Tag Archives: Chris Hairston

Three most important Buffalo Bills offensive players

The Buffalo Bills showed a lot of promise on offense last year and because of that progression the team was able to focus their efforts on defense in the 2011 draft.  Still, the Bills ranked 25th in total offense and 28th in points per game (17.7).  The continued evolution of the Bills’ offense under Chan Gailey is going to be one of the more important and fun questions to watch develop this season.  Let’s take a look at the three most important pieces to that progress:

 

3. I’m going a different direction to start here by not singling out one player, but instead, a position.  Whoever ends up being the starting right tackle for the Buffalo Bills this year is going to have a huge part in their success.  When I look around the entire offense there really aren’t that many positions that leave you completely worried.  The skill positions are actually very strong and even though Fitzpatrick’s performance is a big part of the equation, we basically saw last season what the team should expect to get out of him.  The right tackle position is a total question mark amongst an offensive line that I’m becoming more and more comfortable with.

Would you like to see a stronger Demetrius Bell or upgrade at that position? Absolutely.  Would you like the right guard position solidified moving into the season?  Who wouldn’t? The point is that Bell showed some significant signs of progress in 2010 and with increased weight training should make another leap in the 2011 season. The Bills need to try and solidify the right tackle position in a big way from both a passing and ground attack position. As Bell continues to improve teams will study tape and develop games plans to attack the right side.  If Chris Hairston or Erik Pears or Mansfield Wrotto can become at least an adequate right tackle the Bills will have a relatively balanced offensive lineup. 

A balanced lineup doesn’t mean they are explosive or that there is not room for potential upgrades.  What it does mean is if you can minimize your glaring weaknesses that it makes it more difficult for opposing teams to game plan.  That in turn should allow Ryan Fitzpatrick to have more versatility when handling the offense and thus improve his play. If the Bills can have this offensive line group improve on last year’s performance and continue to grow, it will play a huge role in this team’s success in 2011.

 

2. The same case as above could be made for Eric Wood.  As Buffalo Rumbling’s points out that the offensive line’s identity starts and ends with the center.  Wood has dealt with some injury issues since entering the league in 2009.  Last season, Wood made the switch to his more natural center position and it is widely assumed he’ll have those duties for the entire 2011 season.  In a division of 3-4 defenses the center position plays an integral part to an offense’s success.  Facing opponents like Vince Wilfork, it is primarily the center’s obligation to try and handle that match-up.  If the center is unable to win that battle and a guard is called upon to double team the nose tackle it plays immediately into the defensive coordinator’s hands.

Wood had his struggles during the 2010 season against Jacksonville and Baltimore, but also excelled at times in those games and throughout the season.  A full offseason and film study at the center position should allow Wood to continue to improve and at just 25 definitely still has room to grow.  Whether or not Wood can progress into a stud center remains to be seen, but his development at the position over the next 3-4 years is going to be crucial for the Bills development and that starts in 2011.

1. The most popular answer to this question is going to be Ryan Fitzpatrick.  After a 3,000 yard, 23 TD season in 14 starts fans are eager to see how Fitzpatrick handles the play calling responsibilities for a full year.  Fitzpatrick’s play was a catalyst for the team’s improved play in the second half of the season and will remain the driving force behind their offensive success in 2011.

 

The NFL is a quarterback’s league and having quality play come from the game’s most important position is one of the main driving forces for success.  Ryan Fitzpatrick is and will continue to remain the most important offensive player for the Bills in the 2011 season.  Can he improve upon his 58% completion percentage?  Can he minimize the untimely interception (See Baltimore game)? Can he continue to spread the ball around effectively and utilize all the weapons the Bills have?  If Fitzpatrick is able to do these things throughout the entire 2011 season the Bills are going to be in a much better position to succeed.  Ryan Fitzpatrick’s success will dictate the level of success the Bills have as a whole.

 

Who do you think the most important player on the Bills offense?

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Delayed reactions to the Bills draft

After taking a day or two to sit back and reflect how the Buffalo Bills approached their 2011 draft one thing has become obvious about Buddy Nix.  He really doesn’t listen to draft gurus who tell them they need to address the quarterback position.  Nix and coach Chan Gailey have both admitted that they need address the game’s most important position, yet also giving their support to Ryan Fitzpatrick.  One thing to consider about the quarterback position is that there is no greater where for a GM and coach to put his job on the line than with drafting a quarterback highly and having it not work out.  So rather than race to find their franchise guy the Bills seem content (as am I) riding at least this season out with Ryan Fitzpatrick as their quarterback.  This is a contract year for Fitzpatrick, but I’d be shocked at this point if they try to get him an extension for two to three years once they have the authority to do so.

I’m not a fan of handing out grades because we know nothing about how they actually perform.  One grade I will give Buddy Nix and company is an A+++ for effort.  They stuck to their draft board and picked players of huge need (i.e. Defense…see Joe @ Buffalo Wins)

As for the players the Bills selected the common theme was defense which when assessing last years team seemed to have the more immediate and gapping holes.  The Bills also continued their theme of trying to find players who are more suited for the 3-4 front which demonstrated their commitment to that switch and although they will use multiple defensive fronts I would look for more of those to be in the base 3-4.  Picking up Marcell Dareus and Kelvin Sheppard the Bills picked up big, physical players who many consider to have the ability to contribute early in their careers.  Both picks also filled a need for the Bills at the 5-technique as well as ILB.  In the second round, the Bills addressed a more under the radar need in the secondary.  Reviewing all the picks:

Marcell Dareus, DT/DE Alabama – Should at the very least be able to help the defensive front rotation.  With the Bills using both a 3-4 and 4-3 front Dareus should play DE in the 3-4 and be able to slide inside when they mix in the 4-3 front.  Nothing about this pick is ‘sexy’.  He was not a sack machine, but he is a strong, nasty defender that will occupy his blocker and maybe another which is really what you want from your 3-4 end.  He possesses good agility for his size and should still be disruptive in the passing game.  This pick made so much sense for the Bills on a variety of levels.

Aaron Williams, DB Texas – When looking at the Bills needs in this draft, DB was under the radar.  With the continued injuries to Terrence McGee and uncertain return of Drayton Florence, the Bills took a first round talent at the top of round 2.  He’s a big corner over 200lbs and should have no problem helping support the run game.  Depending what the Bills do with free agency when it opens up, Williams should at a minimum compete to be the teams nickel back.

Kelvin Sheppard, ILB LSU – Most of the people I have spoken with love this pick.  Gailey coached Sheppard at the Senior Bowl and loved the ‘intangibles’ of the kid.  A subpar pro day workout hurt his potential draft stock, however I am happy that Nix and Gailey referred to what they saw in Mobile and game tape rather than rely specifically in his measurables.  Again, depending what the Bills do in free agency there is little reason to doubt that Sheppard will be given every opportunity to start at ILB in 3-4 situations.  He’s not a Ray Lewis/Patrick Willis freak on the field, but is a smart defender and fills a huge need for the Bills. 

Da’Norris Searcy, DB UNC – First little, and only head stretcher for me.  There were several highly rated TE on the board and potentially some help along the offensive line.  However, what I think doesn’t matter and the Bills secondary was hardly set in stone.  It is expected that Searcy will make a move to strong safety at some point and will have opportunity to compete in nickel and dime situations.  He is another 200lb plus defensive back that continued the trend of the Bills getting big and physical on defense.

Chris Hairston, OT Clemson – 6’6” 328lbs. He’s a big strong man that finished second at the combine in bench press (33) and first among offensive tackles.  The Bills are going to continue this year with Demetrius Bell on the left side and it should be an open competition on the right side.  Many would have liked to see the Bills address this earlier, but I believe Green Bay selecting Sheard out of Mississippi State at least somewhat toppled that plan. I have long contended that this group is more serviceable than some would suggest.  I think being the third year that some of them play together should allow them to gel.  I think the Bills again could address the right side in free agency, however if they do not this along with quarterback I imagine will be the first two picks in 2012.

Johnny White, RB UNC – The south has risen once again.  White was considered an underrated back by Todd McShay and has played multiple positions in college.  He will be an immediate special teams contributor and should compete for the Bills third RB.

Chris White, LB Mississippi St. – Another senior bowl linkage for Gailey. He should provide some depth at the position and contribute on special teams.  He’s again a big physical defender that allowed Nix to stack positions and try to build some depth.

Justin Rogers, DB Richmond – I really don’t know anything, but a late round smaller school player will probably need to be ‘coached up’.  Bills secondary is depleted so there will be an opportunity for him to make the team barring what the team does in free agency.

Michael Jasper, DT Bethel – He’s big and chuncky like Moto Moto from Madagascar 2 (yeah I have a two year old).  Honestly, he’s a very large man that Nix and Gailey will really have to work and will probably not see much time at all this season.

I love what the team did in the draft, but it’s going to take at least one more for them to stack depth at positions and carry that depth.  I’m not as concerned they didn’t address the quarterback position although I would expect Ryan Fitzpatrick to be re-signed very soon once the team is permitted to do so. At the very least, the team appeared to get better this past weekend.  They’ve officially got me excited to see some of these young guys.  Even amidst a lockout….damn you NFL!

Twitter: @brianbund

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