AFC East preview: Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills
2012: 6-10, tied for 3rd in AFC East

After three consecutive losing seasons under Chan Gailey that included a 6-10 finish in 2012, the Buffalo Bills were again forced to make a change at the helm this year, and in doing so, named former University of Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone as their new sideline leader for 2013.

Buffalo has undergone another facelift of sorts this past offseason and with any luck, plan to end their 13-year playoff drought while attemptimg to reclaim the league-wide respectability that was associated with this franchise during the early 1990’s.

It didn’t stop with the head coach however, in May, general manager Buddy Nix stepped down and was replaced by assistant GM Doug Whaley.The Bills also brought in a new offense coordinator, 33-year-old Nathaniel Hackett, who served under Marrone at Syracuse, as well as a new defensive coordinator in Mike Pettine, who found success at the same position under Rex Ryan and the New York Jets for the past three seasons.

Besides the new faces on the Buffalo sideline, the Bills also underwent some significant changes on the gridiron and said goodbye to 2012 starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, along with backup Tavaris Jackson during a busy off-season. Also no longer in Buffalo are wide receivers Donald Jones and David Nelson, guards Andy Levitre and Chad Rinehart, cornerback Terrence McGee, safety George Wilson, and defensive ends Chris Kelsay, Kyle Moore, and veteran bust Shawn Merriman.

Unable to add the necessary depth on their roster through free agency and trades alone, Buffalo wisely chose to trade down in the 2013 NFL Draft from eighth overall, to 16th, a pick they used on Florida State pivot EJ Manuel, the only quarterback taken in the first round.

Armed with several additional draft picks, the Bills did what they could to add some talent to the wide receiver corps, help they’re likely to need in Marrone’s ”hurry-up” offense which he plans to run at ”break neck” speed.

Buffalo was able to add quarterback Kevin Kolb through a trade with Arizona and despite his durability issues, the former Philadelphia Eagle is still considered to be in direct competition with Manuel for the starting job.

The following doesn’t include any information related to special teams due to the fact that with the exception of a few key players, the majority of the unit will not be finalized until the end of the preseason.


Heading into training camp, the competition between first-round draft pick EJ Manuel and the newly acquired Kevin Kolb, was one of the more intriguing battles taking place throughout the NFL.

Criticized for his poor on-field decision making and problems with accuracy during his NCAA career, Manuel was seen by many teams as a project at best prior to the draft. After taking over for an injured Christian Ponder as a freshman at Florida State, Manuel went on to have a stellar NCAA career and led the Seminoles to a 12-2 record during his senior year. With a less than impressive QB class at the 2013 draft, Buffalo made the best of a bad situation and chose Manuel in the first round, despite the numerous scouting reports claiming that he simply wasn’t an NFL quarterback.

Acquired as both an insurance policy and a backup, Kevin Kolb arrives in Buffalo after failing to fulfill his potential in both Philadelphia and Arizona. With durability issues to consider, Kolb’s role with the Bills is likely to be limited, but could increase significantly if Manuel’s development proves to be a slow process.

The Bills also acquired undrafted rookie John Tuel, who is likely to see time as the third-string quarterback, which will be largely determined by Manuel’s progress, Kolb’s durability, and any other injury-related concerns.

Starting with the offensive line, 2012 second-round pick, OT Cordy Glenn, will start at left tackle, while eight-year veteran OT Eric Pears is the expected starter at right tackle. On the inside, G Collin Brown who can also play center, will start at left guard and opposite fifth-year G Kraig Urbik, who will line up on the right. In the middle, former first-round draft pick Eric Wood, is expected to start as Buffalo’s center and anchor the offensive line.

At running back, the Bills, who had the sixth-ranked rushing attack in 2012, should once again be one of the league’s most productive units and will be led by C.J. Spiller, who’s on the verge of a big year. After showing flashes of brilliance last season, Spiller will finally be Buffalo’s lone lead-back, a title that former head coach Chan Gailey was hesitant to give the Clemson alum.

With a pair of knee injuries and overall durability becoming a question, Fred Jackson looks to be headed for a supporting role this season, while Tashard Choice, who was used sparingly in 2012, is expected to be the Bill’s third-string back. Former fifth-round pick Frank Summers, is expected to start as the Bill’s fullback, while Drew Smith is currently listed as the backup and isn’t likely to see much time between the lines.

Buffalo’s receiving corps will be led by Stevie Johnson, who registered 79 receptions for 1,046 yards and six touchdowns in 2012, and is currently out of action due to a hamstring injury that also caused him to miss the Bill’s first preseason contest.

Beyond Johnson however, it is widely believed that rookie Robert Woods, who Buffalo drafted in the second-round of this year’s draft, is the next best option at wideout.

Currently listed on the depth chart as the starter opposite Johnson, former 2012 third-round pick TJ Graham, will get the opportunity this year to step up and prove that he’s an NFL-quality receiver. Also added in this year’s draft, third-round pick Marquise Goodwin is expected to be the second option behind Graham and will compete with the other young and talented receivers on their roster for playing time. Returning for his eighth NFL season, Brad Smith will again provide the Bills’ with a unique option that’s a potential threat as both a receiver, as well as a running back in specific formations and won’t hesitate to throw the football when necessary.

Also in the mix, former fourth-round pick Marcus Easley looks to have played his way into the competition and caught seven passes for 94 yards in Buffalo’s recent win over the Colts, as well as rookie Da’Rick Rogers who played his college ball at Tennessee Tech.

After having ACL surgery this past January, tight end Scott Chandler will be returning as the starter and tallied 43 receptions for 571 yards and six touchdowns in 2012, while continuing to be a solid pass-catching option entering his seventh season in the NFL.


Buffalo’s new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, has made it clear that he intends to use both the 3-4, as well as the 4-3-base defense this season.

For projection purposes, the following is based upon the 3-4 formation.

Starting at left end, Alex Carrington is entering his fourth season in the NFL and also plays defensive tackle, while eight-year veteran Kyle Williams, who registered 46 combined tackles in 2012, is expected to start opposite Carrington at right end.

In the middle, former first-round draft pick Marcel Dareus is expected to start at nose tackle. K.Williams and Dareus will once again be tasked with pressuring opposing quarterbacks, something they did relatively well last season when the two combined for 10.5 sacks.

Seven-year vet Alan Branch should handle the run well and serve as a backup to K.Williams, but Buffalo’s premier pass-rusher Mario Williams, isn’t experienced in the 3-4 alignment, concerning because the Bills must pressure the QB in order for the defense to be successful and utilising M.Williams’ pass-rushing talents are crucial.

The linebacking corps will consist of 2013 first-round draft pick Kiko Alonso, who is expected to start at left inside linebacker, along with second-year LB Nigel Bradham, who registered a combined 57 tackles in 2012. On the outside, newly-acquired LB Manny Lawson will line up on the left side and start opposite Mario Williams, who ended last season with 46 combined tackles, two forced fumbles, and 10.5 sacks.

At corner, the frequently-penalized Stephon Gilmore returns as the Bill’s lead option on the left and will likely be covering the opposing team’s top receiver often.

Starting opposite Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin heads into the regular season with a lot more responsibility than he’s ever had before, due mainly to his new, five-year contract that came with an increased role in the starting defense.

Returning to start at free safety, Jarius Byrd had a solid year in 2012, combining for 76 tackles, while hauling in five interceptions and forcing four fumbles.

Starting strong safety, Aaron Williams is entering his 3rd year as a pro and after a combined 32 tackles in 2012, will be looking to play a larger role as a member of the Buffalo defense.

AFC East Preview:

New York Jets
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots

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