Are the Buffalo Bills cornerbacks better in 2016, than they were in 2015?
The Buffalo Bills had two of the top ten corners last season as ranked by Pro Football Focus in Ronald Darby (4th) and Stephon Gilmore (9th). The two of them helped hold the Bills opponents to a 57.6 completion percentage which was third best in the league.
The talent at the position was extremely top heavy and dropped off after them. Nickell Robey did a good job in the nickel role for the team but he is not even close to the caliber of the other two.
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The Bills did have two safeties last year who were former cornerbacks in Corey Graham and Leodis McKelvin. Either could have stepped up in a pinch if they had to but both players are better served as safeties at this point in their careers. The Bills didn’t have much depth at safety either with Aaron Williams out for the year after week five.
With such a talented starting duo is it possible that the Bills cornerbacks could be better in 2016? In my opinion, the answer is YES which is a scary thought for teams that have to play against the Bills this year.
Ronald Darby put in a tremendous rookie campaign in which he deserved to win the Rookie of the Year Award instead of Marcus Peters. Peters had more interceptions but he also got burned more. While it’s hard to imagine Darby being better he should be. In his second year, he will be more familiar in the system and already understands what it means to be a professional.
Their other starter, Stephon Gilmore should also improve. He is in a contract year and while the Bills can franchise tag him at the end of the year, he is going to try as hard as he can to earn his next contract and maximize the value of it.
Gilmore has proven to be extremely reliable over his career with Buffalo when healthy. Unfortunately, the last time he started 16 games for the team was in 2012. If they can keep him on the roster, quarterbacks are going to have fits trying to find an open receiver against Gilmore and Darby for many years.
The Bills also added plenty of depth to the unit in the offseason. Nickell Robey, who was the nickel corner last year, will now have to fight for that position with newcomers Corey White and Sterling Moore.
Rob Ryan recommended that the Bills add White and Moore according to Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com which could give them a leg up in the race over Robey. The Bills also drafted rookie Kevon Seymour in the 6th round of the draft to compete for the nickel slot.
Seymour slipped low in the draft based on declining play towards the end of his college career. It was discovered after the draft that he had really bad issues with his eyes and he was unable to see the ball clearly. That was corrected in the offseason and he could be a real steal in the draft this year if that was the issue holding him back.
He definitely has a real shot at the starting nickel role this year and if he impresses it could make the Bills more willing to allow Gilmore to walk in the offseason for the sake of concentrating on contract negotiations with Tyrod Taylor.
This is one of the units I am most excited about for 2016. They really have the potential to be a quarterback’s worst nightmare. Consider the fact that the unit played well despite the Bills putrid pass rush last season.
If the Bills can get more pressure on the quarterback this year, you’ll not only see very few passes completed on the Bills relative to other teams, but many of the passes that are completed might be to the Bills corners instead in the form of interceptions.
This unit really is primed to be even better in 2016. Darby is eager to prove his rookie season was no fluke, Gilmore wants to show the front office why they should pay him and the new additions add more depth than the Bills had at the position last year.
With the defensive line likely to get more pressure on the quarterback this season the unit should be able to increase the turnovers they generate. All these factors lead me to Billieve that the teams cornerbacks will be even better in 2016, than they were in 2015.