It’s time to deliver the Buffalo Bills’ 2016 season awards! We have a number of diverse honors that will be awarded, including MVP, Most Overrated, and Most Promising Rookie. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
MVP — LeSean McCoy RB – Remember when people criticized the Bills for taking “only” 30 minutes to decide to trade Kiko Alonso for McCoy? That was funny. McCoy was AWESOME this year, and I do not think it can be reiterated enough. He is one of the rare, game changing, 3-down running backs that still remains in the NFL.
He’s the closest thing to Barry Sanders we have seen since the man himself. His elusiveness is otherworldly. Can his success be repeated again next year?
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) January 17, 2017
The imminent change in scheme to a one cut zone blocking scheme seems to favor his elusiveness and vision. However, he will be 29 next season, and he relies heavily on physical skills at a position in which they deteriorate quickly.
I’d give McCoy one more elite season, and then a gradual decline in physical abilities. It is a shame that a Hall of Fame talent was likely wasted in Philadelphia and Buffalo.
LVP — Jordan Mills RT – Mills was the one problem on the Bills’ offensive line. He played poorly this season, especially compared to his counterparts across the line. While he was not absolutely awful, he really brought the quality of his unit down. With no other obvious candidate for this award, Mills was the logical choice. If Mills could have managed to be even consistently average, then the great Bills line would have been even better. Can you imagine?
Protection slides right, what is Mills doing? Miller moves early. pic.twitter.com/OaoCd8rMS5
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) November 9, 2016
OPOY — Tyrod Taylor QB – I am a well known Tyrod critic, but the QB of a good offense needs to earn some type of award in today’s passing-centric NFL. Tyrod was his usual self, which is to say he was pretty good. He made highlight reel plays, and his impact on the running game cannot be truly measured. Defenses must account for his ability to make big plays on the ground every single down. While he has obvious flaws in the passing game, he was good enough to make the Bills’ offense not the reason they missed the postseason for the umpteenth year in a row.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) September 14, 2016
DPOY — Kyle Williams DT – The ageless wonder continues to amaze. Coming off of an injury riddled 2015 campaign, Williams stayed healthy and truly dominated this season. In a season where much of his defense was changing with health and his partner in the middle, Marcell Dareus, barely played half the season, Williams was the consistent attention grabbing force the Bills needed. His quickness shined, consistently disrupting plays in the backfield. It looks as though he will be back next season, and I think he will be a great fit in Sean McDermott’s scheme, which emphasizes penetrating interior defenders.
Most Improved — John Miller RG – One of my favorite players from the 2015 draft, Miller’s play really took off this season. This was particularly evident in the run game. He has deceptive mobility for a guy his size, and his power is phenomenal. His improvement took the Bills’ running game from very good to head and shoulders above the rest of the league this season. He was the one piece that really changed his game on the offensive line from last season.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) January 17, 2017
John Miller is definitely trending UP!! https://t.co/udqIDI2W3d via @cover1eturner
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) January 26, 2017
Best Rookie — Adolphus Washington DT – This award is handicapped by the first two picks’ extended absences (Lawson for half the year, Ragland the entire year), but of the remaining rookies, Washington was the only one who earned consistent playing time. He played well in spurts, showing surprisingly sound technique against the run. However, he was not as impactful as a pass rusher as I had hoped. While he was decent rushing the passer, I expected his dominance in this area in college to translate to the NFL more quickly. I may have set my expectations too high, but Washington had a promising year for a 3rd round rookie, and one he will build on under Sean McDermott. I am hopeful he is a steady contributor in the future and a potential Kyle Williams replacement if and when he decides to retire.
Coverage looks good. Motion changes from cover 4 to cover 3 pattern match. Washington is starting to use his length and hands much better! pic.twitter.com/jlmcC7DFaR
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) October 11, 2016
Most Concerning — Aaron Williams S – This is all injury related. Scary stuff. Jarvis Landry should have been suspended for his vicious hit on Williams,w no question about it. He knocked Aaron Williams out for the year. I am shocked reports are saying he is leaning toward coming back. Hopefully he is okay and stays that way for a normal career, but I am not optimistic on that.
Most Promising Rookie — Kevon Seymour CB – While Washington earned the Best Rookie award, in terms of future prospects, I am not sure anyone is a bigger Kevon Seymour fan than me. His technique is strong, and his ability to stay in the hip pocket of a WR is very impressive. Thrusted into action as a 6th round pick in the later stages of the season, he did not look out of place.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) January 4, 2017
In anticipation of Stephon Gilmore’s exit, I am comfortable with Seymour going into 2017 as the starter with the hope he grows. I foresee Seymour’s career floor being a solid starter, while is ceiling is substantially higher.
Most Disappointing — Ronald Darby CB – With all of the “Biggest Leap Candidate” talk in the beginning of 2016, I had a sneaky suspicion Darby was due for a step back, but even I did not expect this much of a regression. Darby’s technique fell apart at times this season, particularly when it came to playing the ball. This was an issue in college and talked about in the draft. His issues with actively playing the football were well documented, and it appears the loss of defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson, who was widely credited for Darby’s rookie year success, had a bigger impact than anticipated. Hopefully he can right the ship in a Sean McDermott defense that will require more zone play, compared to Rex Ryan’s heavy single man coverage scheme.
Most Underused — Charles Clay TE – It’s been widely publicized and discussed, but Charles Clay is criminally underutilized. A matchup nightmare who gets open regularly, his quarterback simply does not see him enough, and also cannot throw to targets to get them open for run after the catch opportunities. That is Clay’s strength, and he will continue to be misused so long as Tyrod Taylor is still the quarterback.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) February 2, 2017
Most Underrated — Sammy Watkins WR – Somehow, someway, this elite talent is still underrated by fans. I am amazed as to how. Ignore the price — that’s a debate for another day. He is on the team, whether you like it or not, and just like Julio Jones, you should not be evaluating the player based on the price. You need to evaluate the player based on the player’s performance and nothing more. He barely played this season, but his impact on the passing offense was noticeable.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) February 2, 2017
While many rely on basic statistics such as yards, touchdowns, etc. to measure a player’s impact, I believe those are almost useless for evaluating a player or unit. Too many factors influence these simple statistics. I think advanced statistics are more appropriate, and one of these I find useful is Yards Per Attempt. Measures of efficiency such as this allow analysts to delve deeper into player evaluation. The Bills’ passing offense in 2015 was 6th in Yards per Attempt.
In 2016 without Sammy Watkins, it ranked 22nd. This is a HUGE drop. Watkins is about to enter only his 4th season! He missed the majority of his 3rd season due to injury, but the second half of his 2nd season he was absolutely dominant.
In fact, no one produced at a higher rate than Sammy Watkins other than Antonio Brown. Sammy Watkins is better than O’dell Beckham Jr, and I will scream it from the rooftops. Hopefully he gets to show it eventually, but until then, I will be here telling you how great he is.
Most Overrated — Corey Graham S – Most people think of Corey Graham as a good, maybe adequate safety. His coverage skills have deteriorated to a point where I cannot say he should ever start in the league again. It appears to be due to a loss of athleticism, but he simply cannot cover anymore. While a reliable tackler, I value coverage in a league where passing is king, and if he cannot cover, then he is a liability. It is clear that he was a detriment to the Bills’ defense. His salary is also high, at 5.375 million this season. It will cost 1.6 million in dead cap to release him, but I would still cut him as soon as the new year starts.
Best Unit — Offensive Line – With the improvement of John Miller, as previously discussed, this unit went from very good to top notch. They were very good in pass protection (outside of Jordan Mills) and absolutely dominant in the run game. Even when Eric Wood left the lineup, Ryan Groy stepped in and did a great job on limited preparation.
Swing to felton-Quick swim by by Suh picked up by Groy. pic.twitter.com/LFNTwrm0xp
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) December 28, 2016
He deserves a look as a long term option (potential Richie Incognito future replacement?). It will be interesting to see how the switch to Dennison’s scheme impacts their performance. Outside of Dallas, there is not a line more effective than the Bills’ offensive line.
Worst Unit — Safety – Yikes. When Aaron Williams went down, this unit become a dumpster fire. Duke Williams got cut, Corey Graham was the “best” player on the unit, and James Ihedigbo was signed off the street. This was a big reason the Ryan defense was ineffective this year. They were just putrid in coverage. In Ryan’s pressure defense, you need a safety who can cover and direct the defense. Without Aaron Williams, it was a given the defense would be cooked.
Most Surprising — Lorenzo Alexander EDGE & Jerome Felton FB – I gave it to both players because they both came out of left field. When we first started hearing about “Zo” it was in the middle of the injury/suspension plague known as Training Camp. If anything, he was supposed to be a stopgap until Manny Lawson or Shaq Lawson came back. To Bills fans’ delight, Alexander experienced a renaissance. He displayed a full array of pass rush moves and consistently the edge effectively in the run game.
I do not believe his performance is sustainable, especially with the scheme switch, but he is worthy of being brought back as a situational rotation player. Jerome Felton had a very poor 2015 and plays a position that has widely been phased out of the NFL. Felton then came out in 2016 and simply destroyed defenders.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) December 7, 2016
Head up with lineman and linebackers, Felton won often, opening huge holes through which McCoy and Gillislee scampered. He showed his poor 2015 was simply a down year and proved his reputation as an elite run blocker by supporting tremendous rushing production in 2016.
Best Backup — Mike Gillislee RB – Yards Per Carry is another efficiency measure I look at when evaluating the running game. The top 10 from 10 to 1 in yards per carry during 2016 were as follows: Devonta Freeman, Isaiah Crowell, Le’Veon Bell, Jay Ajayi, Ezekiel Elliott, Mark Ingram, Jordan Howard, LeSean McCoy, Bilal Powell…..and #1 in YPC for 2016: Mike Gillislee.
Touchdown Mike averaged 5.71 yards per carry to go along with 8 touchdowns, all as a backup! Gillislee could start for a lot of teams in the NFL and has been an integral cog in our successful running attack. The ability to not miss a beat when McCoy is out of the game gives the Bills a lethal run game with which to attack defenses. His one cut style is a tremendous contrast to McCoy’s free wheeling style, and will be fun to watch again in 2017.
Gillislee is a natural zone runner. Bounce/Bang not there. Reads the NT, bends it back, squares shoulders, protects the ball, breaks tackles pic.twitter.com/SNLoKsMbaz
— Cover 1 (@Cover1Bills) January 25, 2017
Even with everything that happened in 2016, I still believe this is a 10-11 win team without some poor luck on the field, not to mention injuries. Do not look at 2016 as an awful season. Look at it as a realization. There is talent on this team, and I trust the Bills’ front office to build on it for the future.