The Associated Press recently announced its annual All-Pro team, and it shouldn’t shock you at all that not a single Bill is on the team. In fact, just one Bill got any votes at all.
You might be surprised to learn that that Bills is free safety Jairus Byrd.
Byrd burst onto the scene as a rookie with nine interceptions in his first season, a stat which propelled him to the Pro Bowl. But those interceptions covered up some big holes in his game – namely his problems with run support. After a sophomore season in which Byrd really struggled, not even the most ardent Bills fan would have considered Byrd an elite safety.
But (very quietly) Byrd emerged as a truly productive player in 2011. His stats (98 tackles, 3 INT, 1 TD, 3 forced fumbles) just begin to tell the story.
Byrd was widely bagged on in 2010 for taking just awful angles to the ballcarrier in run support. This routinely led to missed tackles and big gains. You rarely saw that this season, as Byrd was one of the team’s best tacklers.
And of course, he was still able to show off his strength – making plays on the ball in the air. Again, in 2010 it just seemed like he was always a step slow getting to the ball. Not an issue in 2011. Byrd will never exactly be elite athletically, but he’s quick enough to get to where he needs to be. And once he’s in the area, his ball skills are tremendous.
Myself and hose two media types who voted for Byrd are not the only believers in the young man’s talents. The superb website Pro Football Focus actually named Byrd to the second team of its annual All-Pro Team. And no one watches more film than those guys.
On top of his football prowess, Byrd’s also an awesome guy off the field. So let’s hope we can make this man a cornerstone of the franchise for years to come.