Bills 2003 Final Grades

Now that the season is over the Bills can turn their attention to figuring out where the biggest improvements can be made in order to put the most competitive team on the field next season. Reflecting on player/position performances this season will set the guidelines in determining the offseason strategy.

QB: D- Ranked 22nd in QB rating, tied for 24th in TD production behind several QBs not even having played an entire season, 26th in yards-per-attempt, dead last at 32nd in TD percentage, and dead last in sacks with 49 with 6 more than the next quarterback, it is simply tough to assign anything other than an F. Nonetheless, I will assign a D-.

The offensive line was not perfect, but it was also not that bad either. Pucillo improved nicely and Price filled in well. To make matters worse, Drew's passes were over, under, wide, behind and thrown all over the place this season except for in the receivers' hands and numbers.

RB: A While Travis Henry's overall numbers were down this season, his average rushing yards per game were 6 more than they were last season at 96 yards-per-game on average missing two games due to injury. Had he been able to play all 16 games at that pace, he would have finished 7th in the league and had 1,541 yards and finished ahead of Stephen Davis, Sean Alexander, and Priest Holmes in rushing.

His touchdown production was comparable. His fumbles were four fewer and his lost fumbles were five fewer. He did all this without any help from a passing game that stunk the joint up. Again, the offensive line could not possibly have been as poor as many have stated or Henry would not have improved as he did. Henry played through intense pain with a broken leg and made a strong bid for remaining the sole starter next season.

WR: C+ The truth of the matter is that while the receivers were lambasted for "dropping balls", the real reason for most of those drops was poorly thrown balls that media and fans did not want to credit to Bledsoe for one reason or another. Sure, they dropped some all by themselves, but that happens everywhere on every team to varying extents.

Where the receivers get tagged for their faults is in getting open, coming back to the ball instead of waiting for it, and for just plain lackadaisical play at times. Josh Reed played better than he got credit for while Bobby Shaw was the primary culprit in dropped balls that were well thrown.

TE: A Mark Campbell surprised the daylights out of me this season and his signing his extension was one of the lone bright spots this season locking his services up for another four seasons. He is clearly a package tight end who does it all. He blocks decently, runs very nice routes, catches as well as can be asked for and even better. He should be the Bills' starting tight end through the duration of his contract.

If there was a flaw with the tight ends, then it did not lie within their control. Between Gilbride not implementing schemes and plays utilizing the TEs the way he should have and Bledsoe not hitting them vice throwing to the receivers preferably, Campbell and Moore did what was asked of them.

OL: C+ Contrary to any excuses Bledsoe fans would like to float, the offensive line was above average this season. There were moments when Bledsoe did not have time to throw, but there were far more where he did and was ineffective regardless. No offensive line that paves the way for an average of 96 yards-per-game for their running back can possibly be less than average.

Given the fact that the line suffered injuries this season and backups had to play, there is even more reason for this grade. There remains plenty of room for improvement however.

Special Teams: C- Ryan Lindell was poor from beyond the 40 on field goals going 3 of 9 from 40 out and was unreliable generally speaking. His kickoffs were below average. Moorman finished tied for second with Todd Sauerbrun in punt yardage but the team was only 8th in net punting. Antonio Brown was ranked 30th in punt returning and 23rd in kickoff returning. To his credit, he began to simply catch the ball and run forward toward season' s end. He may improve significantly into next season. Coverages were below average.

DL: C+ Some will not like this grade, but the truth be told, Sam Adams had three or four outstanding games but was average or below average for the other 12 games. Denney made no one forget our need at LDE. Williams posted a very similar season to last year's. Schobel improved from last season to this and proved himself to be a top 10 defensive end by finishing tied for 9th in the league in sacks with 11.5.

LB: B- Once again, London Fletcher led the team in tackles, which is to be expected for MLBs. Spikes however had more big plays and proved himself to be the Bills best LB. Spikes, Fletcher, and Posey combined for only 9.5 sacks and 2 interceptions. Posey was average at best with a strong tendency to overpursue thereby rendering himself ineffective often.

DB: B Again, this unit was the strength of the defense. However, coverage was suspect at times and as a starting unit Winfield, Clements, Milloy, and Reese had only a combined 4 sacks and 4 interceptions. Last season's foursome of Winfield, Clements, Wire, and Prioleau logged 4 sacks and 6 interceptions with similar play otherwise.

Milloy's numbers were virtually identical to Wire's of a season ago making me wonder if the huge dollar difference was worth halting the development of Wire by signing Milloy. Given that Wire was a rookie last season, the argument is a very difficult one to make. Reese's play was no better than Prioleau's was. In fact, I believe that Prioleau played better while he was in. Wire also played well, as well as Milloy, during the times that he was in there as well.

Coaching:

Overall: D Williams simply made too many boneheaded calls to qualify as anything other than below average. Discipline issues were problematic often and the team simply was not running optimally given the talent that it had. Gilbride is largely at fault, but Williams did little to adjust and correct matters or rein Gilbride in throughout the season.

Offense: F Good bye Kevin! Take your 11 points-per-game of offensive point production over the last 14 games with you!

Defense: B The defense carried this team just as it did over the last ten games last season. The slate of offensive opponents was easier this season, which is the primary reason for any perceived difference in aggregate numbers and stats. The defense did even not perform well vs. teams with top twelve scoring offenses as it did last season going 0-5 not counting the season opener, 1-5 counting it.

Other than the season opener, in five games vs. teams ranked amongst the top 12 scoring offenses, the Bills allowed an average of 27.4 points-per-game, 119.4 rushing yards-per-game, 341 total net yards-per-game, had 1.8 sacks-per-game, and only barely over a half-a-takeaway per game.

So the difference between this season and last season was a weaker schedule of offensive opponents. Nevertheless, the defense carried this team this season and was well above average just as it was over the last ten games last season. Again, there is definitely room for improvement this offseason however.

Comments: mweiler.billsreport@cox.net


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