PFF Names Two Buffalo Bills as Top Breakout Players of 2016

Sep 11, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Buffalo Bills linebacker Zach Brown (53) signals that his team has recover a fumble by Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 11, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Buffalo Bills linebacker Zach Brown (53) signals that his team has recover a fumble by Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports /
buffalo bills
Sep 25, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Arizona Cardinals center A.Q. Shipley (53) blocks Buffalo Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (57) while Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws a pass during the second half at New Era Field. Bills beat the Cardinals 33-18. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /

Two of the Buffalo Bills’ prized signings this off-season are having breakout years, according to Pro Football Focus.

Buffalo Bills‘ linebackers Lorenzo Alexander and Zach Brown continue to receive praise, this time coming from Pro Football Focus.

PFF recently ranked these two Buffalo Bills in their top-10 breakout players of the 2016 season.

The Buffalo Bills’ defense has gotten as much love this season as they have hate. Amidst injuries, suspensions and just bad play from time to time, the Bills’ defense looks like one of the best defenses in the league at times.

A lot of that praise comes from the linebacker group, which has been the most consistent part of this defense. Plagued by injuries starting as early as the NFL Draft — including Shaq Lawson, Reggie Ragland and IK Enemkpali — as well as an unexpected cut — Manny Lawson — our linebacker corps that is healthy has been dominant all year.

It’s crazy to think that each of the players mentioned above was at one point scheduled to start for the Buffalo Bills. That’s four linebackers we’ve lost this year, but we somehow found a way to put together one of the best groups of LBs in the league.

Now, Buffalo Bills’ GM Doug Whaley receives a lot of criticism for his ability to find and draft players that can stay and produce for a long time. However, I tend to disagree with most of that criticism because the only problem he’s had with recruiting players is finding healthy ones — which isn’t exactly easy to spot.

If we’re talking talent, Whaley has done an excellent job bringing the talent here. It’s more a problem of the players not working together and using each other to their strengths — which stems from the coaching.

We are starting to see a lot more of that teamwork and trust within the locker room — which ultimately decides how well a team does on game day. We’ve seen how well this team does when they catch a groove and have also seen what happens when we play out of character.

At the end of the day, the talent is there and we are definitely seeing it with two of Whaley’s defensive signings this offseason.

Buffalo Bills
Sep 15, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills linebacker Zach Brown (53) tackles New York Jets running back Matt Forte (22) as he runs the ball during the second half at New Era Field. The Jets beat the Bills 37 to 31. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /

Both Lorenzo Alexander and Zach Brown — who each signed one-year deals this offseason worth a combined $2.14 million — were featured in PFF’s Top-10 Breakout Players of 2016 list and with good reasoning.

Here’s what PFF had to say about Brown, who they ranked at No. 8:

"Zach Brown is another player that hasn’t been bad in his career to date, but this season, has broken out into something else entirely. He has seen by far his highest percentage of defensive snaps played, up to 88.7 percent of Buffalo’s snaps from a career-high of 70.8 before this season, and he is grading well in every facet of the game PFF measures. Brown has already posted a career-high in defensive stops, and will soon exceed his career high in tackles. He has three sacks and seven total pressures from his work on the blitz, and has made some solid stops in coverage."

Related Story: Lorenzo Alexander and Zach Brown Still NFL Stat Leaders

Next, here’s what they said about Alexander, who they ranked next in line at No. 9:

"Another Buffalo Bill to break out, Lorenzo Alexander may be the most unlikely sack-leader after half the season as one could have imagined. Alexander has been an offensive lineman, a tight end, a defensive tackle, a stand-up inside linebacker, and special teamer in his NFL career. He already has more total pressures than he’s had in any single season of his career, and has doubled his career-high in defensive stops after just half a season. His play may not quite match the gaudy sack totals—sacks comprise an unusually-high 40 percent of his total QB pressures—but he has been lightyears better than any previous season we have seen from him, and been a genuine impact player for the Bills."

They are both set to become free agents this offseason and many people are wondering if the Bills will have enough space to keep both.

Alexander is in his 10th NFL season and has tallied 9.0 sacks this year — which leads the league. Brown is in his 5th year and currently leads the league with 87 tackles after 8 games. The two have constantly kept the pressure on both opposing rushers and passers, proving to be some of the best in the league at it.

The Buffalo Bills should be proud of what Brown and Alexander have accomplished this year and should make them a priority this offseason.  Keep in mind, if we don’t bring them back then we might have to play them next year.

The two will be facing Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks for Week 9’s Monday Night Football. They will hopefully head into their bye week with a winning record.

Go Bills!

How many tackles and sacks do you think Alexander and Brown combine for vs. Seattle?