Jabari Greer was the forgotten guy at the party.
A cool, new guy walked in the backdoor, "Thunderstruck" blared from the speakers and everyone engulfed him with open arms. And there sat Greer in the corner. Ignored. Written off. Destined for a dime package.
Back in April when the Buffalo Bills drafted Leodis McKelvin with the 11th overall pick, Greer was the lame duck congressman. There was McKelvin, fourth-rounder Reggie Corner and free agent pickup Will James all strapping on Bills jerseys for the first time. Like a good ‘ol flowery NFL Team Yearbook on ESPN2 – a do-no-wrong sense of entitlement stuck to the new faces. Greer, somewhat emblematic of Buffalo's 29th ranked pass defense last year that surrendered 238 yards a game.
Experience netted Greer a starting job at day one of camp – short-term placeholding that would fade with each McKelvin pass breakup.
But Jabari Greer didn't take the hint. He outplayed the rookie, re-earned the starting spot. And the party eventually re-focused to him. Greer is now one of the top playmakers on a resurgent defense, matching 1-on-1 with opponents' top wideouts as Terrence McGee nurses a knee injury. If outsiders for someone to point to as an operative force in Buffalo's turnaround, Greer is it.
Through five games, Greer is third on the team in tackles (22), has locked down receivers in-check each week and made arguably the Bills' best play of the season.
At St. Louis, the Bills slopped around through three quarters of mush playing down to their opponent. St. Louis took a 14-13 lead into the final quarter, and Greer changed everything. Greer lined up on Torry Holt and baited Trent Green into thinking he had a crossing receiver wide open. Greer sat on the route, picked off Green, and a complete 33-yard diagonal across the field for a touchdown. The roundhouse kick to the Rams triggered an 18-point explosion and the Bills moved to 4-0.
Jabari Greer hasn't given receivers much room to breathe this year
If Greer continues to trek with Holt on that play – instead of wisely planting and reacting – the Bills probably would have in an Oaklandesque dogfight. Instead, one savvy play reversed momentum and put Buffalo atop the standings.
The "yeah, but" clinging to Greer in his five-year career has been mentally adjusting to the pro game. Agility and athleticism were never in question.
Now that Greer is seasoned – his 55 consecutive games played ranks fifth out of all current players in the NFL – his blazing speed has shined. At Tennessee, Greer broke the school's 110-meter hurdles record. He wasn't drafted, but that athleticism never left. Dick Jauron's defense has been instilled for multiple seasons, Greer's mental lapses have waned.
He's rarely out of position, rarely drawing penalties and, now, is making plays and can be relied upon in coverage.
In the Bills' last game, Greer faced his biggest test yet. In his first-ever, true primetime showdown against a top 5 wide receiver, he was up and down. Larry Fitzgerald did snag two touchdowns to pace Arizona in the Bills' first loss of the season. But Greer did snap his three-game 100-yard-game streak, holding Fitzgerald to a paltry 7.4 yards per reception. And both of Fitzgerald's scores weren't Greer's fault. The first was the product of an illegal pick by the Cardinals and on the second, McKelvin got caught one-on-one with the receiver – not Greer.
Looking ahead, Buffalo needs Greer to keep maturing at his rapid pace. Without a wealth of top-tier passing attacks on their schedule, the Bills' secondary could make some noise with more back-breaking plays. Brett Favre – for all of his majesty and grit – will give you 2-4 gimmie picks a game. Matt Cassell, give him a clipboard. Chad Pennington, ehh. Derek Anderson, pick prone. Anyone in Kansas City uniform, count on plentiful pick-six opportunities. J.T. O'Sullivan, see last week (three turnovers). Philip Rivers and Jay Cutler, Buffalo's two biggest tests.
And that's it. Jabari Greer will have more opportunities to morph into his Usain Bolt with the ball in his hands. McKelvin, while deadly on special teams, isn't ready to be a mainstay quite yet. Greer is. For the first time since Antoine Winfield and Nate Clements bookened the corners, the Bills have a budding star manning up on wide receivers.
Now, Jabari Greer is crashing the party.