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2001 Season Dismal For Bills

The Bills finished the 2001 season with the third worst record since the 16 game schedule was instituted in the late 70's. The 3-13 finish showed that the team went through a tremendous amount of growing pains, as they were the second youngest team in the NFL. Many rookies saw significant playing time and improved which could bode well for the future of the team. He are the position by position final exam grades as well as individual player grades for key players at each position and a look ahead at one might happen with next season's roster:

Quarterbacks: Rob Johnson, Alex Van Pelt, Travis Brown

This was the season Johnson was suppose to put it all together in the new West Coast Offense, unfortunately it had the same old results. Johnson was knocked out of a couple of games early in the season before it ended prematurely during a week 9 loss to New England. Johnson showed the same knack for getting sacked being brought down 31 times in less than 9 games. His highlights were solid performances in a win over Jacksonville and the loss in the grudge match in San Diego. Van Pelt showed a much better command of the offense when he took over for the last seven games of the season and led the Bills to two victories including a come from behind win over Carolina and an upset win in New York. His downfall was the blow out in San Francisco but his play earned him a new 5 year deal and an excellent shot at being the starter next year. Brown played in the finale when Van Pelt got injured and struggled but showed enough talent on an impressive drive to keep him around next year as the number three man.
Final Overall Grade C: Another year, another quarterback controversy as Johnson underachieves.
Johnson D: His controversial career in Buffalo is probably over. New surroundings may bring out his talents.
Van Pelt B: Played well enough to battle for a starting job next year but another arm needs to be brought in.
Brown C-: Only have one game to grade him when he was thrown into the fire but he showed promise.

Running Backs: Travis Henry, Larry Centers, Shawn Bryson, Sammy Morris

Henry was one of many rookies to have an impact this year. He was on his way to a possible 1,000 yard season when he sprained his knee and missed the final three games. He had two 100 yard games but averaged only 3.4 yards a carry. Bryson played the last three games when Henry was hurt and had back to back 100 yard games. Centers was a free agent acquisition who not only showed leadership but led the team with 80 receptions. Morris was used very sparingly this year showed some flashes of what he did his rookie year against the Jets with three nice runs in a row.
Final Overall Grade B: Probably the most talented unit on the squad.
Henry B: Has the potential to be a solid every down back in this league.
Centers A: Class, character, leadership and was the best weapon on an anemic offense.
Bryson A-: When he finally got his chance he showed that the running back competition will be wide open again next year.
Morris C: Last year's top rookie only touched the ball 27 times. He deserved more playing time but it was tough behind Henry and Bryson.

Receivers: Eric Moulds, Peerless Price, Jay Riemersma, Reggie Germany, Avion Black, Jeremy McDaniel

Moulds whined and moaned about not getting the ball enough and the stats bear him out. The highest paid player on the team saw his catches drop from 94 last year to 67 this season. He did lead the team in yards with 904. While blaming the offense for his shortcomings he did drop an unusually high amount of passes this year. Price was inconsistent again but showed big play talent as he averaged 16.3 yards a catch and led the team with 7 touchdowns. Riemersma was kept in to block a lot early in the season but ended up catching a career high 53 passes despite dropping many balls. Germany was a seventh round pick and took over the number three spot from McDaniel early in the season. Germany showed a knack for making tough catches and showed he has much more talent than his seventh round pick would indicate. McDaniel caught 11 passes all early in the year before he disappeared. Black played mostly on special teams and caught only 8 passes.
Final Overall Grade C: An inconsistent year from the best player on the team.
Moulds C-: Outside of a couple of big games, he struggled all season. Only so much can be blamed on the game plan.
Price B: Not there yet, but showed more improvement.
Riemersma C+: A lot of catches but still needs to find some consistency. Will remain the main tight end next year.
Germany B+: Locked in as the number three man again next year as he was a pleasant surprise.
McDaniel D-: His playing days in Buffalo are as good as over.
Black C-: Hasn't established himself as a receiver yet and may not be back.

Offensive Line: John Fina, Ruben Brown, Jerry Ostroski, Jonas Jennings, Bill Conaty, Corey Hulsey, Marques Sullivan

The unit improved as the year went on for a few reasons. Van Pelt replacing Johnson dropped the sack rate tremendously. Ostroski's fast return from a broken leg solidified the line. The use of the sweep run late in the season played to the strength of the line and allowed a better yards per carry later in the season.
Final Overall Grade C: Showed improvement but could still use another stud.
Fina C+: Played like a warrior through injuries, had his better games later in the year. His future is uncertain with the team.
Brown B+: May have had his best year as his penalties were way down. Sixth straight pro bowl appearance.
Ostroski A-: Played on one leg and played well, he brought the line together.
Jennings B-: Showed a lot of promise and got some good on the job training, could be fixture at left tackle if Fina goes.
Conaty C: Steady but not spectacular played with a painful shoulder all year. He's a free agent who should return unless the Bills draft a center.
Hulsey C-: Played well for the most part when filling in at left guard. He will be good depth for next year.
Sullivan D: Rookie who saw some spot duty and showed he has a long way to go before being a solid lineman.

Defensive Line: Aaron Schobel, Phil Hansen, Pat Williams, Shawn Price, Erik Flowers, Bryce Fisher, Tyrone Robertson, Kendrick Office, Leif Larsen, Ron Edwards

This group went way downhill with the loss of Ted Washington and Marcellus Wiley. As a unit they recorded only 34 sacks all season. Williams was having a solid season, before fracturing his leg. Schobel showed a lot of promise in gaining a team high 6 1/2 sacks. Robertson and Office also showed flashes especially against New England. Fisher's play started off very well but faded down the stretch of his first full season. Flowers was too light and was inactive for a stretch this season as he was a non factor when he was playing.
Final Overall Grade D: There are a few promising youngster but they have a long way to go.
Schobel B+: Led the team in sacks but faded down the stretch. He could be a force for years to come.
Hansen C: Struggled in his final season with nobody around him. Retired the way he played, with class.
Williams A-: Was playing at a pro bowl level for a good portion of the year.
Price D: Not very active, will most likely be gone.
Flowers F: First round bust that will probably be back because of cap implications.
Fisher D: Showed some flashes of talent but may have been a mirage. He may be gone.
Robertson C: Young player with talent but was late for a meeting that cost him playing time down the stretch. Should return.
Office C: Burst on the scene against New England with two sacks but was quiet against everyone else. Coaches like him, will be back.
Larsen D: Still very raw, maybe too raw to make the team.
Edwards D: Got little playing time until the last few weeks and then didn't show much but he is also raw.

Linebackers: Keith Newman, Jay Foreman, Brandon Spoon, Kenyatta Wright

When Sam Cowart went down with a torn achilles tendon in the opener it changed the responsibilities for all the linebackers. Newman had to abandon his sack goals to play pass coverage and seemed lost at times. Foreman picked up some of the slack with a very good season in his first as a starter. The rookie Spoon took Cowart's spot in the middle and showed big play ability (or luck) with two interception returns for scores.
Final Overall Grade C+: Did pretty well considering there best defensive player missed the season.
Newman C-: Will be much better next year if Cowart returns so he can return to pass rusher mode.
Foreman A: Solid, consistent, underrated. It would be nice to see what he can do with Cowart next to him.
Spoon C+: The picks were highlights but he struggled in pass coverage more often than not. His run stuffing needs work but he's a throwback player with talent, just not Cowart-like talent.
Wright D: Split action with Spoon at times but didn't play very well.

Secondary: Antoine Winfield, Nate Clements, Raion Hill, Keion Carpenter, Travares Tillman, Preston Prioleau, Ken Irvin, Chris Watson

The Ohio State duo at Cornerback could be the best young tandem in the league for years to come. Winfield and Clements are both hard hitting and excellent tacklers as well as good cover guys with closing speed. Carpenter and Tillman both played well splitting time at free safety. Hill was given the strong safety job when Henry Jones was cut but struggled towards the end of the year. He was replaced by Prioleau who was signed after the season began and played extremely well down the stretch. Irvin was way down on the bench when the season ended as Watson jumped ahead of him on the depth chart.
Final Overall Grade C: Corners played very well but aggressive style by the defensive backs helped give up a decent amount of big plays.
Winfield B: Could develop into an all-pro player.
Clements B+: Could be even better than his partner because of his big play ability.
Hill D: The experiment of him starting went as bad as the season did. Won't be a starter next year.
Carpenter B-: When he was healthy he played well although he lost his starting job and will have to fight to regain it next year.
Tillman B-: The coach's choice to start at free safety, he was also hurt a lot but has a bit more upside than Carpenter.
Prioleau A: Took advantage of his limited action. Deserves a shot at the starting strong safety job next year but his size may work against him.
Irvin F: Classy individual has played his last game as a Bill. His meltdown against Miami cost the Bills an upset.
Watson B: Showed continued improvement as a nickel back. Should be back next year.

Special Teams: Shayne Graham, Brian Moorman, Jake Arians, Nate Clements, Avion Black, Peerless Price, Mo Unutoa

The coverage units improved but they had nowhere to go but up. The young kickers and punter struggled mightily. Arians was cut and Graham did ok in his chances. Moorman boomed punts early in the nice weather but as the winds began to swirl his average plummeted. The return game was very poor with the exception of Clements punt return for a score.
Final Overall Grade D: Better than last year but not much better.
Graham B: Made 6 of 8 kicks. Should be back to compete for job in training camp
Moorman D: Couldn't handle the late season weather. Should also have to compete for his job in training camp.
Arians F: This team needed Steve Christie and got this guy.
Return Game D: Clements returned the ball well. Price was awful as the main punt returner. Black struggled returning kicks.
Coverage Teams C: Had a decent average but gave up big returns at the wrong times.
Unutoa C: Had one bad snap but it could've cost the Bills one of their three wins against the Jets.

Coaching: Gregg Williams, Mike Sheppard, Jerry Gray, Danny Smith

Williams guaranteed a more disciplined approach but the team committed the most penalties of any team in the league. The offense showed very little imagination and they didn't seem to fit the system with the players they had. Why didn't they establish the running game until the last month of the season? Gray's defense showed improvement as the season went on and there is promise in the aggressive style of play but there were also times when they just got blown off the ball. Special teams under Smith were more organized and improved but there is a long way to go.
Final Overall Grade D: The team never gave up which is a plus but they didn't show enough improvement throughout the year.
Williams C-: Kept the team together until the end but needs to do a lot of work in the off season.
Sheppard F: Never seemed to have a handle on the offense. If there was going to be a change in the staff, it would probably come here.
Gray C+: Seemed to adjust better than others. He simplified the playbook for his young defense and they immediately improved.
Smith C+: Got the coverage teams above abysmal now needs to improve the kicking game for next season.

2001 Gameball Winners
2001 Goats
2001 Players Of The Week
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