Through OTA’s, Training Camp and the first two preseason games, you’ve heard the same names over and over again. You have heard many times by now about the D-Line, the RBs and about how Ryan Fitzpatrick has to be consistent this year.
Well, we’re going to look at the players who play just as big a role as the Mario Williams’ of the team. The players who everyone has forgotten about amidst these huge, new contracts and the great rookie class of 2012. The lost players, if you will. These are the top 5 lost players.
First up, the speedy corner taken in the 7th round of last year’s draft, Justin Rogers. Everyone remembers the feelgood story from last year. The draft choice that everyone forgot about because of great draft choices like Dareus, Hairston, and Sheppard. The Richmond product came on strong at the tail end of last year and helped out in the return game, as well as on defense in the time he was on the field. Rogers played in a total of 13 games, and started the season finale at New England. His numbers defensively won’t jump off the page at you, (13 games, 16 tackles, 1 interception), BUT, his return game is huge. He can ignite a comeback with his kick return skills. I remember last year Miami traveled to Buffalo for a Week 15 game. The Dolphins just scored a touchdown, and on the ensuing kickoff Rogers returned it 54 yards into Miami territory. If the Bills score a TD on that possession its 20-14 Miami, and the Bills are right back in it. The Bills are pretty much loaded at CB, but Rogers will play a crucial role in the return game.
The next player, is Defensive End Chis Kelsay. Yeah, remember him? One of the longest tenured Bills on the team today? The rock on the defensive line ever since he was drafted in 03? The Cornhusker alum showed last year he still got some left in the tank with 41 tackles and 2nd on the team in sacks with 5, and don’t forget about his 2 forced fumbles.
The only time you’ve heard about Kelsay so far this off season is when he refused to give no. 90 to Super Mario. Kelsay is going to play a big role in Wannstedt’s new and improved 4-3 defense. Kelsay will be on a rotation subbing in for Williams and Anderson. Kelsay isn’t just a reserve player however. He’ll still play his heart out every time he’s out there. Kelsay has always played with a chip on his shoulder. Starting when he came into the league in 2003 and had to outplay the likes of Ryan Denney, Keith McKenzie (which was no tough task), and former Bills’ great Aaron Schobel for playing time.
The depth on the D-Line is tremendous, but Chris Kelsay is going to have to play like he has any other year, and do it consistently because the youngster Kyle Moore is still unproven.
The third player is youngster Arthur Moats. Moats is a third year player out of James Madison University, a 6th round pick in 2010. Coming in, Moats made an immediate impact registering 33 tackles his rookie season. Anyone remember the game in Minnesota when Moats crushed Brett Favre from behind? That helped end his games started streak. Last year he had a down year compared to his rookie campaign getting only 29 tackles but getting 2.5 sacks in back to back seasons. Moats had a good training camp, and through the first two preseason games has 8 tackles. Nothing is set in stone just yet, but it looks like Moats is going to overtake Kirk Morrison for the strong side linebacker position in the new 4-3 defense. Moats is going to have to play better than he has in his first two seasons, because of the lack of talent the Bills have at linebacker. Starting Weak Side LB Nick Barnett will likely continue his success he’s had in Buffalo so far, and Kelvin Sheppard has taken over the starting spot in the middle of the linebacking core after a pretty good rookie season. It’s up to Moats to be consistent. He has a good combination of size, strength and athleticism, but doesn’t have good range. It’ll be exciting to see if Moats can take this starting opportunity and run with it like the coaching staff wants him to.
For the next player we are going to flip sides of the ball and take a look at the offense. The next lost player is Kraig Urbik. Urbik, a former 3rd round pick in 2009, played in and started 13 games for the Bills last year. Urbik has been a solid lineman during his tenure in Buffalo so far, playing in 23 games and starting 15 of those. The reason he is so important is because if he can have consistent play, the offensive line depth is pretty good, once Erik Pears can get healthy. But, if he doesn’t, then the Bills have to put in Chad Rinehart, who for the record played great last year, and suddenly the depth isn’t there anymore. The Bills do have players such as Sam Young, and Zebrie Sanders who look to get some playing time this years as well however. And don’t forget about Pro-Bowl talent Eric Wood in the middle anchoring the line at center. Urbik will play good as he has so far the past two years in Buffalo, but if he does have inconsistent play, we will be seeing Rinehart get more playing time.
The final lost player is Donald Jones. For the most part, it looks like the Youngstown State product will earn the starting WR spot opposite Stevie Johnson. He had the spot last year before suffering an ankle injury and being put on IR halfway through the season. But he looks like he’s right back on track. Jones has good size at 6 foot and a little over 200 pounds with the quickness you want with a guy his size, running a 4.46 40 yard dash. Jones does a good job at route running and getting separation to get the yards after catch that is so valuable in the NFL. All this was on show during the second preseason game against the Vikings. Jones got the pass 5 yards after the line of scrimmage on a quick slant route, and used his quickness to get away from his corner, broke a tackle down the field, and the dived into the end zone from 4 yards out for a 31-yard score. The battle for the second WR position has been well documented throughout the offseason, and some expected rookie T.J. Graham to take the spot, but that isn’t going to happen. Jones was having a good year before his injury last year, racking in 23 receptions for 231 yards and a score. Jones is going to be pushed by Graham, and Derek Hagan but I expect he is going to have a breakout year, in his 3rd season after being signed as an undrafted free agent.
These five lost players do not have a lot of hype or talk surrounding them, but they are all going to play a huge role if the Bills want to end their playoff drought. A team isn’t built by a couple players that get the media coverage, there are 11 players on the field at one time, and every one of them play a role in the team’s success. Lets hope they all can gel together and build on what they did in the first half of last season, and most of all, let’s hope they stay healthy. Until next time, LETS GO BUFFALO!
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