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2006 Team Report: Buffalo Bills

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Quarterbacks

Starter: J.P. Losman
Backup(s): Craig Nall, Kelly Holcomb

Starting QB: The Bills entered training camp with a three-way competition for the starting QB job, but Losman won it pretty easily. Although he made plenty of mistakes, he also made a lot of big plays. Losman looks much more comfortable and confident than he did last year, and his mobility and arm strength give him a decided edge over the Bills other two quarterbacks. He'll need to work on minimizing his mistakes and becoming more consistent, but there are signs of hope that Losman could be the Bills QB of the future.

Backup QB: Craig Nall, the latest Packers backup to try to earn a starting role elsewhere, fell behind in the competition due to a hamstring injury but has emerged as a favorite for the #2 QB job. Holcomb will be 33 years old when the 2006 season starts and has been a backup for nearly his entire career. He played pretty well at times for the Bills last year and the veterans appreciated the stability he brought to the position. However, for a rebuilding team, it is hard to imagine them going with him as their QB. Holcomb struggled in the Bills new offense and could be demoted to QB3 to start the season.

Running Backs

Starter: Willis McGahee
Backup(s): Anthony Thomas, Shaud Williams
Fullback(s): Daimon Shelton, Joe Burns

Starting RB: After an impressive season in 2004, McGahee entered last year with very high expectations. While he got off to a good start averaging nearly 100 rushing ypg over the first eight games, he slumped badly in the second half, averaging just over 50 ypg. The reasons for his decline were not readily apparent, but an ineffective offensive line and some questionable playcalling certainly played a role. McGahee also failed to run with the same type of power that had become a trademark for him. Perhaps the best reason to get excited about McGahee in 2006 is the new offensive coaching staff. Coordinator Steve Fairchild was a former RBs coach who will focus on establishing the running game.

Backup RBs: The Bills signed Anthony Thomas to an inexpensive contract just before the NFL Draft. He was the starting RB for Dick Jauron in Chicago and has a couple 1,000 yard seasons on his resume. Thomas only ran for 92 yards last year while playing for Dallas and New Orleans, but his experience gave him an edge in the battle to be McGahee's primary backup. Shaud Williams was the backup in Buffalo last year and primarily saw time on 3rd downs. He doesn't have great size, but is a solid runner with good overall skills. Lionel Gates was in the mix with a strong preseason but failed to make the final roster.

Fullback: Daimon Shelton has been a very solid free agent signing for the Bills the past two years after spending the 2003 season out of football. He is an above average lead blocker and a capable receiver out of the backfield, but his fantasy value is very minimal. Joe Burns is a versatile player who also contributes on special teams.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Lee Evans, Peerless Price
Backups: Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish, Sam Aiken, Andre Davis

Starting WRs: Lee Evans was the No. 13 overall pick of the 2004 draft and appears to be living up to expectations. Despite being somewhat undersized at 5-11, he has everything else you look for in a No. 1 WR. He has great speed, soft hands, is a disciplined route runner and is strong enough to beat press coverage. Playing opposite Eric Moulds, Evans has primarily served as the team’s deep threat. However, Moulds has moved on to Houston and Evans will take over the No. 1 WR job in Buffalo. The other starting spot is still somewhat uncertain but Peerless Price looks like he'll get first crack at it when the season begins. Traded from the Bills to the Falcons after the 2002 season, Price’s career has been going downhill ever since. In his last stint with the Bills, Price was a big-play WR and good route-runner and he should be a good fit for the Bills new offense, especially with Losman at QB.

Backup WRs: Josh Reed was a free agent this offseason and received interest from Carolina before re-signing in Buffalo for four years and $10 million. After a promising rookie season, he struggled in his second year when asked to replace Price. Reed lacks great speed and his hands have been inconsistent, but he’s the best blocking WR on the team and has the ability to make plays after the catch. He's a great fit for the slot WR role. Roscoe Parrish missed the early part of 2005 with a broken wrist, but is an explosive player who should compete for playing time as a #3 WR and as a punt returner. Sam Aiken is an underrated WR who does a lot of things well but doesn't really stand out. Andre Davis is only on a 1-year contract but has good size and great speed and should be a good backup at either outside WR spot.

Tight Ends

Starters: Robert Royal
Backups: Kevin Everett, Ryan Neufeld

Robert Royal was signed from the Redskins and should begin the year as the starter. He isn’t known for his speed or ability as a receiver, but he’s an above-average blocker who should help improve the Bills running game and provide a reliable target in the red zone. The Bills spent their third round pick last year on Kevin Everett. He’s a great athlete who never really lived up to expectations in college and then lost his rookie season when he suffered a torn ACL in minicamp. Ryan Neufeld is an athletic player who provides depth and contributes on special teams.

Place Kicker

Rian Lindell : Despite a solid 2004, critics were concerned that Lindell had limited range on FGs. In 2005 he dispelled that myth, going 7 of 10 on FGs from 40-49 yards and 3 of 4 from 50+ yards. He ended the year at 82.9% on FGs and his 113 points placed him in the top ten in scoring for a second year in a row. Last year featured more FGs, but fewer PATs compared to the year before. In his six years in the NFL, Lindell has never missed a PAT.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Terrence McGee; Roscoe Parrish; Shaud Williams; Andre Davis; Nate Clements

CB Terrance McGee remains one of the top KRs in the NFL. His 30.2 yard average ranked 5th last year, and he took one the distance for a TD. WR Roscoe Parrish showed he can handle kickoffs in addition to punt returns, with 10 returns for a 26.1 yard average. RB Shaud Williams is getting increased opportunities in practice on both kickoff and punt returns this year. FA acquisition WR Andre Davis led the Browns in KRs in 2003, and led the NFL in KR average (36.0) last year with the patriots, albeit on only three carries. Terrence McGee is of course the starting kickoff returner. Competing for the backup role, and in some cases competing to make the final roster, have been RB Shaud Williams, WR Jonathan Smith, WR Roscoe Parrish, CB Nate Clements, WR Andre Davis, S Jim Leonhard, and RB Fred Jackson. RBs Lionel Gates and Anthony Thomas have been practicing in the upman role.

Punt Returners: Roscoe Parrish; Nate Clements; Shaud Williams

After he recovered from a hand injury, Roscoe Parrish did emerge as the Bills top punt returner as anticipated. His 13.3 yard average on 14 returns ranked 5th in the league. Reliable CB Nate Clements was the team leader in 2004, but was demoted to backup last year (8 returns, 6.5 avg.). The team tagged Clements as their Franchise Player this year, but he still has not signed the contract. The Bills placed in the top five for fantasy return points for a second consecutive year. WR Roscoe Parrish should pick up where he left off last year atop the Bills’ punt returner depth chart, however that’s not cast in stone given the depth of talent behind him. The coaching staff wants to take a good look at Smith and Williams in particular during the preseason.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: RT Jason Peters, RG Chris Villarrial, C Melvin Fowler (Minnesota), LG Tutan Reyes (Carolina), LT Mike Gandy
Key Backups: T Brad Butler [R], T Terrence Pennington [R], G/C Duke Preston, G/C Aaron Merz

Buffalo’s offensive line really struggled a year ago and it doesn’t look much better for them in 2006. Coach Jim McNally returns for his 3rd season but must get more out of his players. Newcomer Tutan Reyes was brought in from the Carolina Panthers and will likely start at left guard. Mike Gandy struggled last year and shouldn’t be a starter at left tackle. Bennie Anderson was a big disappointment at guard last year and was released during the summer. Jason Peters, an athletic, former tight end has really made improvement at his tackle position. He looked more comfortable as the year wore on and has the athletic ability necessary to become a very good lineman in another season or two. Melvin Fowler was brought in to start at center and Chris Villarrial is a proven technician who is a serviceable starter. Team Bills also have high-hopes for Duke Preston who can play both guard and center and also drafted two kids who may pay dividends in time. This unit is amongst the worst in the NFL this season but there is some promise for the future.

Team Defense

The Bills will undergo a lot of change on defense this year, as former coordinator Jerry Gray was released from his contract after 5 years with the team. New head coach Dick Jauron has a defensive background and he hired Bears defensive backs coach Perry Fewell to be his defensive coordinator. The plan is to switch to the “Tampa Cover 2” style of defense which has become very popular around the league. Fewell learned under Lovie Smith in St Louis and Chicago but this will be his first time calling the defensive signals. The Bills run defense struggled badly in 2005 thanks primarily to the loss of Pat Williams at DT and the injury to Takeo Spikes. Spikes should be healthy to start the season, but the team cut veteran DT Sam Adams loose and no longer have a proven nose tackle on the roster. This will likely be a rebuilding year for the Bills as they transition to a new defense, but they have some very talented cornerstone players already in place that should help speed up the process. Draft day also brought a huge infusion of talent as the Bills spent their first five picks on defense, including two first round selections.

Defensive Line

Starters: RDE Aaron Schobel, LDE Chris Kelsay, DT Larry Tripplett, DT Tim Anderson
Backups: DE Ryan Denney, DT John McCargo, DT Kyle Williams, DE Eric Powell

Starting DL: Aaron Schobel has quietly emerged as one of the best and most consistent defensive ends in the league. His relentless motor and speed around the edge has allowed him to compile 40 sacks over the last 4 years, and he’s an underrated run defender. Chris Kelsay showed promise in his 2nd season but seemed to regress at times last year and finished with a disappointing 2.5 sacks. He should enter camp as the starter again this year, but will continue to be pushed by Ryan Denney who split snaps with him often last year. Larry Triplett was signed as a free agent from the Colts and is expected to start at the 3-technique or playmaking DT spot in the Bills new defense. Despite putting up just 1 sack in his first 3 years with the Colts, Tripplett broke out last year with 4 sacks and should provide consistent pressure from the interior of the defensive line. Tim Anderson is a high energy player with some quickness who will be entering his 3rd season and is expected to take over the starting NT job. While the new defensive system will focus more on shooting gaps and getting penetration than taking on double teams, it will still be critical for Anderson to be a force against the run.

Backup DL: Ryan Denney was re-signed to a 4-year contract extension this offseason and is coming off a career-high season of four sacks. He’s a very strong run defender and will continue to share time with Kelsay at the LDE spot. The Bills passed on both of the top-rated DTs in the draft with their first pick, but traded up into the bottom of the first round to select John McCargo. He’s a little raw but is very quick and athletic and should work his way into the rotation quickly. They also added Kyle Williams, a hard working player who was described as a "rolling ball of butcher knives" and should push for playing time right away. Eric Powell won the #4 DE job but will likely be inactive on game days unless there is an injury.

Linebackers

Starters: OLB Takeo Spikes, MLB London Fletcher, OLB Angelo Crowell
Backups: OLB Josh Stamer, OLB Mario Haggan, OLB Keith Ellison, MLB John DiGiorgio

Starting LBs: The Bills defense took a major hit when Takeo Spikes went down with a torn Achilles in week 3 of the season. He was coming off a career year in 2004 and even though his replacement Angelo Crowell played well, the Bills desperately missed his leadership and playmaking ability. He is on track to play in the season opener, but many other players have had trouble recovering from similar injuries. London Fletcher got off to a slow start, but he went on a tear in the second half of the season and finished with his best numbers since arriving in Buffalo. With the change to a cover-2 defense, he will likely spend more time in coverage this year, but his tackle numbers should not suffer too much. At 31 years old, he remains one of the best MLBs in the game, and he will also be entering a contract year so expect continued excellence from him in 2006. Angelo Crowell was buried on the bench for a couple years before finally getting a chance to show what he could do last year. While filling in for Takeo Spikes at WLB, he averaged over 5 solo tackles/game and also showed ability as a playmaker with 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions. With the release of OLB Jeff Posey early in training camp, Crowell now has an uncontested starting spot and apparently will be staying at WLB with Spikes moving to SLB. Crowell has also taken over in the team's nickely package.

Backup LBs: Jeff Posey was a starter at SLB for the past 3 years but was released early in training camp as he wasn't a good fit for the new system. Taking Posey's place on the depth chart will likely be Josh Stamer, who has been on the team for 3 years and saw action in all 16 games last year. Stamer is an athletic player who the team feels is a good fit for the new system, so he stands to benefit the most if Spikes is slow to recover. Mario Haggan came into the league as a 7th round pick, spent some time on the practice squad, and contributed to the special teams units last year. The Bills used a 6th round pick this year to bring in Keith Ellison, a smart cover linebacker who will likely get a chance to contribute on special teams. John DiGiorgio came out of nowhere to make the team as an undrafted rookie free agent and it looks like he'll begin the year as London Fletcher's primary backup.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Nate Clements, CB Terrence McGee, SS Donte Whitner, FS Troy Vincent
Backups: CB Jabari Greer, CB Kiwaukee Thomas, CB Ashton Youboty (R), SS Matt Bowen, SS Coy Wire, FS Ko Simpson

Starting DBs: Clements finished with a career-low 2 interceptions in 2005, but ranked 1st among all CBs with 102 total tackles. The Bills elected to use their franchise tag on him this offseason to prevent him from signing elsewhere and will try to work out a long term extension with him. Clements regressed a little last year, but he remains one of the best cover corners in the league and his tackle numbers should remain high in the Bills new defense. Terrence McGee is a good wrap up tackler, an opportunistic playmaker (9 INTs in 38 games), and also one of the best kick returners in the league. He should continue to see plenty of targets playing opposite Clements and expect an increase in his tackle numbers too. SS Lawyer Milloy was released this offseason in a cost cutting move, and he will be replaced by 1st round pick Donte Whitner. Whitner is a big hitter with great speed who can match up with WRs in coverage if necessary. He’s known as a very hard worker, and his versatility and cover skills should be a huge asset in the Bills new defense. At FS, Troy Vincent will hope to rebound from a pretty disappointing season. Although he did finish with 4 interceptions, his play was often inconsistent and he missed a lot of tackles.

Backup DBs: Jabari Greer is a former undrafted free agent with good speed who has responded well when called upon and will be the team's nickel back this year. Kiwaukee Thomas is a 6-year veteran signed as a free agent this offseason who provides quality depth. Ashton Youboty was considered a first round talent by some, but the Bills were able to land him in the 3rd round. Youboty is a physical player who many experts projected to go in the first round, and could be groomed to take over a starting job if Nate Clements is not re-signed next year. Matt Bowen was signed from the Redskins and is a good all-around player, but he's had trouble staying healthy. Coy Wire is a good run defender who struggles in coverage, but he is also a valuable special teams player. Ko Simpson was a good value pick in the fourth round of the draft and could take over for Troy Vincent in 2007.

Last modified: 2006-09-03 06:28:15



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