Scouting the Bills: Positional Analysis

JagNation takes a look our next opponent, Buffalo, position by position.

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- J.P. Losman. Backups -- Trent Edwards, Gibran Hamdan.

    Losman was named the opening day starter, then lost his job due to injury to Trent Edwards, then regained it back due to an injury to Edwards. The Bills quarterback situation can fluctuate week to week.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter -- Marshawn Lynch. Backups -- Anthony Thomas, Dwayne Wright, Fred Jackson.

    Lynch, the 12th overall pick in the draft, replaces Willis McGahee, whose star burned out quickly in Buffalo. McGahee, traded to Baltimore, didn't top 1,000 yards last season and failed to gain 100 yards in 19 of his last 22 starts. Lynch, who ran for 3,230 yards (6.6-yard average) and caught 68 passes for 600 yards for a combined 35 touchdowns at Cal, brings more explosiveness and versatility to the position. Lynch is having a terrific rookie year even if not many are noticing due to Adrian Peterson's start in Minnesota. Thomas, the NFL's 2001 Rookie of the Year with Chicago, is a reliable backup. Wright and Jackson, who had a strong camp, will challenge for some playing time. Buffalo won't use a true fullback in '07, instead using tight end/fullback Ryan Neufeld when a traditional two-back set is called.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Robert Royal. Backups -- Matt Murphy, Michael Gaines

    The Bills were among the league's worst red-zone clubs in 2006, scoring TDs just 43 percent of the time. The emergence of a reliable tight end would do wonders to change things. Royal caught 23 passes for 233 yards -- both career highs -- and caught a TD pass in three consecutive games. But his strength is blocking. Tight ends aren't featured prominently in the Bills passing game.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Lee Evans, Peerless Price. Backups -- Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish, Sam Aiken.

    Evans is a legitimate deep threat and he leads the team in receiving. His 178 catches, 2,878 yards and 24 TDs are better than any Buffalo receiver through his first three seasons. His 64-yard TD catch from Losman against Tennessee showed how dangerous he remains. The talent level drops a notch to Price, Reed and Parrish but they have the potential to do much better than last year's combined 106 catches, 1,132 yards and seven TDs. Parrish, in particular, could blossom into a star. His speed is scary and he's tougher than his 5-9 frame indicates.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Jason Peters, LG Derrick Dockery, C Melvin Fowler, RG Brad Butler, RT Langston Walker. Backups -- G Jason Whittle, G/T Duke Preston.

    This unit has been much maligned in the seven seasons Buffalo has failed to make the playoffs. Last year, the Bills yielded 47 sacks and ranked dead last in the NFL in first-down yardage due in large part to the line's lack of muscle and panache. To try and fix things, the Bills doled out $15 million in signing-bonus money for free agents Dockery, Walker and Whittle. Dockery, who started 61 of 64 games for Washington, was the prized catch. At 6-6, 330, he teams with rising star left tackle Peters (6-4, 328) to give Buffalo a formidable left side. Walker, who goes 6-8, is a former second-round pick who had a good camp. Preston should win the right guard job but the savvy Whittle was pushing him hard late in camp. Fowler is an athletic and reliable center but an ankle injury sidelined him much of camp.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LDE Aaron Schobel, RDE Chris Kelsay, DT Larry Tripplett, DT Kyle Williams. Backups -- DE Ryan Denney, DE Anthony Hargrove, DE Al Wallace, DT John McCargo, DT Tim Anderson, DT Jason Jefferson, DT Eric Powell.

    This was Buffalo's strongest unit but it took a big hit during camp when Denney (six sacks in '06) broke his foot and Hargrove was slapped with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Schobel and Kelsay are very good pass rushers from the outside. Denney could return by season's end but Wallace, a four-year starter for Carolina, was signed to ease the blow in the team's rotation plans. The Bills remain smallish but quick inside. McCargo, a first-round pick in 2006 coming off a foot injury, came on during the summer and not landing Darwin Walker in a faulty trade with Philadelphia could be a blessing. Williams, a fifth-round pick, was among Buffalo's rookie surprises, leading all interior linemen with 42 tackles. But the Bills need more production from the veteran Tripplett.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- WLB Angelo Crowell, MLB John DiGiorgio, SLB Keith Ellison. Backups -- MLB Paul Posluszny, OLB Mario Haggan, Josh Stamer, Coy Wire.

    The Bills have one of the youngest linebacking corps in the NFL, which is built on speed. Crowell assumes the leadership role after the departures of Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher-Baker. Ellison, a sixth-round pick out of Oregon State, garnered seven emergency starts as a rookie and finished with 61 tackles. At 228 pounds, he's undersized a bit but in Buffalo's speed-oriented scheme, he's effective. Stamer, Haggan and Wire provide decent depth. Wire has converted from strong safety.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Ashton Youboty , RCB Terrence McGee, FS Jim Leonhard, SS Donte Whitner. Backups -- CB Jason Webster,, CB Kiwaukee Thomas, CB Jabari Greer, S George Wilson, S John Wendling.

    McGee has switched from left to right corner, the spot vacated by free agent Nate Clements (San Francisco), a superb playmaker who had 23 interceptions and 523 tackles in six seasons. Webster, who has had a very productive NFL career marred by injuries, takes over on the left side, giving Buffalo a pair of feisty corners but at 5-foot-9 each, McGee and Webster will have their hands full, particularly in the red zone.

SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Rian Lindell, P Brian Moorman, LS Mike Schneck.

    Assistant coach Bobby April has yielded units ranked first overall twice and third once. It all starts with the legs of Lindell (83.04 percent), the team's all-time most accurate placekicker, and Moorman (43.47), the all-time punting average leader. Toss in McGee (4,276), the all-time kickoff return leader who is currently averaging better than 28 yards per return, and Parrish (19.4 yard average), third among NFL punt return leaders in 2006, and Buffalo is capable of winning games each week with its special teams alone.



Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Jagnation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer.


Jags Illustrated Top Stories