The Bills got off to a great start in 2008 and thoughts of playoffs were dancing in fans heads. It came totally crashing down with losses in eight of the last 10 games. Everyone was calling for Dick Jauron's head except Ralph Wilson who is keeping his coach and his coaching staff despite the collapse. There is bitter disappointment about how 2008 turned out and little optimism about 2009. Now for the ninth 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
Like the team, Edwards started out very hot and whispers of MVP were being heard around the league as he led the Bills to a 4-0 start. Edwards suffered a devastating concussion in week 5 and struggled most of the rest of the season with inconsistent play. He also missed two and a half games with a groin injury once again throwing his durability into question. That gave Losman about three and a half games to prove he would be a good fit on another team next year. He failed miserably and was demoted to third string for the last two games of the season. He held on to the ball to long and showed the same indecision he has shown in his five rather unimpressive years in Buffalo.
Final Overall Grade C: It is still not known if Edwards is the QB of the future.
Edwards C+: With Jauron coming back, Edwards is the guy. Is he the real deal?
Losman F: Will struggle to find a number two job in the NFL as a free agent.
Hamdan B: Was a good sounding board for Edwards and was promoted to number two. Will be back and will have a chance to earn the #2 spot.
Lynch did his talking on the field as he rarely spoke to the media in 2008. He showed a lot of heart and drive as he constantly got yards when there was no holes to be found. As the offensive line played better late in the year his rushing yards started to build. He finished with his second 1,000 yard season. He also became a feature in the passing game as he caught 47 balls. Jackson showed he is a very good compliment to Lynch and could be counted on when Lynch is out. Jackson had 133 yards rushing in the finale when Lynch was out. Jackson caught 37 balls out of the backfield as he combined with Lynch as the best pass catching RB duo in the league. He also had over 500 yards rushing as he finished with almost 900 yards from scrimmage. Omon only saw limited action in the final two games and did nothing. McIntyre was used as a blocker and did ok.
Final Overall Grade A-: The one position that doesn't need help next year.
Lynch A-: Is the lone possible star on the team.
Jackson A-: The Bills will try to lock him up long term as he's a valuable cog in the offense.
Omon F: Has talent but team will keep their options open for an upgrade.
McIntyre F: Has a chance at returning but the team won't try to hard to keep the free agent.
Evans had a nice rebound year but struggled down the stretch as he constantly had trouble getting open. He did get his second career 1,000 yard season. Reed has developed into a solid option and Edwards favorite target. He constantly pulled the ball in for big third down conversions and was our pick for offensive MVP since the offense did nothing when he was out. Hardy was a disappointment for such a high draft pick. He had trouble grasping the offense but did have two touchdowns including the game winner week two in Jacksonville. 7th round pick Johnson was ahead of the 2nd round pick thanks to playing in a pro style set in Kentucky. He ran better routes and had a better understanding of the offense. He got more and more playing time the final month of the season. Parrish continued to be a non factor in the receiving game as he doesn't seem to get open and gets knocked off his routes easily. The three tight ends did combine for 58 receptions led by Royal who had a career high 33. He dropped too many though and none of the three are big time receiving threats.
Final Overall Grade D: They need receivers that can actually get opened.
Evans C+: Had his moments but disappeared too often. Not going anywhere thanks to new long term deal.
Reed A: Did everything he was asked. Would do better in the third down role though.
Parrish F: He's a punt returner and that's all. He shouldn't play receiver next year.
Hardy D: Needs to take a huge step forward next year.
Johnson B: Really has potential to get a lot more playing time next year.
Royal F: His time in Buffalo has to be over.
Fine C: Showed some promise after coming back from injury. Will be back.
Schouman C: Decent blocker, below average receiver, already have that in Fine.
Peters held out all offseason including training camp. He came back just before the season started and struggled to get his sea legs back. He didn't play well until late in the season. That is the case with the entire offensive line as they gave up a lot of sacks and struggled to open up holes for the running game until late in the season when they played together more cohesively. Preston took over the starting center job for Fowler and performed a bit better than Fowler. Chambers was a solid player off the bench who played guard and both tackle positions.
Final Overall Grade C-: Picked up their grade as the season progressed.
Peters D: Don't be surprised if he's traded since he obviously isn't happy in Buffalo. Some say he staged another holdout by missing the last two games with a knee injury. Didn't deserve Pro Bowl bid after giving up many sacks.
Dockery C: Didn't play up to his contract. Needs to improve next year.
Preston C-: Was only slightly better than the man he replaced. May be back if he signs cheap but team will look for upgrade.
Fowler D: Was benched for Preston after coming back from injury. Will be elsewhere next year.
Butler C: Nothing but an average guard, may look to upgrade this spot.
Walker B: Did a nice job having to play left tackle during Peters holdout. Played solid on the right side as well.
Chambers B: Serviceable backup tackle. Likely to re-sign.
Another down year for this unit as far as getting to the quarterbacks. They combined for just 14 sacks on the season. Schobel's season ending foot injury after four plus games did not help but there was no pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The additions of Stroud and Johnson did help a bit but when the season was over the run defense did just slightly better than in 2007. Denney played well down the stretch while Kelsey disappeared too many times.
Final Overall Grade D: Need a top notch pass rusher in the first round of the draft.
Schobel D: Missed three quarters of the year but wasn't playing well before the injury. It will be interesting to see if he can come back strong.
Kelsay F: Rarely made a difference and will have to fight off Denney and maybe a top rookie for his starting job next year.
Denney B: Really came on late in the year and may take over starting job from Kelsay next year.
Stroud C+: Played really well in spurts but was rarely a difference maker.
Williams D: Desperately needs an upgrade here.
Johnson C: Didn't do as much as they expected when he was signed.
Bryan C: Made a few plays when given the opportunity but nothing to write home about.
When Angelo Crowell decided to have knee surgery right before the start of the season this unit never recovered. Mitchell, Posluszny, and Ellison ended up starting every game and rarely did anyone else play the position. Mitchell made some big plays and was a leader with playoff experience while Posluszny rebounded from his injury shortened rookie year as he led the team in tackles. They did allow too many runners to get in the open field but did pretty decent in pass protection.
Final Overall Grade C: Needs some upgrading next year.
Mitchell C+: Won the San Diego game almost single handedly but disappeared at times.
Posluszny C+: Made a lot of tackles but didn't really make too many big plays.
Ellison D: They can't have him start a third year in a row next year.
This unit had players in and out of the lineup but did a nice job overall in pass defense. McGee was our defensive player of the year as he performed very well as a lockdown corner. His only blemish was the first Miami game when he was toasted by Ted Ginn because he came back way too early from a sprained knee. Greer missed the end of the season with a sprained knee. That allowed McKelvin to develop into an NFL corner after the coaches didn't trust him to go in the lineup earlier in the season. Whitner was a man of all seasons as he played both safety positions, cornerback, and the slot. Later in the year the team started trusting Corner to play more as he performed admirably as a rookie. Scott played very well against the run and forced his way into the lineup at strong safety moving Whitner to free and the underachieving Simpson to the bench.
Final Overall Grade B: Nice job as the 13th ranked pass defense in the league.
McGee A: Is a lockdown corner who will likely get a new deal this offseason.
Greer A-: When healthy he was also a lockdown corner and he scored two TDs. Team will reluctantly let him go in free agency as they have too much money locked up at the position.
McKelvin C+: Definitely looks to have a future. Will be the starter opposite McGee next year.
Whitner B He's a leader and very versatile but he is what he is right now. A slightly above average player.
Scott B+: A good hitter that has a chance to hold on to the starting job next year.
Youboty B+: Really developed before an injury cut his season very short. Likely to be the nickel corner next year.
Corner C+: In many ways he's ahead of McKelvin except in talent. Has a decent future as a third down back.
Wilson C: With few injuries to the safety spot didn't see the field much but is the special teams captain and will likely return.
Simpson D: Demoted after sub par early season. With recent arrest, he will have to fight really hard to keep his roster spot.
McKelvin was our special teams player of the year as he broke the club record with 1,468 kickoff return yards and was electrifying when touching the ball. It didn't take long for him to unseat McGee at the spot. Parrish was his usual dynamite self returning punts and Jackson helped out on both kicks and punts and did well as well. They averaged over 24 yards per kick return and 15.5 yards per punt return. The coverage units were solid as well. Moorman had an excellent season punting the ball but Lindell had an inconsistent year led by the missed field goal that cost them the Monday night game.
Final Overall Grade B: Much improved from 2007 season.
Lindell C: Was only 30 of 38 but seven of the missed were from 40+ yards out. Will be back.
Moorman A-: Averaged 44.1 yards per punt with 23 inside the 20 out of 58 kicks.
Return Game A: Two touchdowns and led the league in average start after kickoffs. They are fine at this spot.
Coverage Teams B: Kick coverage was very good giving up less than 20 yards per return. Punt returns gave up a bit more averaging more than 10 yards per punt return.
Neill D: Only botched one snap but Moorman saved him on a few others.
What can we say? We agree with the masses that Jauron and most of his coaching staff needed to go after the season but they all return. What can you say about a coach that loses eight of his final 10 games? The players do love him and to a man say they wanted him to stay. Of course they did, he doesn't make them work too hard. Schonert seemed to get too cute in calling plays as he didn't always put his players in their best chance to succeed. He had no answers for 3-4 defenses which is a problem when the rest of the division plays that formation. Fewell did a decent job with the defense but was late making adjustments at times. His personnel maneuvers in the secondary kept them afloat through tough injury times. April is inspiring to his players, the one coach that shows true emotions. He had answers including a genius fake field goal on opening day.
Final Overall Grade D: Jauron and Schonert have no business returning.
Jauron F: Complete failure but somehow has a new contract. He has to be fired if they have another 7-9 season, doesn't he?
Schonert F: His play calling was very suspect. Unfortunately he comes back next season as well.
Fewell C: Did a better job then his offensive counterpart but is way too partial to the cover two scheme that doesn't stop anybody.
April A: Maybe he should be the head coach?.