2012 Was A Year Of Unfulfilled Expectations

The 2012 season was the 13th straight year that the Bills missed the playoffs and 8th straight season with a losing record. They had such high hopes of breaking the playoff drought thanks to the signing of Mario Williams. He was a disappointment and the team finished with the exact same 6-10 record as they did in 2011. Now for the 13th 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 what might happen with next season's roster. This is complicated by the fact that there is a brand new coaching staff at One Bills Drive:

Quarterbacks: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyler Thigpen, Brad Smith, Tavaris Jackson

Fitzpatrick showed that he is just not a franchise quarterback. He played about to the level of his contract and that is a mediocre quarterback. He struggled for most of the season with his accuracy despite completing just over 60% of his passes. He matched last year's total with 24 touchdown passes and threw less interceptions with 16 but that is still too many.
Final Overall Grade D: We may see three new players at this position.
Fitzpatrick D: Fitz may not fit into Doug Marrone's plans.
Thigpen F: Barely played which is good. He was a Gailey guy and will definitely be gone.
Smith Incomplete: Only threw one pass out of the wildcat and saw more time at wide receiver. Not likely an option in Nathaniel Hackett's offense.
Jackson Incomplete: It will be up to Marrone and Hackett to see if they want to try and re-sign him after a lost season.

Running Backs: C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Tashard Choice, Corey McIntyre

This position saw Jackson break down for the second year in a row with injuries and the emergence of Spiller as the biggest star on the team. If Chan Gailey wasn't so stubborn he would have used him more and maybe saved his job. Spiller finished with over 1,700 yards from scrimmage in limited touches finishing with 6 yards per carry on the ground and 1,244 yards rushing. Jackson had a career low 3.8 yards per carry.
Final Overall Grade B+: For the second year in a row this is the best position on the team.
Spiller A+: Marrone will learn from Gailey's mistakes and make him the feature back next year.
Jackson C: Could flourish as a role player in Marrone's innovative offense.
Choice C+: Unrestricted free agent who won't be back with Gailey gone.
McIntyre B: Every team needs a fullback and he is a very good one. Free agent who will likely be re-signed.

Receivers: Stevie Johnson, Donald Jones, T.J. Graham, Brad Smith, Scott Chandler, Lee Smith, Dorin Dickerson

Johnson became the first receiver in team history to have three straight 1,000 yard seasons and Chandler matched last year's total of six touchdown passes. Not much happened after that. David Nelson's ACL injury on opening day really hurt this unit. Jones was starting to finally come around before suffering a season ending injury. Graham struggled in his rookie year.
Final Overall Grade D: Two years in a row of a lack of talent from this unit.
Johnson A: Will be the number one receiver once again.
Jones B: Showed flashes last year. Will it be enough for Marrone to keep him as a restricted free agent?
Graham D: Marrone may be able to develop his talent. If he can't, Graham will be a bust.
Smith C: Gadget player that will be expendable unless Marrone has a thing for the wildcat like Gailey did.
Chandler B: His ACL injury may cost him the start of next season.
Smith B: Solid blocking tight end that should be brought back to compete.
Dickerson C-: Tweener player that will likely be tendered to see if he can fit in to Marrone and Hackett's plans.

Offensive Line: Cordy Glenn, Erik Pears, Eric Wood, Adam Levitre, Kraig Urbik, Chris Hairston, Chad Rinehart

This unit continues to suffer injury after injury but they constantly bounced back. They allowed only 30 sacks but that is seven more than their league leading total of 2011. They paved the way for a 5 yard average per carry thanks to the dynamic running of Spiller.
Final Overall Grade B: Solid unit but slipped a bit from a year earlier.
Glenn B: Was having a fantastic rookie season until an injury cost him a few games. He wasn't the same when he came back. Should continue to develop as the starting left tackle.
Pears F: He was awful before his injury shut him down. Will likely look for a replacement at right tackle.
Wood B+: Stabilizing force on the line will remain the starting center in his contract year.
Levitre A: A must to re-sign him. He wants to stay and they need him since he's the best player on the line.
Urbik B+: Solid starter at right guard should remain there after re-signing with the team.
Hairston C: Decent backup but need him to start less in 2013.
Rinehart C: Solid backup in the middle of the line. Should look to re-sign him.

Defensive Line: Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Chris Kelsay, Mark Anderson, Kyle Moore, Alex Carrington, Spencer Johnson, Shawne Merriman

This unit was envisioned to be a force when Mario Williams signed his $100 Million contract. At times it was dominant but they were very inconsistent and the line disappeared at key points of the season. Mario led the way with 10½ sacks but they came in bunches. The line did have 32 of the team's 36 sacks. It will be interesting to see if Mike Pettine trys to bring a 3-4 back to Buffalo.
Final Overall Grade C+: They were good but should have been, and needed to be, much better.
Mario Williams C-: They need to light a fire under him for next year. He will not be happy if they bring back the 3-4.
Kyle Williams C: Another foot injury hampered him. Needs to be finally healthy to bounce back in 2013.
Dareus C: Needs to finally develop into a dominant player. He is not playing up to the level of a third overall pick.
Kelsay C: New coaching staff and new era should spell the end of Kelsay in Buffalo.
Anderson D: Should show more next year when he's healthy.
Moore B: Should re-sign and could develop into a full time starter.
Carrington A: Had a surprising season and should continue to get a lot of playing time next year.
Johnson B: Played really well as a role player. As a free agent he's worth more to Buffalo than other teams.
Merriman C: His days in Buffalo are over and his career is also in jeopardy.

Linebackers: Nick Barnett, Kelvin Sheppard, Nigel Bradham, Bryan Scott, Arthur Moats

This unit was incredibly void of talent. Barnett was the most experienced player but seemed to lose a step. Sheppard struggled as a first time starter in the middle and the team never really found a third linebacker. Bradham showed the most promise and may develop into a decent player.
Final Overall Grade D: A complete overhaul for this unit is needed.
Barnett D: Time for the team to go in a new direction and cut ties with the aging Barnett.
Sheppard D: Likely a bench player if they can upgrade the talent in the middle of the defense.
Bradham B: Shows promise will likely start again next year.
Scott B: Still a tweener who will likely not fit in with Pettine's plans.
Moats F: Lost starting job and will likely not be in the plans next year.

Secondary: Stephon Gilmore, Aaron Williams, Leodis McKelvin, Justin Rogers, Terrence McGee, Ron Brooks, Jairus Byrd, George Wilson, Da'Norris Searcy

The secondary struggled which was expected with young players at the cornerback positions. Gilmore became the lockdown corner who took on the opponent's top receiver the second half of the season. Williams struggled mightily while Wilson slowly handed off the reigns to Searcy as Byrd had an all-pro type season. The unit only had eight interceptions.
Final Overall Grade D: Need some veteran talent to help the youngsters.
Gilmore B: Looked the part of a top draft pick. Should get even better with more seasoning.
Williams F: The new coaching staff needs to decide quickly if he can be a starter in this league.
McKelvin C-: Will likely try to bring him back next year but more as a returner than a corner.
Rogers D: New staff will likely replace him.
McGee D: His illustrious Buffalo career will mercifully come to an end.
Brooks C: Had some talent and will likely get some more playing time next year.
Byrd A: Great safety who is another must re-sign or they should use the franchise tag on him.
Wilson D: His Buffalo career may be over. If he's back he will be a backup.
Searcy B Will likely be a full time starter next year.

Special Teams: Rian Lindell, Shawn Powell, Leodis McKelvin, Brad Smith, Garrison Sanborn

It was a tumultuous season for this unit. Longtime punter Brian Moorman got released early in the season and Shawn Powell took over with mixed results. Another rookie, kickoff specialist John Potter, was released after not consistently kicking touchbacks. Lindell had a fantastic season after not trying a field goal early in the season. He only missed one kick all year until missing two in the finale. McKelvin did a fantastic job returning kicks with an 18.7 yard average on punt returns and a 28.3 yard average returning kicks.
Final Overall Grade B-: Solid season but weaker than usual in coverage.
Lindell A: Solid kicker in rough conditions will be back next year.
Powell C: Did well enough to return but may be challenged in training camp.
McKelvin A+: Should re-sign for his returning ability only.
Smith B+: Will they use a roster spot on him to return kicks? Probably not.
Coverage Teams F: Gave up three returns for scores.
Sanborn A: Is one of the best snappers in the league. Will be back next year.

Coaching: Chan Gailey, Dave Wannstedt, Bruce DeHaven

It was a total failure for the coaching staff. Gailey seemed clueless with some very questionable play calling. Wannstedt just couldn't adjust when his new 4-3 defense was failing miserably. DeHaven couldn't get his coverage units to play disciplined and was constantly changing parts in key positions.
Final Overall Grade F: Very disappointing season resulted in everyone getting fired.
Gailey F: Three very disappointing seasons come to an end with a 16-32 record.
Wannstedt F: Came with high hopes that came crashing down to earth.
DeHaven D: The game may have passed him by. Couldn't recapture the old Buffalo magic.

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