2013 Was A Year Of Culture Change

The 2013 season was the 14th straight year that the Bills missed the playoffs and 9th straight season with a losing record. This was the third straight year the team finished 6-10 but this one feels different. The new coach, GM, and CEO are younger and more in touch with today's NFL. It does finally seem like they are headed in the right direction with the right leadership. Now for the 14th 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:

Quarterbacks: EJ Manuel, Thad Lewis, Jeff Tuel, Kevin Kolb

It was a disappointing season at the position because the team did not find out if they have their franchise QB or not. Manuel missed six games with three different knee injuries causing concerns about his durability and leaving the question unanswered. When he was on the field he had a weak QB rating of 77.7 and completed just 58.8% of his passes with 11 touchdown passes and 9 interceptions. They may have found their backup QB of the future in Lewis who came over just before the season started in a trade with Detroit. He started five games and completed 59.2% of his passes with four scores and three picks and a QB rating of 81. Tuel got one start and one very bad relief appearance.
Final Overall Grade D: The most important position was once again below average.
Manuel Incomplete: Has another year to prove himself as he has already been named next year's starter.
Lewis C: Should get some competition for backup job but has earned a chance to compete for it.
Tuel C-: Marrone loves him but if another QB gets brought in, he should go to the practice squad.
Kolb No Grade: If he's cleared to play, will be the QB to compete with Lewis but his playing days are likely over.

Running Backs: C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Frank Summers

This position was pretty much split down the middle thanks to an ankle injury by Spiller and Jackson battling a sprained MCL much of the season. Jackson was the guy who got the ball in crunch time as he gained 890 yards on 206 carries while Spiller got 933 yards on four fewer carries. Jackson added 387 yards receiving while Spiller struggled in the passing game with just 185 yards on 33 catches for a 5.6 yard average.
Final Overall Grade B+: The key to the entire offense.
Spiller B-: Injuries curtailed his production but seemed to be in Marrone's doghouse a bit and likely will continue to see a reduced role next year.
Jackson A: Coaches just love him and what's not to love? Likely to be the featured back in a split backfield again next year.
Summers B+: Solid job and should be the main fullback again next year.

Receivers: Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods, T.J. Graham, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley, Scott Chandler, Lee Smith, Chris Gragg

It was a down year for Johnson who struggled with injuries and the death of his mother causing him to miss a lot of playing time. He still finished 2nd in receptions (52) and yards (597) behind Chandler who had the best statistical year of any tight end in team history with 53 catches for 655 yards. Woods showed a lot of promise in his rookie year finishing with 40 catches for 587 yards. Goodwin and Graham were supposed to be a one-two deep threat. Goodwin couldn't stay healthy but did catch three touchdown passes from 40+ yards but the two players combined for just 40 receptions.
Final Overall Grade D+: This unit needs an infusion of size to go along with the speed.
Johnson D: Down year but Bills brass left little doubt he will be back.
Woods C+: Showed promise as a number two receiver.
Graham D: It is looking more and more like he is a bust.
Goodwin C: Has potential and will be back as the deep threat but he has to stay healthy.
Hogan C: Shows nice hands and earned the right to compete for a roster spot next year.
Easley B: Made a niche for himself as a fantastic gunner on special teams which will allow him to make next year's team.
Chandler A-: The team would like to re-sign him but won't break the bank so he will likely go elsewhere for more money.
Smith B: Solid blocking tight end that will likely be back in the same role next season.
Gragg C: Talented receiver who will be given a chance to continue his development.

Offensive Line: Cordy Glenn, Erik Pears, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik, Doug Legursky

This unit was incredibly healthy as four of the starting five played almost every snap with Legursky taking over at left guard after the release of the inept Colin Brown. The unit took a step back this year allowing 48 sacks and struggling at times opening up holes for the running game.
Final Overall Grade D: This unit needs new starters at left guard and right tackle.
Glenn A: Developing into a very solid blindside protector.
Pears F: 2nd straight awful season and he needs to be replaced. Chris Hairston will be given a chance after missing the year with an injury.
Wood C: Not a great year but with a new contract he is the hub of the offensive line for the next few years at least.
Urbik C: Average year and may be pushed for the starting job by J.J. 'Unga who Marrone loves.
Legursky F: No reason to bring him back as he was almost as bad as Brown. Antoine McClain or Mark Asper will get a chance here.

Defensive Line: Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Alan Branch, Jerry Hughes, Corbin Bryant, Stefan Charles, Alex Carrington

This unit had a great season and really meshed well to Mike Pettine's defensive scheme. This unit combined for 43 of the team record 57 sacks. They had unrelenting pressure from the Williams brothers and Dareus had his best season to date in clogging the middle and getting pressure on the QB. Hughes was a steal when they got him in a trade with the Colts and he had double digit sacks along with the Williams brothers.
Final Overall Grade A: Great year for the best unit on the team.
Mario Williams B+: Much better second season for the Pro Bowler and he will be right back in the same spot next year.
Kyle Williams A+: The best player on the team will have a completely healthy offseason for the first time in three years.
Dareus A: Finally developing into a dominant player. Will be back in the middle with Kyle Williams next year.
Branch A-: Did his job clogging things up after Carrington went down. Has a new contract and will likely remain a starter.
Hughes A: New surroundings made it a big year for Hughes. He will be the complement pass rusher to Mario Williams once again next year.
Bryant B: Showed promise in limited playing time will get a chance to challenge for a job next year.
Charles B+: Made a lot of plays in little playing time. May get a bigger look next year.
Carrington Incomplete: Had high hopes after great preseason but his season ended after three games. He is now an unrestricted free agent. May try to bring him back on a cheap one year deal.

Linebackers: Kiko Alonso, Manny Lawson, Nigel Bradham, Arthur Moats, Ty Powell

It appeared this would be a weak unit but thanks to the free agent acquisition of Lawson and the rise of the legend of Kiko Alonso, this unit held its own in 2013. Alonso was dominant early in the season and consistent down the stretch. Lawson did a great job containing the edge and was the best run stopper on the team along with adding four sacks. The weakside linebacker spot was a problem with both Bradham and Moats seeing limited playing time as the team went with two backers in many formations.
Final Overall Grade B: Could use one more starter to make this unit complete.
Alonso A: Nice surprise as the second round pick played every snap. May move outside if they bring in another guy in the middle.
Lawson A: Mid-level free agent signing provided big time results. Will be expecting more of the same next year.
Bradham C: Saw little playing time until the final month of the season. Likely didn't show enough to hold on to starting job.
Moats D: Saw almost no playing time down the stretch and will likely not be brought back as an unrestricted free agent.
Powell B: Showed some talent in limited playing time. May get more of a look next season.

Secondary: Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Nickell Robey, Ron Brooks, Jairus Byrd, Aaron Williams, Da'Norris Searcy, Jim Leonhard

A nice year for this group as they finished fourth in the league in pass defense. They were helped by a relentless pass rush but they contributed to it as well. Defensive back rushes accounted for 7½ sacks including 3 from Robey and 3½ from Searcy. The unit had 18 of the team's 23 interceptions, which was 2nd most in the league. 13 of those picks came from the safeties.
Final Overall Grade B+: Nice year to build on for the 2014 season.
Gilmore C-: Wrist injury hampered him even when he returned. He played better down the stretch and look for him to continue to rebound next year.
McKelvin A: Had by far his best year as a corner. Will he turn it to a full shutdown corner next year? He has a chance.
Robey A-: This undrafted free agent was a huge find despite his small stature. Will be the nickel back again next season.
Brooks F: He was bad when on the field and will likely not be on the roster next season.
Byrd A-: Another Pro Bowl season despite missing five games. The team wants him back and he is now open to returning. Likely will try to get a long term deal done. If not will they franchise him again? I don't think so.
Williams A: The move to safety was huge for him. He will be a cornerstone at that position next year with or without Byrd.
Searcy B Will be a starter next year if Byrd doesn't return.
Leonhard B- Wants to play one more year and the Bills will likely let it be in Buffalo.

Special Teams: Dan Carpenter, Brian Moorman, Leodis McKelvin, Marquise Goodwin, Garrison Sanborn

The unit struggled mightily under the supervision of new coordinator Danny Crossman. The highlight was Carpenter who was signed just before the season opener when draft pick Dustin Hopkins got hurt. He hit 33 of 36 field goals including team records for number of successful kicks from outside of 40 and outside of 50 yards. After Shawn Powell struggled the Bills went to an old friend in Moorman who brought stability to the punting game. McKelvin struggled holding on to punts and there was nothing doing in the kick return game either. The coverage units struggled at the worst possible times this season.
Final Overall Grade C-: There should be wholesale scheme changes.
Carpenter A+: They want him back but he will be in high demand as a free agent. Does he want to return? If he doesn't, then Hopkins will get his shot.
Moorman B: They want him back and he wants to be back so expected him to be the punter next year.
McKelvin D: His days as a returner may be over.
Goodwin C: Didn't get many chances but will get another shot next year most likely.
Coverage Teams D: Only gave up one score but several big returns happened at the wrong time. Easley is a solid gunner.
Sanborn A: Remains one of the best snappers in the league. Will be back next year.

Coaching: Doug Marrone, Nathaniel Hackett, Mike Pettine, Danny Crossman

Marrone seemed to succeed in beginning to change the culture at One Bills Drive. The team fought hard every week and were in almost every game. That is the first step to building a winner. Hackett had some growing pains and would likely be helped by the presence of a QB coach. Pettine was fantastic with his aggressive scheme but they still gave up too many big plays especially in the running game. Crossman was a complete failure even though Marrone wants to blame the lack of talent on special teams.
Final Overall Grade C: Looks like they are headed in the right direction.
Marrone C+: Acceptable first season now they need to make a big leap in year two.
Hackett C-: Needs to continue to grow into the position.
Pettine A-: If he can sure up the big plays allowed, then he will have a top defensive unit next season.
Crossman F: If it wasn't for his close friendship with Marrone, he would be fired.

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