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Buffalo Bills’ 2022 Draft Picks

05 May

Buffalo General Manager Brandon Beane continued his quest to build a Super Bowl-winning roster in Las Vegas over the weekend at the NFL’s annual college player draft. The Bills are in a position where they have a championship caliber roster and other than  maybe cornerback, just needed to find a few pieces for depth and to help them get over the hump. Here’s an analysis of the choices they made:



Round 1Kaiir Elam (CB, Florida) – good cover corner with versatility and NFL bloodlines as both his father and uncle played in the league. Cornerback is the top position of need for the Bills, and Elam will have a great opportunity to win a starting job in his rookie year, replacing the departed Levi Wallace.



Round 2James Cook (RB, Georgia) – some scouts compared him to the Saints’ Alvin Kamara due to his ability to both run and catch passes out of the backfield. Another player with NFL bloodlines as his brother is Vikings’ RB Dalvin Cook. He is more of a breakaway threat than any back currently on the Bills’ roster. A definite positive addition to the running back room, and there’s a good chance he develops to the point he is RB1.



Round 3Terrel Bernard (LB, Baylor) – an undersized linebacker who covers the field from sideline to sideline and is a solid tackler. He may be a replacement for A.J. Klein, or could even be an eventual replacement for Tremaine Edmunds depending on how the Bills view him long term.



Round 5Khalil Shakir (WR, Boise State) – a great value at this spot in the draft, he has good run after the catch ability and makes highlight reel catches, although he will need to work on cutting down on dropped balls. Along with Cook, he is another weapon for Josh Allen to use in exploiting opposing defenses.



Round 6A – Matt Araiza (P, San Diego State) – the “Punt God” was considered the best punter in the draft and was surprisingly the third one chosen. He’s left-footed and has a booming leg. He can also placekick even though the Bills don’t have a need there. He should have the inside track to win the punting job over the disappointing Matt Haack.



Round 6B – Christian Benford (CB, Villanova) – a little-known prospect from a school better known for producing basketball players. The Bills have a need for depth at the position and Bernard has shown a knack for being around the ball, racking up 14 interceptions in his college career. He will have to make the transition from small school competition to the pros.



Round 6C – Luke Tenuta (OT, Virginia Tech) – The Bills apparently like extremely large offensive linemen, as he is the third 6’8 player drafted by them in the last 2 years. He can also play on the inside at guard, where the Bills can use some added depth.



Round 7Baylon Spector (LB, Clemson) – another undersized linebacker with a high motor. Buffalo seems to be seeing the need for lighter, faster backers who can cover as opposed to bigger hard-hitting tacklers who specialize in stopping the run. A practice squad candidate if nothing else.

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NFL – Bills’ 2022 Mock Draft Predictions

22 Apr

The Buffalo Bills are in the midst of a Super Bowl window that they have yet to achieve, and in this year’s college draft they hope to add some pieces that will help them get there. With no trading of picks allowed, here are the predicted 7 round Buffalo selections by each of our pro football analysts – Connor Pohlman of Sunrise Sports Report, Josh Pohlman, Scott Prelewicz and Ray Prelewicz:


Round 1, Pick #25

Connor Pohlman – Kaiir Elam (CB, Florida) – nagging injuries kept his production down in 2021, but he’s an aggressive, physical boundary corner who could comfortably step into a starting role with the Bills. He does have some issues with aggressive penalties.


Josh Pohlman – Jameson Williams (WR, Alabama) – another prospect whose draft status is hurt by injury. If he falls to the Bills this late in the round, they could perhaps be getting the best wideout in the draft. Coming off a torn ACL, the Bills would have to be patient with him, but the reward would be another big time weapon for Josh Allen.


Scott Prelewicz – Garrett Wilson (WR, Ohio State) – his status is similar to Williams’, without the injury concerns.  Brandon Beane would make this pick in a heartbeat if the Buckeye star falls to 25. He is not a speedster, but is a precise route runner with great after-the-catch ability.


Ray Prelewicz – Trent McDuffie (CB, Washington) – although slightly undersized, he is an aggressive tackler, is rarely out of position and drives on the ball well when targeted, all traits the Bills covet. An immediate starter opposite Tre White at Levi Wallace’s old spot.


Round 2, Pick #57

Connor Pohlman – Troy Andersen (LB, Montana State) – he’s a raw prospect from a small school, which makes him a risky pick, but an intriguing one. He played quarterback, running back and linebacker for the Bobcats, and excelled when he found a home as a LB. He’s very versatile, which the Bills love, can cover well, is a willing tackler and has tremendous sideline-to-sideline range.


Josh Pohlman – Kenneth Walker III (RB, Michigan State) – a dynamic back who excels running inside between the tackles, a trait the current Bills’ backs don’t possess. He is also explosive and could easily become RB1 in Buffalo’s attack if he can help in the passing game as a receiver, something he didn’t do much of at Michigan State.


Scott Prelewicz – Derion Kendrick (CB, Georgia) – he has the profile the Bills like – a willing tackler, athletic, fluid in his movements and has good ball skills. His technique can be raw and he can be undisciplined at times, but that can be coached up and he would be a good addition in an area of need.


Ray Prelewicz – Troy Andersen (LB, Montana State) – see above.


Round 3, Pick #89

Connor Pohlman – James Cook (RB, Georgia) – he’s a smooth runner with low mileage since the Bulldogs used him primarily on third downs, and being the younger brother of the Vikings’ Dalvin Cook, he won’t be intimidated by the transition to the pro game.


Josh Pohlman – Tariq Woolen (CB, UTSA) – he is a converted wide receiver who lacks major experience as a CB, but he’s a tall, physical specimen who should be able to handle the bigger wideouts in the NFL once he learns the way the position is played in the pros. He was a standout basketball player and ran track in high school so he’s definitely a great athlete.


Scott Prelewicz – Ed Ingram (IOL, LSU) – although the LSU program has diminished in stature lately, he has been a steady starter on the Tigers’ O-line for a good part of 5 years, so he brings a wealth of experience to the position heading into the NFL. He’s fundamentally sound with good mechanics, and has the pedigree to blossom into a solid pro.


Ray Prelewicz – Zyon McCollum (CB, Sam Houston State) – a tall (6’2) prospect from a small school, he checks all the boxes – quick, athletic, intelligent, a willing tackler and his best trait of all, his ball skills. He has a definite knack for finding the ball and is the definition of “ball hawk”.


Round 4, Pick #130

Connor Pohlman – Cam Jurgens (IOL, Nebraska) – he is slightly undersized and probably strictly a candidate to play center, but the Bills have a need there for a backup with the departure of Jon Feliciano. He would be an ideal depth pick here, with an eye on having him be the eventual replacement for Mitch Morse.


Josh Pohlman – Nick Cross (S, Maryland) – the Bills have a couple of young safeties on their roster that they’re high on, but both starters at the position are in their 30s and Cross is an intelligent back liner who has explosive speed and makes plays on the ball.


Scott Prelewicz – Hassan Haskins (RB, Michigan) – at 6’1 and 220 lbs. he is the tough yardage back the Buffalo offense lacks at the moment. He enjoys the physical side of the game and has a reputation as a “finisher”, a back who keeps his legs churning and fights for every yard.


Ray Prelewicz – Chad Mays (IOL, Tennessee) – a 5-star recruit coming out of high school, his draft stock has dropped but he still has the potential to develop into a depth piece and has the one trait the Bills look for, versatility. He played 4 of the 5 positions on the line, including center, where the Bills have a need for a backup.


Round 5, Pick #168

Connor Pohlman – Danny Gray (WR, SMU) – he is a developmental player with speed and ball skills, much like Marquez Stevenson was for the Bills last year. He definitely has the pedigree to make an impact in the pros, and also had some kick return reps in college.


Josh Pohlman – Chasen Hines (IOL, LSU) – big, agile blocker with good hands. He plays to the whistle and is a good run blocker. This draft is stocked with good mid-round interior offensive linemen, and Hines is one of those.


Scott Prelewicz – Joshua Williams (CB, Fayetteville State) – another small school prospect, he was a wide receiver in high school, and considered joining the Army before he was switched to CB and started to thrive. He’s tall (6’2), raw and rangy but certainly has the chops to make it in the pros with the right coaching.


Ray Prelewicz – Hassan Haskins (RB, Michigan) – see above.


Round 6A, Pick #185

Connor Pohlman – Matt Araiza (P, San Diego State) – there will be plenty of love for the “Punt God” in this draft, and Buffalo was surely disappointed with Matt Haack’s game last season. His ability to both punt and place-kick makes him an excellent value, and some pundits think he won’t last until the late rounds, but if he does the Bills would be wise to grab him.


Josh Pohlman – Cam Taylor-Britt (CB, Nebraska) – one of the Bills’ biggest needs is at corner, so it makes sense that they will look in the early rounds and scour the late rounds for them. Taylor-Britt has long arms and good recovery speed that help him in coverage, and is a missile as a tackler in the run game. In a deep CB draft, he would be outstanding value at this pick.


Scott Prelewicz – Slade Bolden (WR, Alabama) – this guy is lost in the talent pool at Alabama, but is an excellent route runner with good hands who can also get open deep. He could be a depth piece with an eye on eventually taking over the Cole Beasley role in the Buffalo offense.


Ray Prelewicz – Cole Turner (TE, Nevada) – in a weak draft class for tight ends, he was one of the most productive. Turner  is a 6’6 red zone target who is raw and will need time to develop, but is worth a look in the late rounds. He might be an upgrade over Tommy Sweeney and that’s the roster spot he would be competing for.


Round 6B, Pick #203

Connor Pohlman – Kalon Barnes (CB, Baylor) – he might be the fastest player in this draft, and speed is a high priority for the Bills in their search for CB help as they look for answers in covering the many outstanding AFC receivers. He’s a good coverage man and the tape shows his speed helps him cover up some of the mistakes he makes. Again, a developmental player but well worth the late round draft pick.


Josh Pohlman – Matt Araiza (P, San Diego State) – see above.


Scott Prelewicz – Nick Zakelj (T, Fordham) – Brandon Beane likes to take risks on small school players in the late rounds, and Zakelj is one of those. He has 4 years of experience at the school where Vince Lombardi played, so the only thing he has to show is that he can play at the highest level. He is plenty strong enough but needs to work on maintaining leverage.


Ray Prelewicz – Jake Camarda (P, Georgia) – if the “Punt God” does get snatched up earlier than expected, he is a good consolation prize. He has a strong leg and may be the most accurate punter in this class, consistently having his punts downed inside the 20 yard line.


Round 7, Pick #231

Connor Pohlman – Michael Clemons (Edge, Texas A&M) – an under-the-radar prospect in a deep edge rusher class, he was overshadowed even on his own team. He has great size and strength and was quietly productive in 2021. The Bills have spent a lot of high draft capital on edge rushers recently, so he would be a depth or practice squad piece at best, which is what is expected of players this late in the draft.


Josh Pohlman – Malcolm Rodriguez (LB, Oklahoma State) – good read and react player who is a willing tackler but sometimes goes for the big hit and doesn’t wrap up the runner. He is a high effort player who is decent in pass coverage also.


Scott Prelewicz – James Skalski (LB, Clemson) – as a six year college player at Clemson, he is one of the oldest prospects in the draft, which will hurt his status. However, it also means he is experienced. He is agile and has good football instincts. At 5’11 he’ll have to overcome his lack of height, but he has the mental make-up to stick on a pro roster.


Ray Prelewicz – Jereth Sterns (WR, Western Kentucky) – a short receiver who lacks high end speed, his strengths are being a good route runner who tracks the ball well. He is a willing downfield blocker, which should endear him to the Bills.


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2022 NFL First Round Mock Draft

20 Apr

The wait is over! The 2022 Rayonsports NFL round one mock draft is here. Compiled by expert analysts Connor Pohlman, Josh Pohlman, Scott Prelewicz and Ray Prelewicz, here are the choices, with trades not allowed:


  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (Connor Pohlman) – Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan
  2. Detroit Lions (Josh Pohlman) – Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
  3. Houston Texans (Scott Prelewicz) – Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
  4. New York Jets (Ray Prelewicz) – Evan Neal, T, Alabama
  5. New York Giants (CP) – Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon
  6. Carolina Panthers (JP) – Ikem Ekwonu, T, North Carolina State
  7. New York Giants-from Chicago (SP) – Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
  8. Atlanta Falcons (RP) – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
  9. Seattle Seahawks-from Denver (CP) – Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
  10. New York Jets-from Seattle (JP) – Ahmed (Sauce) Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
  11. Washington Commanders (SP) – Charles Cross, T, Mississippi State
  12. Minnesota Vikings (RP) – Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
  13. Houston Texans-from Cleveland (CP) – Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia
  14. Baltimore Ravens (JP) – Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
  15. Philadelphia Eagles-from Miami (SP) – Derek Stingley, Jr., CB, LSU
  16. New Orleans Saints-from Indianapolis/Philadelphia (RP) – Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
  17. Los Angeles Chargers (CP) – Trevor Penning, T, Northern Iowa
  18. Philadelphia Eagles-from New Orleans (JP) – Drake London, WR, USC
  19. New Orleans Saints-from Philadelphia (SP) – Jamaree Salyer, G, Georgia
  20. Pittsburgh Steelers (RP) – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
  21. New England Patriots(CP) – Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
  22. Green Bay Packers-from Las Vegas (JP) – Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
  23. Arizona Cardinals (SP) – Cam Thomas, DE, San Diego State
  24. Dallas Cowboys (RP) – Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
  25. Buffalo Bills (CP) – Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson
  26. Tennessee Titans (JP) – Zion Johnson, G, Boston College
  27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (SP) -Daniel Faalele, T, Minnesota
  28. Green Bay Packers (RP) – Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
  29. Kansas City Chiefs-from San Francisco/Miami (CP) – Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State
  30. Kansas City Chiefs (JP) – Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
  31. Cincinnati Bengals (SP) – Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
  32. Detroit Lions-from L.A. Rams (RP) – George Pickens, WR, Georgia


The national champion Georgia Bulldogs take the prize for the most first round players in our mock draft with 5, and they have a number of other prospects who could be considered first round material and will likely go high on day 2 of the draft. Only 3 other schools produced multiple first rounders by our count, with Alabama, Michigan and Ohio State having 2 each. The Southeastern Conference produced the 2 teams that battled for the national title, so it stands to reason that they had the most top picks among conferences, with an amazing 11. The often maligned Big 10 came in second with 8, while the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Pac 12 had 5 and 4 respectively.

COMING SOON: Our draft experts submit their seven round mock drafts for the local NFL franchise, the two-time reigning AFC East champion Buffalo Bills.

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NFL – Buffalo Bills’ Season Review – Part 4

28 Jan

The fourth and final section of our annual Bills’ season review is always my favorite part. I put on my imaginary GM hat and project the moves the team needs to make in order to continue climbing the ladder towards winning a Lombardi Trophy. Even though Buffalo’s roster is a lot more complete than it was a few years ago, the list of positions that need to be addressed is longer than usual. So let’s get right to it in suggesting the team’s off-season changes.



Again this year, this should contain an asterisk. It’s only backup quarterback that needs to be addressed. GM Brandon Beane made 2 interesting comments at his postseason press conference regarding the quarterbacks:

  1. He expects Mitch Trubisky to pursue a starting job
  2. He says Davis Webb is like a player/coach in the QB room

So Webb is likely to return as at least the practice squad QB. The Bills can look in 2 directions for a replacement for Trubisky. They can scour the free agent list for a veteran backup or spend a mid-to-late round draft pick on a player who projects as an NFL backup. The list of available veterans includes 3 names familiar to Bills’ fans – Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyrod Taylor and Matt Barkley. Andy Dalton or Colt McCoy would be adequate options, and if the team wants to try to match the backup more closely to Josh Allen’s playing style, they could kick the tires on Marcus Mariota. The late round cupboard is pretty bare in what is considered a weak quarterback draft overall. A couple worth mentioning are Brock Purdy of Iowa State and Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe. They are both long range development guys and I highly doubt the Bills want to have this important spot manned by a green rookie.


Running Back

The Bills have gotten mixed results from their backs the last couple of years and haven’t had a real breakaway threat since LeSean McCoy left. Kansas City’s Jerick McKinnon is an interesting free agent option, and Cordarrelle Patterson’s versatility is certainly intriguing. Marlon Mack has gotten lost in Indianapolis and will be looking for a better opportunity. He’s only 25 and could really help boost the ground attack. In the draft, the pickings depend on the style of back the Bills would want to add. Do they go early and try to grab a potential home run hitter like Kenneth Walker III of Michigan State? Or do they wait until the middle rounds for a prospect like Brian Robinson of Alabama or Michigan’s Hassan Haskins? There is a long list of “change of pace” backs on the draft board, all of whom should be considered late round picks. Ty Chandler of North Carolina and a possible undrafted diamond in the rough, South Dakota State’s Pierre Strong, may be worth a look.


Wide Receiver

This is a strong position group but it was last year also and the Bills still went out and signed Emmanuel Sanders. They made it clear they are looking to add speed, so maybe a young (25) veteran like the Jaguars’ D.J. Chark would draw their interest. Nicknamed “Mighty Mouse”, Jakeem Grant of the Bears is an under the radar speed guy who endured a lost season in Chicago with injuries. He was a major kick return threat in his time in Miami and could replace Isaiah McKenzie if the team moves on from him. There are at least 6 receivers in the draft with first round grades, and if the Bills really go with best player available when they choose at pick 25, one could fall to them, possibly Arkansas’ Treylon Burks or Penn State’s Jahan Dotson.


Tight End

Buffalo had only one reliable tight end, Dawson Knox, on their roster all of last season. You have to think they need to add depth here. There are some big ticket free agents on the list, but I don’t see Buffalo going in that direction. Some viable and cheaper options include Atlanta’s Hayden Hurst and Green Bay’s Robert Tonyan, especially with the Packers in deep salary cap trouble. It’s not likely the Bills would draft a tight end in round one, so possible targets for later in the draft would be Charlie Kolar of Iowa State, Cole Turner of Nevada and Isaiah Likely from Coastal Carolina.



Normally you would say the team has to target offensive linemen in general, but I believe this year there is a specific need to beef up the interior O line. A prime catch would be Andrew Norwell of Jacksonville, but there’s no way Beane is spending big money on a 30 year old lineman, who will command a big payday. They would be better off targeting the salary cap-strapped Rams for 26 year old Austin Corbett, who would be a great fit for their front line. There are some interesting draft prospects rated highly who looked like good possibilities for the Bills, like Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green, but he is quickly moving up draft boards. They could get a day 2 gem like Zion Johnson of Boston College, Kentucky’s Darian Kinnard or one of a pair of Georgia beasts, Jamaree Salyer or Justin Shaffer. Because guard isn’t a sexy early round choice of a lot of teams, the pool of later round players is pretty good also. Andrew Voorhees of USC, LSU’s Ed Ingram and Ben Brown from Ole Miss, among others, all have a chance to be contributors on NFL rosters.



Beane used a late round pick in 2020 to identify and draft a reliable placekicker. This year, with extra picks in both the 6th and 7th round, he needs to do the same with a punter. The best available is Matt Araiza of San Diego State. Oklahoma’s Michael Turk has great special teams bloodlines. His uncle Matt Turk was a three-time Pro Bowl punter and another uncle, Dan Turk, a former long snapper. There aren’t any punters worth pursuing on the free agent market.


Defensive Tackle

I believe there are going to be extensive departures from the defensive line this offseason. Beane addressed the edge rusher spots in the last 2 drafts, and now has to beef up the middle of the defensive line. They need a big run stuffer to complement the emerging Ed Oliver, and the free agent list is lean in that department. Maybe a trade with a salary cap troubled team, or a club changing coaching staffs that wants to start over and rebuild? One potential free agent who could be a fit is New York Giants’ nose tackle Austin Johnson. He’s relatively young (27) and his 2021 numbers – 4 sacks, 72 tackles and 7 QB hits show that he’s active for a big man. In the draft, Georgia’s Jordan Davis might be available when the Bills pick in the first round. He is a top 15 rated prospect but some scouts believe he could slide because he’s not a 3 down player so he doesn’t have the value. Buffalo would be wise to draft him if he’s there. Later in the draft, UConn’s Travis Jones is a massive tackle with a third round grade who has the versatility to play either tackle position. Later in the draft, John Ridgeway of Arkansas is an intriguing name, along with another huge space-eater, Tulsa’s Tyarise Stevenson.



The lines between linebackers and edge rushers, who normally line up in traditional defensive end spots, have blurred in recent years. Buffalo has a need for difference makers in this area. Most of the big name free agents are too expensive and/or approaching or over 30 years old. Beane usually likes to take gambles on younger players who could blossom with proper coaching, or on the verge of breaking out. Miami’s Emmanuel Ogbah fits that description. The Eagles’ Derek Barnett has a good resume and  potential to get even better and is only 25. Carolina’s Haason Reddick is young and has produced numbers, but you have to question why teams are willing to part with such a productive player. All the top edge rushers eligible for the draft will be gone in the top picks, and after using 3 top choices on edge rushers in the last two seasons, you have to wonder if Beane would go that route again this year. They’re more likely to address other needs and then take a later round flyer on someone like Sam Williams of Ole Miss, Boye Mafe of Minnesota or DeAngelo Malone of Western Kentucky.



This is a position that Beane must address. The uncertainty of Tre White’s return from injury and lack of depth is glaring. Of available free agents, one name stands out that fits all of Beane’s measurables. That would be the Packers’ Rasul Douglas. Signed in season by the Packers, he was a revelation, and has earned a decent payday. Green Bay has cap issues and may not be able to bring him back. He’s 26 and had 5 interceptions. Unless a huge bidding war starts, the Bills should target him early and fill a big hole. It would be no surprise if the Bills picked a first or early round corner in the draft also. Andrew Booth of Clemson and 2 Washington Huskies teammates, Kyler Gordon and Trent McDuffie, should be on their radar.   A late round possible diamond in the rough is Texas-San Antonio’s Tariq Woolen, a big 6’4″ 205 lb. specimen with speed and good tackling ability.


One thing is for certain. Beane cannot stand pat with his current roster with the Bills smack in the middle of a huge Super Bowl window with Josh Allen as his quarterback. He can’t fall in love with certain players who have been here but haven’t reached their full potential. He and coach Sean McDermott must add the pieces necessary to strengthen this contending club even more. That may also mean taking a hard look at the coaching staff, and whether or not there are better position coaches/teachers available to push the young talent to a higher level.

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NFL – Buffalo Bills’ Season Review – Part 3

27 Jan

Part 3 of our annual Bills’ season review looks at the defensive unit. How do you analyze a unit that finished on top of every major category in the NFL, but not only got torched by the Chiefs in the playoffs for the second straight year, but also looked very average and beatable against quality opponents like Tennessee, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay? Here’s our position-by-position analysis of this puzzling unit, also including the special teams:

Defensive Line

The Bills use a rotational plan up front like no other club does, and as a result they keep a large number of players on the roster on the defensive line. The group is a mixture of aging veterans, younger veterans and young diamonds in the rough who haven’t reached their full potential. At tackle, Ed Oliver had a breakout season and seems poised to only get better. The starter alongside him is Star Lotulelei, a high-priced vet whose availability has been questionable for at least 2 seasons now. He also will carry a salary cap number that nowhere near matches his low production, so he could be a cap casualty next season. Harrison Phillips had a good season in a contract year, possibly earning an extension as a rotational piece. Vernon Butler is another older player who hasn’t contributed much. At defensive end, there are a pair of aging players, Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison, who have had varying degrees of success in rushing the passer, and it may be time for Beane to decide it’s better to jettison players a year early than a year late with them. Young veteran Efe Obada flashed some play-making ability but was never consistent. The team needs to decide if there’s a higher ceiling with him or not. Justin Zimmer, an overachieving street free agent who has battled his way into significant playing time the last 2 years, wound up on injured reserve and is a free agent so his future is cloudy. The Bills really need to somehow add an impact pass rusher to their roster for 2022. They have 3 possibilities in their last 3 top draft picks – A.J. Epenesa, Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham – who could emerge into that type of player but none of them have reached that level yet.



Buffalo only uses 2 linebackers on the field a majority of the time, and has a couple of good ones in Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano. The key word with them is, however, “good” but not necessarily great. Milano can be categorized as an overachiever. He was a fifth round draft pick and quickly developed into a quality starter who is good against the run and in coverage. If Edmunds’ ceiling is a dominant play-maker, he is a long way from getting there still. In some ways he signifies what the entire Bills’ defense does. The team’s unit ranked at the top in almost all statistical categories, yet was beaten badly in games against some quality opponents. Edmunds has actually been a Pro Bowler in his young career, but you are always left expecting more from him. A.J. Klein and Tyrel Dodson are quality backups, and have performed well when called upon to play. Also in the mix are Tyler Matakevich and Andre Smith, who are important special teams pieces.


Defensive Backs

This is a solid group that had a good season, even after losing starting cornerback  Tre’Davious White to a season-ending injury. At least that was the case until they met Kansas City. Levi Wallace and Dane Jackson played well down the stretch but struggled in the playoff loss. Taron Johnson, who is basically a starter, is one of the NFL’s elite slot corners. Cam Lewis and the versatile Siran Neal also provide important depth, but this might be a position that the Bills look to upgrade for 2022. Buffalo’s starting safeties, Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, finally got some national recognition this season. They are stellar in all areas, although they struggled with tackling issues, along with the rest of the defense, against the Chiefs. Of course, the defensive meltdown in that playoff game could be blamed on an inexplicable soft, conservative scheme that had the players on their heels all game instead of attacking, but that’s just my opinion. There are 2 quality youngsters waiting in the wings as backups at safety in Jaquan Johnson and Damar Hamlin.


Special Teams

This is a bit of a mixed bag when analyzing the special teams units. Long snapper Reid Ferguson is always near perfect, the kick coverage teams were excellent and young placekicker Tyler Bass is another late round draft gem on Beane’s resume. The kickoff and punt return squads missed the consistency of Andre Roberts. They alternated Isaiah McKenzie and rookie Marquez Stevenson at the job with not very dynamic results, and even finished the year with Hyde fielding punts. Punting was a head-shaker all season. The expectation has to be that there will be plenty of competition brought in to challenge Matt Haack for that job in 2022.

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NFL – Buffalo Bills’ Season Review – Part 2

26 Jan

In part 2 of our annual Bills’ season review, we look at the offensive side of the ball, and offer a position-by-position assessment of the team. Here are our thoughts on where the team stands:



Brandon Beane did his most remarkable work when he traded up to draft Josh Allen in 2018. Allen has cemented himself as not only the team’s unquestioned leader and franchise quarterback, but as one of the top signal callers in the NFL. He is going to be, and maybe already is, a perennial MVP candidate. The Bills signed an important insurance policy when they brought in Mitch Trubisky to back up Allen, but is questionable whether he’ll return after inking a one year deal. He’s still young and may want to pursue a starting opportunity. Davis Webb is a third option. He spent most of the year on the practice squad but was an important voice in the QB room. It’s very possible Buffalo will look to find another one year option to fill the backup role for 2022.


Running Backs

The running back position in general is a bit of an enigma in the Bills’ offense that relies so heavily on the pass. The club did see a need to add some semblance of a rushing attack as the season went on, and Devin Singletary answered the bell with a decent showing at the end of the year, as both an effective runner and a check down option for Allen in the passing game. It will be interesting to see if the team now feels comfortable going forward with Singletary as the lead back, or if they feel the need to look for a better option. Zach Moss wasn’t much of a factor, and in fact regressed during his second year. The team normally doesn’t give up too early on their prospects and have had some players emerge in their third year, so he will likely be back, but in a dogfight for a roster spot, in 2022. Matt Breida was 2021’s version of T.J. Yeldon, an extra back who saw very little action. He made some minor contributions at times during the season, but is not a long term answer, and entering free agency, likely won’t be re-signed. It was telling that at season’s end and in the playoffs fullback Reggie Gilliam was seeing significant playing time in the backfield, as a blocker and a pass receiving outlet option. Taiwan Jones is another back on the roster, but is strictly a special teamer.



This is the most important position group on the team as they employ a pass-heavy attack, and although his numbers slipped somewhat, Stefon Diggs is still Allen’s favorite, and most reliable target. Cole Beasley continues to be a beast playing out of the slot, and Emmanuel Sanders was a nice addition. The biggest revelation in 2021 was the stunning emergence as the season went on of Gabriel Davis. His playing time, when the season began, did not match what he was receiving last season as the team chose to feature Sanders more. But when Sanders missed some time, Davis stepped in and did what he almost always did last year – make incredibly timely catches in some big moments. His reemergence was topped off in the divisional round playoff game with a record-setting 201 yard performance in which he was on the receiving end of 4 Allen scoring throws. This guy was a fourth round crown jewel of Beane’s 2020 draft. Another top contributor is Swiss Army knife Isaiah McKenzie, who is adept at running jet sweeps, filling in when needed as a receiver and returning kicks. He is on a one year contract, so his return isn’t guaranteed. Jake Kumerow stuck on the roster mainly as a special teams player, and Marquez Stevenson got a few chances, mainly as a kick returner, but he’s still raw and at this point is an  interesting developmental project. His speed alone will give him a chance to stick around if he can refine his game. Like Singletary, Dawson Knox made tremendous strides in 2021, becoming a top target for Allen and one of the NFL’s bright prospects at the tight end position. Tommy Sweeney has been an up and down player so far, sometimes flashing ability and other times appearing to be prone to mistakes.


Offensive Line

It took until late in the season, but the Bills were finally able to identify the right combination of players along the line to increase production in the running game and protect Josh Allen in the pocket. Funny, but looking back at last season’s review, I made the same comment then. Obviously whatever stability they thought they found last year wasn’t the right answer. This season started out with a cluster at the guard positions and with starting right tackle Dion Dawkins dealing with Covid. As the season wore on, things gradually developed. Rookie Spencer Brown moved into the starting lineup at right tackle and Darryl Williams was moved inside to right guard. Dawkins came back with a vengeance, reclaiming his status as an elite left tackle and even being rewarded with his first Pro Bowl invite. When Ike Boettger’s season ended with an injury, Ryan Bates, a versatile backup, took over at left guard and solidified the line immensely. Another rookie, Tommy Doyle, took over an important role as a sixth offensive lineman in certain situations, a move that also helped to improve the run game. Center Mitch Morse, who at times in previous years had been benched, cemented himself as the starter and a leader of the unit. When the dust finally settled, Jon Feliciano and Cody Ford were left out in the cold. They remained as backups, but depth on the O line could be an area the Bills try to improve next season. Ford has never been able to take advantage of the many opportunities he’s gotten to win a starting job, and has certainly not lived up to the expectations of a high round draft pick. Veteran Bobby Hart bounced between the active roster and practice squad, but is very unlikely seen as a future asset. Boettger, meanwhile, may have a hard time getting his job back when he returns from injury, if the team decides to re-sign the impending free agent. Bates is also due to enter free agency, and should be a much higher priority to sign. The emergence of Brown was a major plus this season, and it’s possible Doyle could develop into a future starter also.

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NFL – Buffalo Bills’ Season Review – Part 1

25 Jan

The Buffalo Bills’ 2021 season ended abruptly on Sunday in a 42-36 overtime loss to Kansas City. The game was an all-time classic, a duel between 2 young quarterbacks that ended with the Bills being eliminated for the second straight year at Arrowhead Stadium, this time one round earlier than last season. With the season now over, it’s time for our annual four-part review of what the team accomplished and what needs to be done to continue the climb to the final destination that they seek – a Lombardi Trophy to display at One Bills Drive. Part one, as is the case every year, looks at the front office and coaching aspects of the team. General Manager Brandon Beane and his staff deserve kudos for the job they have done building a contending roster, and Head Coach Sean McDermott and his staff have now steered the team to the playoffs in 4 of the 5 years they’ve been in charge. The recent hiring of assistant GM Joe Shoen to the New York Giants’ GM position shows that the organization is perceived as a model franchise around the league. The 2021 draft produced some good future prospects, including a couple of edge rushers and an offensive line starter. Other clubs pilfered 3 of the team’s later round picks from the last 2 years off their practice squad during the season, so the talent they have been mining has been NFL caliber. Some of the players picked in previous years had breakout seasons in 2021 also, as we will note in the other 3 sections of this review.

As for the coaching, McDermott deserves credit for righting the ship when things didn’t go according to plan at various times during the year. The Bills lost 3 more games this season than last, but managed to recapture the AFC East title for the second year after being unceremoniously dumped from the top spot by New England in a chilly Monday Night contest. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll directed a high scoring attack and is likely to get head coaching opportunities. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier guided a unit that led the NFL in most categories, and should also attract attention for some of the head coach jobs around the league. Frazier’s defense was open to question after getting skewered by the Chiefs in the playoffs, a problem they have now encountered 2 years in a row.

Some historical perspective here, and anyone who reads most of the posts on this site realizes I’m all about history. In 1969, one of the NFL’s most notoriously bad franchises, the Pittsburgh Steelers, hired Chuck Noll as their head coach. Noll is a Hall of Famer who is regarded as one of the all time greatest coaches. Looking back at Noll’s first 3 seasons, the Steelers went 1-13, 5-9 and 6-8. They spent those years assembling talent, adding Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Mel Blount, Ron Shanklin, Frank Lewis, Glen Edwards and L.C. Greenwood among others. Finally, in his fourth year, Noll found some success. The Steelers won the AFC Central Division with an 11-3 mark. The team advanced to the AFC Championship but fell short to the Miami Dolphins, who finished undefeated that year. Miami repeated as champs the next year and the Steelers won their division again at 10-4. One more loss than the previous year, and eliminated from the playoffs in the divisional round by John Madden’s Oakland Raiders this time. Still, the talent accumulation continued. Franco Harris and Jack Ham were added. Then, in the 1974 draft and despite drafting low due to their winning record, the Steelers picked 4 future Hall of Famers (Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster) and added a fifth in undrafted free agent Donnie Shell. Finally, in his sixth year at the helm, Noll won the Super Bowl, then proceeded to dominate the rest of the decade with 3 more Lombardi trophies. Not only did those previous 5 years lead to that unprecedented success, but it set up the franchise as one of the best in the NFL with a legacy that continues to this day.

The point of that historical stroll through yesteryear is that the Bills are still in the early part of the process of constructing a team and a culture that will be built to last. And they are ahead of the game as far as the success they have achieved compared to what Pittsburgh built. Beane still has work to do, and it’s safe to say that if and when the Bills finally reach the mountain top, a lot of the pieces that help get them there are either still developing or not even on the roster yet.

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NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Alley Oop Is Born

06 Jan

It’s the final week of the NFL regular season, which is a sad time for me since it means the final Throwback Thursday feature of the season. Two old western rivals, the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers, close out the year with a game against each other. For the final TBT post of 2021, we’ll look back on a game from October 6, 1957 played between these 2 clubs that became the birthplace of a play from those early years of the NFL, the “Alley Oop” pass. Both the Rams and 49ers boasted exciting offensive clubs in the 1950s. The Rams featured a future Hall of Fame coach in Sid Gillman and a pair of Hall of Famers in Norm Van Brocklin and Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, while San Fran’s attack came courtesy of their “Million Dollar Backfield” combination of QB Y.A. Tittle, halfbacks Hugh McElhenny and Joe Perry and fullback John Henry Johnson, all future Hall of Famers.

Despite already being the first week of October, this was only the second game of the season for these California rivals. The NFL played a 12 game schedule in those days, and the season started later. The 49ers were coming off an opening week loss while the Rams had won their first game. Rams’ running back Tommy Wilson quieted the boisterous Kezar Stadium crowd with a 21 yard touchdown run, the only scoring in the first quarter. San Francisco grabbed the momentum back when they pinned the Rams on their own goal line, and Leo Nomellini burst through and tackled Wilson in the end zone for a safety. Tittle then took charge, leading a pair of scoring drives which he topped off with touchdown throws of 23 yards to Billy Wilson and 46 yards to R.C. Owens, his favorite target. That gave the Niners a 16-7 halftime lead, but Tittle and the offense went cold in the second half. Van Brocklin, the proud warrior, connected with Leon Clarke on a 70 yard touchdown bomb, and while the San Francisco offense continued to sputter, the Rams added a pair of Paige Cothren field goals to open up a 20-16 lead.

49er coach Frankie Albert, in an attempt to light a fire under his struggling offense, decided to attempt a trick play when Tittle drove the club into the red zone as the game clock wound down. It had been dubbed the “Alley Oop” pass, and it entailed Owens running to a spot in the end zone and Tittle lofting the ball high to a spot where the athletic Owens would outleap any defender and come down with a completion. The play worked, as Owens snagged the pass for an 11 yard game-winning touchdown in a 23-20 49er win.


R.C. Owens demonstrates the “Alley Oop” at practice


In today’s NFL, that play is commonplace and known as “high-pointing” the ball or perhaps as the “back shoulder” throw, or “Hail Mary” pass. Tall, athletic receivers and tight ends are all used as “red zone” targets, plus today’s players are making amazing athletic plays every week. But in 1957, the play was a big deal. It was named after a comic strip caveman of that name and of that era. There was also a novelty pop song about the caveman, recorded by The Hollywood Argyles, being played on pop radio stations at the time. The term has long vanished from football jargon today, but is still used in basketball to define an above-the-rim pass to a teammate to set up a dunk. Owens made enough of an impression in San Francisco to earn a place in the team’s Hall of Fame, and he also can make a claim to fame for changing the rules of the game. He used his jumping abilities in a game once to bat away a field goal attempt by leaping up over the crossbar and knocking it away. The NFL outlawed “goaltending” the next season.


Alley Oop, the cartoon caveman

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NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Prodigal Son Returns

30 Dec

The Green Bay Packers will try to hold on to their top seed in the NFC this week when they take on the Minnesota Vikings in a week 17 matchup on the schedule. We’ll throw it back a decade or so for our Throwback Thursday feature, to November 1, 2009. That’s the day when the Packers’ prodigal son, Brett Favre, returned to Lambeau Field as a member of the enemy squad, the Vikings, to try to extract some revenge on his former team. Favre, a Packer legend who had guided the team to a pair of Super Bowls, winning one, was unceremoniously traded to the New York Jets in 2008. Coach Mike McCarthy made the decision to move on from him at that time and hand the quarterback reins to young Aaron Rodgers, who had sat patiently for 3 seasons behind Favre waiting for his opportunity. So this was billed as a showdown between the old hero turned villain and the fresh new young gun. Favre had already beaten the Packers earlier in the season in Minnesota in a game in which he threw 3 touchdown passes, and the Vikings entered this rematch at 6-1 and leading the NFC North, with Green Bay right behind them at 4-2.

Packer fans booed their former idol heartily when he came out of the tunnel and throughout the game. After all, playing for the Jets was acceptable, but Favre had retired, then came out of retirement to sign with the Packers’ hated division rival. Mason Crosby opened the scoring with a field goal for Green Bay, but the Vikings, behind Favre, took control after that. Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 97 yards on the day, scored from a yard out. Favre followed that up with a 12 yard TD toss to Visanthe Shiancoe, and when Ryan Longwell booted a 41 yard field goal, Minnesota went into the half with a 17-3 lead. Favre continued the onslaught with a 51 yard heave to Percy Harvin to extend the Viking lead to 24-3, but the Packers and Rodgers gathered themselves and began to close the gap. Crosby hit another three pointer, then Rodgers connected twice with his tight end, Spencer Havner, on short scoring throws. Green Bay had now shortened the lead to 24-20 going into the final quarter.

The two gunslinging signal callers continued their battle as the game wound down. Favre flipped a short 2 yard touchdown toss to Jeff Dugan, and Rodgers matched that by finding Greg Jennings for six from 10 yards out. Green Bay failed on a two point attempt, so the Vikings now led 31-26. It was a valiant comeback, but Favre and his new team would have the last laugh. Green Bay’s prodigal son hit Bernard Berrian with a 16 yard throw for his fourth touchdown pass of the day, cementing Minnesota’s 38-26 win. The Viking defense, and their offensive line, were the difference in the game. Favre threw from a clean pocket all day, while Rodgers, despite passing for more yardage than Favre, was sacked 6 times. It turned out to be a pretty good move by Minnesota in signing the aging Favre. The club continued on it’s winning ways, clinching the division title with a 12-4 record and advancing all the way to the NFC Championship, where they lost a heartbreaker 31-28 to the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.



Brett Favre celebrates beating his old team

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NFL – Throwback Thursday: The Juice Is Loose!

23 Dec

A pair of AFC East contenders square off for the second time in a month this Sunday on the NFL’s schedule – the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills. Our Throwback Thursday feature this week highlights a game played between these 2 teams on opening day of the 1973 season. It was played at New England’s old Shaefer Stadium on September 16 of that year. Both clubs had shown promise in the 1972 season that they might be able to find the promised land of fielding winning teams in this new year. The Bills brought back their old coach from the AFL days, Lou Saban, in ’72 to try to salvage the career of young running back O.J. Simpson, who had languished in his first couple of seasons under coach John Rauch. Rauch came up with the foolish idea of using Simpson as a decoy instead of featuring his talent in the offensive scheme, and even toyed with the idea of switching him to wide receiver. Saban changed all that, building the club around Simpson’s talent to feature the running game. The Bills were also set to move out of their old stadium, the decrepit War Memorial Stadium, into their shiny new home, Rich Stadium.

The Patriots also entered the ’73 season with high hopes, as new coach Chuck Fairbanks attempted to improve the club with young quarterback Jim Plunkett being fortified with an influx of new talent that included Sam Cunningham, Darryl Stingley, John Hannah and Ray “Sugar Bear” Hamilton. That new talent paid immediate dividends as Cunningham scored the game’s first touchdown on a 7 yard run. The Pats missed the extra point, taking a 6-0 lead. It didn’t last long, as a portent of things to come was about to happen. The Bills took the field with a revamped offense designed to feature Simpson’s ability. Three draft picks became immediate starters. A pair of first rounders, Paul Seymour and Joe DeLamielleure, manned the tight end and guard spots, and Joe Ferguson took over for Dennis Shaw at quarterback. Seymour’s role was basically an extra tackle on the line to help Simpson, and when “The Juice” broke off an 80 yard touchdown run to give the Bills a 7-6 lead, Buffalo was off and literally running. Buffalo’s rebuilt line also added center Mike Montler in a trade to go with Reggie McKenzie, Donnie Green and Dave Foley, forming what would be nicknamed the “Electric Company” as they turned on “The Juice”. John Leypoldt added a field goal and Larry Watkins, O.J.’s backfield mate, scored on a 4 yard run to boost the Bills to a 17-6 lead before New England pulled to within 17-13 on a 10 yard Mack Herron run. Then Simpson scored again on a 22 yard scamper. Watkins again joined in the fun, rambling 15 yards to close out the scoring and give Buffalo a resounding 31-13 victory.

When the final gun sounded, Simpson had accumulated 250 yards rushing on 29 carries with his pair of touchdowns, setting a new single-game record for ground yards. Watkins added another 105 yards on 18 carries and his 2 TDs as the Bills racked up an impressive 360 yards on the ground in the game. Simpson’s performance wasn’t a one time deal. He would go on to break Jim Brown’s single season rushing yards record and become the first player in history to break the 2,000 yard barrier as he finished with 2,003 for the year. He is still the only back to achieve the feat in 14 games. Simpson’s personal life has turned tragic and he has frittered away any good will he may have earned in his playing days and broadcasting and acting careers afterwards, but he was a dynamic athlete at one time.



O.J. Simpson shredded the Pats for 250 yards on opening day




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