2007 Was A Year Of Adversity

The Bills came into 2007 with some hope but after losing three players to injuries on opening day, including the devastating injury to Kevin Everett, the team was on the way to a season filled of adversity. They would shatter a club record with 17 players on injured reserve. Through all of this, and the 0-3 start, the Bills got rolling thanks to playing opportunistic football they stayed in the playoff race until week 14. They would end up finishing with an identical 7-9 record to the previous season. Now for the eighth year in a row we do our position by position final exam grades as well as individual player grades for key players at each position. We also will take a look ahead at one might happen with next season's roster:

Quarterbacks: Trent Edwards, J.P. Losman, Gibran Hamdan

The problems with the offense this year started with the instability at quarterback. The team went in to the season thinking that Losman was the man of the future and ended it thinking Edwards is. Losman struggled in the first two games and then got hurt in week 3 opening the door for Edwards. While winning games, Edwards struggled to find the end zone. He hurt his wrist opening the door back up for Losman who performed well against Cincinnati before going back to his inconsistent self. Edwards ended the season with a 70.4 QB rating and seven TD passes to eight interceptions. Losman had a 76.9 rating and four touchdowns to six interceptions. Gibran Hamdan did not see the field.
Final Overall Grade D: They close the season with more questions then they started with.
Edwards C-: He will be the starter next year but the jury is still very much out.
Losman D: His inconsistent days in Buffalo are probably over.
Hamdan Incomplete: The team is high on him as a bright player. He'll get more of a look next year.

Running Backs: Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson, Anthony Thomas, Dwayne Wright

Lynch made people forget about Willis McGahee real quick with his powerful never go down running style. He finished with the 2nd most yards ever by a Bills rookie as he finished with 1,115 yards despite missing three games. He is our rookie of the year and offensive MVP. Lynch showed flashes of brilliance but also seemed to struggle on third and short, failing to pick up the first down too often. Jackson was a surprise as he filled in well after Lynch and Thomas went down with injuries. Jackson finished the season with 300 yards rushing and was used as a receiver a lot finishing with 22 receptions for 190 yards. Thomas really struggled in limited duty but Jauron stuck with him as the number two guy until he got hurt. Wright was a disappointment after being picked in the fourth round of the draft.
Final Overall Grade B-: Lynch was as advertised, Jackson looks to be a player.
Lynch B+: Showed he is the future of the running back position.
Jackson B-: Started off very well when he got in the lineup even had a 100 yard game. Slowed down late in the season but likely will be a third down back next year.
Thomas F: Even though Jauron loves him there is no need to bring him back, his best days are way behind him.
Wright F: There were opportunities for him but he seemed to be in the doghouse. Look for him to make a leap next year and get more playing time or play his way out of Buffalo.

Receivers: Lee Evans, Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish, Peerless Price, Sam Aiken, Robert Royal, Michael Gaines, Ryan Neufeld, Derek Schouman

Evans had a down year and that is a result of not having a quality number two man on the other side. Evans finished with just 55 catches for 849 yards. Price's surprise neck injury that ended his year (and maybe his career) hurt. Reed was then playing outside even though he's much better in the slot. He had a solid year despite the situation finishing second with 51 catches for 578 yards. Parrish just hasn't developed as a receiver finishing with just 35 grabs for only 352 yards as he gets too easily knocked off of his routes. Aiken caught his only ball in the finale. The tight ends struggled but were versatile as they lined up at fullback and tight end. Royal had only 25 catches and hasn't developed as a pass receiver like they thought he would. Gaines was a pleasant surprise after being signed to replace Everett. He had a career high 25 catches as well. Neufeld saw his playing time decreased as the season progressed and only caught two passes. Schouman started getting playing time after being signed off the practice squad but quickly saw his season end because of injury.
Final Overall Grade D: A bad season from this unit, they desperately need a big tight end and wide receiver.
Evans D: A very down year but will still likely get a long term deal this offseason.
Reed C-: Will be back but hopefully in his usual slot role.
Parrish F: Really isn't developing as a wide receiver threat because of his size.
Price Incomplete: Even if he's able to play next year he likely will be playing elsewhere.
Aiken F: Just like last year couldn't crack even this receiver lineup. He is no longer a top special teams player and will likely be gone in free agency.
Royal D: His time in Buffalo may be over if they bring in a big time tight end.
Gaines C: A free agent they will likely re-sign for not too much money.
Neufeld F: His Bills career is likely over as he hits free agency and was inactive most of the 2nd half of the season.
Schouman Incomplete: They will be looking for big things from this 7th rounder next year.

Offensive Line: Jason Peters, Derrick Dockery, Melvin Fowler, Brad Butler, Langston Walker, Kirk Chambers

The Bills spent big money in the offseason to put together this line and it was much improved from 2006. The line played in the first 15 games together before Peters missed the finale with a groin injury. He made it to the pro bowl and is developing into one of the best left tackles in the game and was our Player of the Year. Dockery did a solid job in pass protection but the left side of the line didn't open up the huge holes in the running game that was envisioned. Fowler is undersized but did a great job in calling the game for the line and is steady. Butler missed most of training camp with an injury and was a surprise starter on opening day and really came into his own late in the season. Walker came from Oakland with reservations about the amount of sacks he gave up there. He didn't disappoint as he was a solid anchor on the right side. Chambers showed some promise in limited playing time.
Final Overall Grade B-: Great in pass protection but the run blocking needs work.
Peters A: Will likely be a pro bowler for years to come.
Dockery B: Looks to be a fixture next to Peters for the next several years.
Fowler C: They may look to upgrade this spot but he'll likely remain the starter.
Butler B+: He answered the confidence they had in him and will be the starter again next year.
Walker A-: They got their money's worth in him, will be starting next year again.
Chambers B: A diamond in the rough that will likely remain the main backup at tackle.

Defensive Line: Aaron Schobel, Chris Kelsay, Ryan Denney, Larry Tripplett, Kyle Williams, John McCargo, Anthony Hargrove, Jason Jefferson

The defensive ends had a down year as far as sacks go but they did get a lot of pressure just not sacks. Schobel is a pro bowl alternate a year after making the big game. He finished with just 6½ sacks while Kelsay had just 2½. Part of the problem was that Denney missed a good portion of the season with a broken foot and Hargrove missed the first four games because of a league suspension. That required the two starters to take more reps than they should have. Schobel did improve against the run finishing with 57 tackles this year. The tackles seemed to play well in spurts as Williams and McCargo seemed to grow in their roles in their second seasons. Tripplett showed flashes but was inconsistent; still he was better in his second year in the system.
Final Overall Grade C: The ends took a step back while the tackles moved up a notch.
Schobel C+: Will look to bounce back next year.
Kelsay C: Didn't live up to big contract but will be the starter again next year.
Denney C: Should be better next year if his foot heals properly from 2nd surgery.
Tripplett C: Make lose his starting job next year but should be back in the rotation.
Williams B: Should continue his improvement as a player next year.
McCargo B: Probably earned more playing time in his third year.
Hargrove C: He owes the Bills for their loyalty, will likely be back on the cheap.
Jefferson Incomplete: Didn't see the field too much and will likely be elsewhere in '08.

Linebackers: Angelo Crowell, John DiGiorgio, Keith Ellison, Coy Wire, Paul Posluszny, Mario Haggan, Josh Stamer

This unit underwent an upheaval this season and it left Crowell as the veteran of the group and the leader. He struggled a bit early but grew in his role as the season progressed and had a fantastic season to earn our defensive MVP award. He finished with a team high 126 tackles and had an interception and a fumble recovery. When the promising rookie Posluszny got hurt week 3 the team turned to former undrafted free agent DiGiorgio for help. Poz looked like a tackling machine in his short season. DiGiorgio was the team's unsung hero playing bigger than his size with 112 tackles. Ellison had a down year on the other side as he was hobbled with various injuries after coming back from a high ankle sprain in preseason. He finished with just 38 tackles in 12 games. Wire was his backup but he missed more than half the season with two injuries. The Bills played in a two linebacker alignment at times because of the big injuries. Haggan and Stamer saw limited action because of the rash of injuries. Haggan also played on the goal line with some success.
Final Overall Grade B: Bright future for this young unit.
Crowell A: Took over as the leader of the unit and heart of the defense. Will continue in that role next year as well.
DiGiorgio A: Really played well in very extensive action, could challenge Ellison outside next year or be a valuable backup.
Ellison D: Really struggled, not a guarantee to be the starter or even back next year.
Wire D: Didn't play a lot but didn't do much when he did. Will likely be back for special teams prowess and because Jauron loves him.
Posluszny Incomplete: Continued to learn on the sidelines after injury. Will be back as the starter in the middle next year.
Haggan B: Did a good job while getting more playing time. Will likely try to re-sign him.
Stamer Incomplete: Didn't play much on defense and may be gone as a free agent unless they lose Haggan.

Secondary: Terrence McGee, Jabari Greer, Donte Whitner, Jim Leonhard, George Wilson, Kiwaukee Thomas, Bryan Scott, Ashton Youboty, Jerametrius Butler

This unit was hit very hard by the injury bug as well. They lost starting safety Ko Simpson and starting corner Jason Webster to season ending injuries on opening day. That forced Jabari Greer into a starting role, after Ashton Youboty got banged up, and he never relinquished the job. He played very well as the number two corner in most cases but was burned a decent amount as well. McGee proved he can be a number one corner as he did a great job in coverage and had four interceptions. When Simpson went down the team turned to Leonhard who then also got hurt. That left wide receiver turned safety George Wilson as the starter. He did a great job and kept it until he got hurt late in the year. Youboty struggled in limited action but had his first career interception in the finale. Scott got more playing time late in the year and was a devastating hitter who blitzed a lot with some success.
Final Overall Grade B: Young safeties Whitner, Leonhard, Wilson, and Simpson all have bright futures.
McGee A: May just be a lockdown corner after all. Will be number one corner again next year.
Greer C+: Nice job but could return to reserve role if Bills bring in experienced corner in free agency.
Whitner A: Emerged as a leader, will continue to develop into a star next year.
Leonhard B Playing time will diminish next year with Simpson's return.
Wilson B: Nice surprise, will be back in a backup role as one of the coach's favorite.
Thomas B: Third down defense got worse when he got hurt, will bring in competition for him for the nickel job next year.
Scott B: Hard hitting play maker late in the season. Bills may want to bring him back but have other needs.
Youboty D: Looking more and more like a bust, will have to work hard to make the team next year.
Butler C: Pressed into action and did ok, with injured players back he won't be here next year.

Special Teams: Rian Lindell, Brian Moorman, Terrence McGee, Roscoe Parrish, Ryan Neill

Lindell had another fantastic year to be named our special teams MVP for the 2nd year in a row. He was 24 of 27 on field goal attempts and hit a club record 18 in a row at one point. Has now holds the NFL record for the most extra points without a miss from the start of a career. Moorman had a down year for him but still averaged 40.8 yards punting and dropped 30 inside the 20. McGee had a down year with just a middle of the road 24 yard average on kickoff returns. Parrish averaged an NFL high 16.3 yards on punt returns as both players had one touchdown each. The coverage teams did a great job covering punts allowing just a 5.3 yard average on returns. They did a good job for the most part covering kicks as well. Rookie John Wendling led the units and ran away with the team high in special teams tackles. Scott, Haggan, and Stamer were also big time coverage guys. Neill was given the long snapping job because they were short defensive ends when the season started. It worked out ok until late in the season when Neill botched punt snaps in back to back games.
Final Overall Grade C: This unit was nothing more than average which is a disappointment.
Lindell A+: No worries in the kicking department.
Moorman C+: Despite a down year in his terms, he is still the undisputed punter.
Return Game B: Playing corner and returning kicks are wearing on McGee. Look for Parrish to take over the kick return job to go along with his punt return role next year.
Coverage Teams B: Need to shore up kick coverage a bit after a few long returns.
Neill F: Two botches are two too many. Will be gone next year.

Coaching: Dick Jauron, Steve Fairchild, Perry Fewell, Bobby April

Jauron did an outstanding job keeping this team together and focused after the incredible rash of injuries that was emphasized by the Kevin Everett injury. Losing him and three defensive starters in a last second loss on opening day could have killed the team. An 0-3 start could have had them pack it in. The devastating last second loss to Dallas on Monday night could have made them hold their heads low. None of that happened as the young team really bought into what their head coach was selling and they showed marked improvement all year long. They were in the playoff race until the blizzard game in Cleveland. They were also well disciplined under Jauron's leadership as they finished with a team record low in penalties in a 16 game season for the second year in a row. His handling of the quarterback situation was a bit rough. Fewell did the work of a magician plugging holes with street free agents and coming up with schemes to mask the lack of talent or experience on defense. They bent a lot but they didn't break that often. Fairchild is leaving to coach at his college alma mater. Nobody seems upset that he's leaving. The offensive players, especially the receivers, really seemed to not buy into his plan and he never seemed to put them in position to succeed. The approach was way too conservative even with a rookie quarterback in the game. April struggled with consistency from his unit but that is in large part because of all the injuries. His standouts were pressed into duty elsewhere and he was using newly signed guys all over his units.
Final Overall Grade B+: New coordinator is critical hire.
Jauron A: Next year the playoffs are a must for him. His future is riding on the success or failure of Edwards.
Fairchild F: New coordinator needs to blow up this system next year.
Fewell A-: With the injured players back, free agent help, and one more year of experience, he can make this unit very good.
April C: Needs to come up with a new way of motivating troops.

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