By Dana Fesjian
After one week, the Bills are 0-1, but not a hopeless 0-1. Fortunately, this year unlike other years (or so they say) there are a few players that are going to bring the Bills from bad to better. The Bills’ defense has always been the stronger half of the team, and that was clear in Week One. However, there is room to improve on offense and this year’s offensive line has tremendous room for growth due to the talent that exists already. There are specifically three players whose performances matter the most, whom I like to call the “Big 3.”
The chemistry and fluidity of how Tyrod Taylor, Sammy Watkins, and LeSean McCoy play together will make or break the Bills season this year. In Week One, these three were still struggling to find their rhythm, something they’ve been trying to find all through training camp. With more practice and more games, these three will inevitably improve.
Tyrod Taylor had a pretty good game on Sunday showcasing his athleticism and agility at the QB position. Although most of his plays didn’t have successful results, Taylor has the speed and awareness on the ball to create opportunities for the Bills to have more successful plays in future games. After the saga that is finding a (good/decent/non-injured) quarterback for the Bills, Taylor is the best starter so far since this saga began with Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick. So maybe the Bills finally have a chance.
Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy both work really well with Tyrod Taylor when they are playing in sync. Sammy has always been a strong WR and if he has another strong year, combined with McCoy getting more yards each game, Taylor then has two strong players he can hand off the ball to to make successful plays. McCoy has recently started to practice his skills with an Oculus Rift, so I hope he can have his VR skills become reality skills.
I may say this every year, but the Bills really do have a chance to make it to the playoffs this year. Their defense is solid and has always been their stronger half of the team, but if the Big 3 can pull it together and have three great seasons at the same time, the Bills will be back in business.
by: Dana Fesjian
And we are back. After six weeks of emotional ups and downs, the Bills have reached their first eight-win season in ten years, thanks to a Week 15 upset over the Packers. How long ago was that last eight-win season? Well, for starters, Sammy Watkins was 11 years old in 2004. Fred Jackson was earning $200 a week playing indoor football for the Sioux City (Iowa) Bandits. Usher and Outkast topped the Billboard Hot 100.
How did the Bills get here? That would be thanks to Dan Carpenter and the Bills defense. The Bills special teams and defense accounted for all 21 points last week, enough to overcome the hottest team in football. The Packers were working on a five-game winning streak. No other team in the league had even a four-game streak. Of course, KO’s ability to not mess up has helped too. Though KO has only thrown five TD passes over the last six games (since my last article), he has kept the Bills close in every game.
When I think of the Buffalo Bills, I think “field goals.” Unlike the quarterback position, the Bills never went wrong with the choices they made at kicker. It was bittersweet when they let Rian Lindell go two summers ago – after 10 seasons with the Bills – in favor of their sixth round draft pick Dustin Hopkins, who had set the all-time NCAA scoring record for kickers with 466 points at FSU. But a groin injury ended Hopkins’s rookie season before it even began.
In comes the “replacement” Dan Carpenter…Last year, Carpenter made 33 field goals, tied for the most in Bills history. His 91.7% accuracy was second only to Rian Lindell in 2006. This season, Carpenter leads the NFL with 32 field goals and is T-second in the league with 5 field goals of 50+ yards. Last week, he went 4/4 and led the charge against the Packers.
The Bills are also lucky to have such a strong defense. Over the past two weeks, they have held Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning to a combined zero touchdowns and four interceptions. They lead the NFL with 49 sacks and are second in the league with 30 turnovers. Go Bills. And they are ranked in the top 10 in just about every other defensive category as well.
In the midst of all of these defensive feats, Sammy‘s 850 receiving yards surpassed the previous Bills rookie mark held by Lee Evans. He’s looking to join only 12 other rookies since the merger to reach the 1,000-yard plateau. All in all, these things were good for the Bills and for my fantasy teams so thanks boys. I just hope that the momentum from this game can carry on into next week’s game against the Raiders. And that all of the teams that need to lose in order for the Bills to get into the playoffs are playing defenses just as good as theirs.
By Dana Fesjian
Four week update on the Kyle Orton experiment! When Doug Marrone replaced EJ Manuel at quarterback, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the offense. I went into these past four games with a little bit of hope but mostly just doubt. This ambivalence was best captured by Orton’s career record of an even 35-35. So it seemed to me that the best-case scenario was mediocrity and the worst case was, well…
His first game against the Lions was full of emotions. I was in lab (yes, lab on a Sunday afternoon during football season) and I was getting updates from ScoreCenter that the Bills were down 14-3 at halftime. Why didn’t they just leave EJ in? But after KO (does anyone call him this? If not I’m starting it) led the Bills to his 8th career game winning drive and Dan Carpenter won it with a 58-yard field goal, I was ecstatic and praising Doug Marrone.
However, I didn’t want to speak too soon and automatically go into an “I love KO” rant without seeing how well the 31-year old played for a few more games because the long term is what matters for the Bills. And I was right to not immediately praise KO because the next week they had a disappointing sixth-straight loss to the Patriots.
The last two games against the Vikings and the Jets were fantastic. Unfortunately we lost our two best running backs, CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson, in the first half of the game versus the Vikings. I was crushed when I found out both would miss significant time. But not all was bad. After KO’s 2nd game winning drive of the season against the Vikings, only Tony Romo and Nick Foles had more game winning drives on the season, and that’s considering KO didn’t even play until Week 5.
With the thin running game, I assumed that this meant Sammy was going to get many more opportunities to fill the void. And that’s basically what happened on Sunday’s blowout game versus the Jets, which I was lucky enough to attend! That was such a great game. Even without CJ and Fred, the Bills scored 43 points thanks to an all around effort from the stonewall defense forcing 6 turnovers and from KO’s chemistry with Sammy.
In comparing KO to EJ, we see that in four games EJ has 838 yards and KO has 1,128 yards. KO also has an NFL-best 73.0% Comp Pct. in 3rd down passing, whereas EJ has the NFL’s 2nd-worst (50.0%). If the Bills keep KO at quarterback and don’t decide to bring EJ back, KO can approach his career-best 2009 season stats…in 4 fewer games.
All I can say is it’s amazing what happens when you have a quarterback you can count on. Let’s see how KO continues.
By Dana Fesjian
I started writing this article after the Bills went 1-3 in the preseason. But after they won their first two regular season games I thought Buffalo’s quarterback quandary had been resolved. Unfortunately I was wrong.
Last November I also wrote an article about the uncertain future of Bills’ backup quarterbacks. Now that very same uncertainty has enveloped EJ Manuel. You’d think after a year the Bills would have solved their problem of having a solid quarterback and decent back up quarterbacks.
Unfortunately they haven’t moved on from the problem at hand. The Bills still don’t have the offense they need in order to win enough games to be in the running for the extremely weak AFC East, where 7 wins might be enough to make the playoffs. At least the Bills can look to make history in becoming the first NFL team to finish with the same record in 4 straight seasons.
After EJ Manuel’s multiple knee injuries last season, the Bills were left with Jeff Tuel and Thad Lewis at quarterback. Fast-forward a full year and the question of “Who’s your quarterback?” is still valid. Although EJ was healthy during the preseason, one disappointing moment was August 23rd’s game against Tampa Bay. EJ should have stood out from his backups Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. He had 1 interception, 1 fumble, and got sacked 4 times. This didn’t bode well for Manuel’s starting job heading into this season.
Then the regular season started and hope skyrocketed (at least for me). EJ led the Bills to an undefeated 2-0 start. Being able to say the Bills were undefeated was a literal dream come true. However, it didn’t last long enough. Watching EJ Manuel and the offense try to score points the past two weeks has been brutal. As Ron Jaworski of ESPN said, EJ’s accuracy is just not at the level it should be to be the starter as evidenced by his 47.7% completion rate and 2 interceptions in last week’s game.
That leads us to the next decision made by Doug Marrone and Doug Whaley: to bench EJ and put in veteran Kyle Orton. I don’t know about you, but I’m having some major déjà vu! Let’s not forget how just over a month ago the Bills signed Jordan Palmer to replace Thad Lewis and then let him go. The Bills need to make a decision on whom they want at quarterback and stick with it!
They drafted EJ Manuel in the first round for a reason and although Kyle Orton has experience, I’m not sure I know how I feel about this decision yet. We will just have to wait until we see Orton start on Sunday. But one thing’s for sure, the question of “Who’s your quarterback?” is still the most relevant question within the Buffalo Bills organization.