in solo tackles with 16 from the CB position while recording only 1 pass defended and 1 INT. Most of those stats came in the first game of the season against the Bears.
McKelvin’s primary asset is his speed. Even with the selection of Sammy Watkins in the past draft, McKelvin has held onto his job as the team’s primary punt returner. With his speed, he is also (usually) tasked with the match-up against the opponent’s deep threat. So far this year, McKelvin has performed well enough in that role to make a valuable contribution to the Bills’ 2-0 start.
Beyond the measuables of game performance though, McKelvin is also one of the elder statesmen on the Bills defensive unit. Since being selected by the Bills as the 11th overall pick in 2008 draft, he has remained with the team as a frequent starting CB and primary punt returner. The only other starter that has been with the Bills longer is Kyle Williams, a defensive tackle that arrived in Buffalo in 2006.
While his overall position in the draft indicates that the team was hoping for a shutdown CB, that hope has not materialized. What McKelvin has done is develop into an above average DB and capable special team player. Against the Chargers, the Bills will need him to do what he did in the Bears game; tackle and win his assignment most of the time.
Preston Brown, LB (#52) Yes, a lot of us at BFTB were not happy during the 2013 draft when the Bolts traded up to get Manti Te’o and left Kiko Alonso there to get selected by the Bills at the 46th overall spot. The Bills were quite happy with that selection by the time the 2013 season came to an end. Unfortunately for the Bills, Alonso tore his ACL before training camp. The good news for the Bills is that Brown has so far shown himself to be a capable replacement, recording 12 solo tackles with another 8 assists. The Bills will need this year’s 3rd round selection out of Louisville to continue plugging the holes in the run game from his middle linebacker spot.
UBIC - Offense
Robert Woods, WR (#10) So far, the 2014 Bills offense has been the running tandem of Spiller and Jackson, plus the emergence of Sammy Watkins last week as a legitimate NFL playmaker. It wood be a mistake to forget about or ignore the Bills OTHER 2nd round pick from last year’s draft out of USC.
In his rookie season, Woods caught 40 passes on 85 targets for 587 yards and 3 TD’s. He started more games (14) than any other Bills skill position player, as the team had some real injury issues last year. Before dismissing this performance as average when compared to the Bolts own rookie WR in 2013, think about the difference in having PR throw to you every Sunday and being targeted by EJ Manual, Jeff Tuel, and Thad Lewis.
With Watkins providing the sizzle so far in 2014, Woods actually has served up the steak with better average yards per reception (16.6 compared to the 13.5 for Watkins). He has caught only 5 balls so far in 2014, but the Bills are extremely run heavy in their offense. Now that the league has seen that Watkins can play, he will probably draw more double teams (which the Dolphins did not do last week) and Woods will need to make defenses pay for the extra attention given to the Clemson rookie.
Scott Chandler, TE (#84) Chandler draws the HM due to his brief time with the Chargers. He actually played in one game for the Bolts in 2007 and then dropped off the map until 2010, reappearing for a cup of coffee with the Cowboys and then landing in Buffalo, where he has been since. Chandler’s importance is in red zone targets, where he became a legitimate threat in 2011 and 2012, scoring 6 times in each of those seasons. While his 2013 production dropped to 2 scores, he did catch 50 other passes, setting career best marks for receptions (52) and yards (655). At some point during the game, do not be shocked if the Bills look for Chandler in the end zone, if and when they get into point blank range for a pass attempt.