The Bills of 2014 are starting out with a very promising team. Led by their quarterback E.J. Manuel and his talented young offense, it looks like the Bills might shock a few teams in the NFL this year. And even though Kiko Alonso is lost to a season ending knee injury, the Buffalo Defense looks like it might just be top 5 for the first time since 1999.
But, the question is, how did they get to this from the shaky 6-10 team of 2013? The answer is they made a few great deals this off season to push them to the cusp of greatness.
I am going to break down the major deals they did in the off season from the coaching staff to veteran players all the way to the NFL Draft. I am also going to grade each move from a rating of an A to an F.
Lets begin with the coaching changes:
The Bills lost their Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine to the head coaching job of the Cleveland Browns this off season. As this was seen as a major loss for the Buffalo Bills originally, The hiring of Jim Schwartz was a great move by the front office.
Schwartz was the head coach of the Detroit Lions and a great defensive mastermind. His addition to the Bills as their defensive guru will give a great boost to their defense that Pettine would have given if he stayed.
This move in my book is a solid A
Second up is the off season roster moves that the Bills made.
I am not going to go through each and every one of them, just the most important ones. A lot of pick ups are just roster fillers and not pertinent to the 1st team offense or defense.
You say that name to any Buffalo Bills fan before 2014 and they would say things you cant put in this article. He was one of the most hates people in Buffalo. His linebacker play for the New England Patriots was hard hitting bordering on illegal. The Bills acquired his services because of our newly acquired linebacker coach Pepper Johnson.
Johnson came over from the New England Patriots this off season as well and talked up the Bills to Spikes. Coaxing him into signing with the team.
Spikes brings an amazing amount of talent to the team but will be played on running downs mostly. He is a force to be reckoned with in the middle and with the loss of Kiko keeps the linebacker core up to par.
This is a great pick up for the Bills and I would give this beast an A.
Picked up from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this off season for a sixth round draft pick next year, Mike Williams is an almost guaranteed starter for the Bills this year. Williams was put on Injured Reserve for the Bucs last year after battling a hamstring injury throughout the first half of last season. Being traded to the Bills brings Williams back to his roots as he was born and raised in Buffalo and went to school at Syracuse University before being drafted by the Bucs.
He should be an automatic starter as he was one with the Bucs. and if he stays healthy Williams should be a major player in the Bills offense. His heath is a little concern. but for a 6th round pick this was a no brainer for the Bills.
I give this pick up a solid B.
Bryce Brown was traded to the Bills this off season from the Philadelphia Eagles for a conditional fourth round draft pick in 2015. Brown comes into an already experienced and very dominant backfield with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson sharing the load.
Having had an amazing first two games as a pro, 178 yards 2 tds and 169 yards and 2 tds, he also had a very big fumbling problem. That big case of the fumbles seemed to have forced the Eagles to trade him to the Bills so such a low draft pick.
As CJ and Freddie already have the main part of the running game sewn up, I would expect Bryce to be a third down and or a goal line back. But with his great speed and great running ability and CJs knack of getting injured he just might be called up to start from time to time.
With all this said I would grade the Bryce Brown pickup a B
The trade of Stevie Johnson to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2015 fourth round draft pick seemed to be a deal that was very sudden and shocking for Bills fans. But it was in fact a trade in the making since they drafted Watkins in the draft. Stevie was a great player for us and an honest to goodness number one receiver for years. But on numerous teams he wouldn’t be a second and on some like the 49ers he is third at best. This move from the Bills was inevitable with the Bills having so much young talent at the WR position and from what I have seen a great one.
This trade is a solid B. If Watkins, Woods, and Williams produce like they should this will be a definite A.
Last but definitely not least is the 2014 NFL Draft;
The Bills did a great job in this years draft. And I don’t say that lightly as Buffalo usually do not excel at the draft from year to year. This year the Bills went all out and wanted to get the player they wanted. And get him they did.
Sammy Watkins is an extremely talented WR from Clemson University. Coming out as the number one WR in this years draft, the Bills traded their 2015 first- and fourth-round selections to move up five spots with the Cleveland Browns and secure Watkins. From what we have seen of him in preseason and practice, this was a prime pick up by Buffalo and could be the beginning of something extraordinary in Buffalo.
The second player picked up was Cyrus Kouandjio. An offensive tackle out of Alabama, Cyrus was taken in the second round and comes to Buffalo to solidify a young and talented front line. It might take him a few games to get into the groove but I see him being a starter on this team for years to come.
The next few rounds saw the Bills select Preston Brown-ILB Louisville, Ross Cockrell-CB Duke, Cyril RIchardson-G Baylor. and Randell Johnson-OLB Florida Atlantic. Most of these rookies will probably be second string unless someone gets injured or one of them breaks out. Depth was what Buffalo needed at these positions, and depth is what they received.
But the steal of the draft in my opinion came with the 237th pick deep into the seventh round. With this pick the Buffalo Bills selected Seantrel Henderson. Seantrel was a highly touted OT coming out of high school. He decided to attend Miami University,where some problems outside of football dropped this probable 1st round selection all the way down to the seventh round where the Bills eventually drafted him.
Seantrell is a monster on the offensive line and has already made an impact with his teammates on and off the field. If he stays out of trouble off the field he is going to be trouble for the opposing team on it as this man has some serious talent.
All together the Bills didn’t have the best draft, but they by far didn’t have the worst. I would grade it a B+
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