Tyler Dunne: The Byrdman has been a shining light on this team all season. Eight picks would be unexpected for anyone at this point, but definitely for this rookie. It looked like Byrd's rookie season would be derailed by injury for a while. He needed to get surgery to repair a sports hernia, which forced him to miss a chunk of training camp. After seeing a specialist during the season for a checkup, it appears he is at full strength. What makes Byrd special is his innate ability to swarm to every tipped ball. He isn't overpowering or extremely fast, but has amazing ball skills. After playing at cornerback his entire career at Oregon, Byrd is breaking out as a safety. I guess it's easier to attack errant balls with eyes at the quarterback instead of a receiver's waist.
Q: Is there anybody besides Aaron Schobel providing any pass rush?
TD: Negative. Aaron Maybin was supposed to be that guy. Instead, the first-rounder from Penn State is on the fast track to busthood. Opposite Schobel, Chris Kelsay is a decent run stopper but nothing more. His entire career, he has lacked the elite speed to get around tackles. The pass rush has been a lingering problem here in Buffalo. The group as a whole is providing a better push than last season, true. The Bills have 19 sacks a team. Last year, they only had 24. So progress — albeit slight — has been made. After battling a myriad of injuries, you'd think Schobel's body would have broken down by now but it hasn't. He has rebounded with a solid season against the run and the pass (35 tackles, six sacks).
Q: Why would any team bother throwing against the Bills when they've been so bad at stopping the run, and why have they been so bad?
TD: Buffalo's group of linebackers — or lack thereof — is to blame. Coming into the season, the trio of Kawika Mitchell, Paul Posluszny and Keith Ellison was average at best. Now with Mitchell and Ellison on injured reserve, the group is scrambling just to field a starting lineup. Strong safety Bryan Scott has been playing on the weak side and street pick-up Chris Draft is starting also. Paul Posluszny is back from his arm injury, but the run defense is still struggling mightily. Buffalo's linebackers have been outclassed at the point of attack all season. They're simply too weak on the edge to turn plays in. As a result, offenses are gouging the Bills for 166 yards per game. Yes, they fared much better last week against Maurice Jones-Drew, who only managed 2.6 yards per carry. But with the unit is still depleted. The Dolphins should run Ricky Williams left, Ricky Williams right and Ricky Williams up the middle all day.
Q: What kind of contributions has first-round pick DE Aaron Maybin made, if any?
TD: Zilch. The rookie has been nonexistent, no doubt a result of missing all of training camp with a contract holdout. Personally, I think he can turn it around. Maybin has rare, raw speed that terrorized the Big Ten for one season. With time and seasoning, there is still hope for Maybin. He is a physical freak. The guy added weight while still getting faster over the offseason — he has the wheels of a defensive back. But unfortunately, he is so far behind mentally that this season is a complete wash.
Q: Where have all the long kickoff and punt returns we're used to seeing from the Bills gone?
TD: On injured reserve, mostly. Leodis McKelvin, the goat in Buffalo's season opener, is out for the season. And now that Terrence McGee is used as the team's shutdown corner, there isn't an overload of fire power in the return game. Roscoe Parrish is very unhappy with his role as a receiver (he doesn't have one), and it's showing in the punt return game. He is averaging only 5 yards a return and cost Buffalo the game in Cleveland. Fred Jackson is very underrated. In spot duty at punt return, he has given the Bills favorable field position. Last week, he had a touchdown called back on an inexcusable hold by Shawn Nelson. Still, the loss of McKelvin shows. Buffalo isn't getting game-changing returns that has compensating for a putrid offense for so many years.