Tyler Dunne: Injuries have ravaged the Bills already, particularly in the secondary. Without McKelvin and Whitner, there will be plenty of scrambling. Drayton Florence will step in for McKelvin at cornerback, whereas rookie Jairus Byrd should fill Whitner's spot at safety. Further, strong safety Bryan Scott also went down with an injury against New Orleans. If he can't go, former wide receiver George Wilson will start.
Florence and Wilson have both seen the field for extensive periods of time in their careers, so I don't think Buffalo is in terrible shape against Miami. Buffalo wasn't completely sold on McKelvin as a cover corner, thus the decision to sign Florence. Byrd was a playmaker at Oregon and has the genesto succeed in the pros. But he is still a rookie. Tough to say if he's ready just yet.
Q: That said, the Bills did a great job against Drew Brees and the Saints passing game; what was the key?
TD: After New Orleans marched 82 yards on its first offensive possession, Buffalo's pass defense closed the door on the most prolific passer in the NFL. No easy feat. Rather than blitz Brees into oblivion as it did against Tampa Bay one week prior, Buffalo loaded the secondary with defensive backs. The Bills rushed only four players most of the game and still rattled Brees' pocket. After only getting sacked 13 times in 635 passing attempts, Brees was brough down twice in Buffalo and hurried throughout.
Of course, the game plan backfired against the run. Pierre Thomas gashed Buffalo's defense for 126 yards in the second half — a bad sign with Ronnie Brown on tap. But as far as the pass defense goes, there is reason for optimism in the wake of some crushing injuries. Florence locked down receivers at corner and Terrence McGee has really come into his own as a true No. 1 cornerback.
Q: Who is the one defender the Dolphins should be most concerned about?
TD: Have to go with Aaron Schobel here. Last year, the veteran defensive end was left for dead. His season ended on injured reserve with a foot injury — not exactly a good thing for a defensive end who relies on pushing off every play. And beyond that, it sure looked like Schobel's play itself was on the sharp decline. Before the injury, he had only 7.5 sacks in 21 starts. The cap-friendly release seemed in sight.
So much for that logic. After rigorous offseason training, Schobel has played determined to prove his doubters wrong. Through three games, he's having his best season yet. Against New England he had a sack and that savvy, highlight-reel interception for a touchdown. Two weeks later, he had a sack and forced fumble on Brees. In between, he is providing a strong, steady push. Jake Long will need to stay quick on his feet all day. Schobel is playing reborn.
Q: What kind of contribution has first-round pick Aaron Maybin made so far?
TD: Next to nothing. But I guess that's what you'd expect from someone who held out all of training camp. The presumed answer to Buffalo's woeful pass rush has barely been on the field. Last week against the Saints, Maybin didn't have a tackle. Coaches weren't even confident enough to release him on third downs. Ouch.
The raw Penn State product is loaded with upside. No doubt, though, he's a project. Clearly, he needed the month of August more than anybody. He needed to bump heads with pro-level talent. Not many ends make their living flat-out running around offensive tackles as Maybin did last season. The Dolphins will sleep just fine at night knowing Maybin isn't an immediate threat.
Q: Former University of Miami standout Roscoe Parrish has put up paltry numbers in the return game so far; what has been the problem and do you think it's a matter of time before he explodes?
TD: Roscoe Parrish is a walking trade rumor. He hasn't adjusted well offensively. For whatever reason, every offensive coordinator the Bills have had hasn't figured out how to use the 5-foot-9 dynamo in space. But as a returner, he's still dangerous. As you pointed out, his numbers haven't been anything special so far. His longest return has been 5 yards. Parrish has been met by bodies almost immediately upon cradling his returns.
But look for him to bust one soon. Bobby April is arguably the best special teams mind in the league and the Bills have a solid core of special-teamers who have jelled together for three years. Guys like John Wendling and Justin Jenkins were retained strictly for their prowess in this forgotten aspect of the game. Look for the electrifying Parrish to break loose soon. He's too explosive to stay bottled up for too long.