The Buffalo Bills are always injured.
Right, Bills fans?
In reality, the Bills are just like every other NFL team that has to deal with perpetual injuries and find players to fill holes left by hobbled starters every season.
We all know injuries occur at varying degrees of severity and frequency, and frankly, they suck— they’re a somber aspect of professional football.
To say the 2011 Bills were stung by the injury bug is an understatement. Losing Shawne Merriman, Kyle Williams, Fred Jackson, and Eric Wood significantly hindered the team’s chances to morph a fast start to a postseason berth. In fact, no three players (Wood, Jackson and Williams) were more integral to the Bills last season. Losing them was absolutely devastating.
But I digress.
Let’s examine how the 2012 Bills have been constructed to potentially deal with injuries, or to put in a lighter, more optimistic way—here’s an break down of Buffalo’s offensive depth chart. (yes, defense is coming next)
Whether you love Ryan Fitzpatrick, own a “Fitzmagic” shirt or think he’s the worst quarterback to don a Bills jersey since, I don’t know, Rob Johnson, he’ll the team’s starting quarterback to start the year.
It’s just a matter of time before Vince Young is officially named the No. 2 and Tyler Thigpen becomes a bigger afterthought than ever before (is that possible?) or is released.
I was an advocate of the Young acquisition from the start, and I’m not wavering in my stance. Sure he’s underwhelmed since being picked No. 3 overall in 2006 and was shaky last year in relief duty on the Philadelphia Eagles, but I like the Bills chances winning a November game (if need be) with him as quarterback in Chan Gailey’s system more than if Thigpen were forced under center.
Fred Jackson‘s the Bills feature back, despite a rumor we’ll almost certainly read during training camp about C.J. Spiller potentially taking that role from him.
Not going to happen.
Jackson was literally having an All-Pro caliber season before he went down with an injury in 2011. He was re-signed this offseason. He’s the starter, and a mighty fine one at that.
Like the rest of us, I had my reservations regarding C.J. Spiller after his career got off to a rather slow start. However, he did show everyone a great deal in Jackson’s absence last season against some quality run defenses.
If he can continue to learn to read blocks and become more instinctive as a runner, watch out. He’s got all the physical attributes you want in a change-of-pace back.
The battle for the No. 3 running back will be an intriguing one to watch this summer in Pittsford. Johnny White was a solid special teams contributor in 2011, but Chan Gailey did use Tashard Choice often on third downs late last year, and he’s a former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket.
Either way, Buffalo’s set at this spot.
Corey McIntyre is the unequivocal starter, a decent but not terrific lead blocker. Having said that, he’s a dynamo on special teams and is an energetic presence on the field. The ever-intriguing Dorin Dickerson is listed as a TE/FB on the team’s official roster page, but there’s not a lot we know about him besides the fact that he’s a former “Combine Warrior.”
Depth: Adequate at best
This spot is the Bills biggest weakness, but upside is undoubtedly there. We know what Stevie Johnson brings to the field. Well, some of you aren’t exactly clear on this. He’s a remarkable possession receiver, a guy vital to the team’s success. A true No. 1? Haven’t seen that from him just yet.
David Nelson‘s the sure-handed member of the bunch, and has carved out a nice niche in Buffalo’s offense as a formidable slot receiver. Got to love him.
After that—a total crapshoot.
Will T.J. Graham step in and be the “No. 2″ to Johnson in his first year? What about Donald Jones? He was having a solid 2011 campaign before hurt his ankle. Then there’s Naaman Roosevelt, the hometown product and fan favorite. Can he emerge as a terrorizing slot option, or is he better suited on the practice squad? Brad Smith had a few respectable games in 2011, but he seems uneasy at wide receiver. It’ll be interesting to see how Gailey decides to utilize him in 2012.
Then, there’s enigma Marcus Easley, who’s endured an abundance of misfortune to begin his career. At 6’3” and 215 pounds with reported good speed, the potential is there, but he has yet to play an NFL down. Can’t forget about journeyman Derek Hagan.
The numbers are there, but there are many unproven parts.
Depth: I’m worried
Scott Chandler finally caught on with the Bills last season, and at the beginning of the year, was a Fitzpatrick favorite. At 6’7” he’s an easy-to-spot red zone target and he runs good routes. Due to his bigger frame, he’s a decent blocker and can box out smaller defenders on flare routes or zone sits for Fitz. Certainly not a game-breaker, but not a liability either.
Kevin Brock, Fendi Onobun and Mike Caussin (the guy who inexplicably wears the No. 83) are the reserve tight ends on the roster, but none have shown the ability to contribute in the past.
Edge Offensive Linemen
Barring anything unforeseen, Cordy Glenn and Erik Pears will be the team’s respective left and right tackles in Week 1.
Glenn’s somewhat of a work in progress, but as I’ve preached for over three months now—in Gailey’s quick passing offense, you don’t need to be a stalwart at the tackle spots, although I think Glenn has Pro Bowl potential.
Thanks to smart drafting over the last two years, the team’s set in terms of tackle depth. Rookie Zebrie Sanders has vast experience on the edge and 2011 fourth-rounder Chris Hairston saw a lot of action last season.
Though three of the guys are young, depth is undoubtedly on the roster.
(Note: 6’7” James Carmon is currently on the roster, but it’s hard to say if he’ll actually make the final roster in August.)
Depth: Young but love it
Interior Offensive Linemen
Eric Wood‘s returning from a second leg injury of his NFL career, but should be penciled in as the team’s center. Andy Levitre was the offensive line MVP in 2011, playing three different positions, but he made one thing clear—I never want to see him play center ever again.
Kraig Urbik‘s a strong right guard and Chad Rinehart epitomizes the term “swing O-lineman.” Neither Urbik or Rinehart are stellar, but they’re reliable.
After that, Colin Brown‘s the team’s back-up center. There’s not much to say about the unspectacular second-stringer, but he did play in 2011 when Wood went down. Chances are, he’ll be on the regular season roster.
Rookie Mark Asper isn’t a lock to make the final cut, but if he does, he’ll be a reserve guard. Jake Vermiglio is another reserve guard who’s a longshot to make the final roster. Can’t forget about mammoth Mike Jasper. Love that dude.
So, yes, the Bills are indeed well equipped with depth along their offensive line.
Depth: Good enough
As you can see, Buffalo’s relatively deep at important positions, but their wide receiving contingent is extremely unproven beyond Johnson and Nelson. The tackles should be OK, but there’s a great deal of youth at that position.
Safe to say, I’m fairly happy with what the Bills have done to add quality depth on offense.
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