2005 Was A Year Of Disappointment
2005 probably goes down as the most disappointing season in Bills history. The season started with unbridled optimism as the team was suppose to be a playoff contender after falling one game short last year. They were suppose to use a strong defense and power running game to take pressure off the inexperienced QB on their way to the first postseason berth in six years. It didn't work out that way as the defense collapsed, the power running game was replaced by a finesse passing game, and the young QB struggled more than anyone thought. The result was a 5-11 season that started a major housecleaning. We broke down every game with position by position grades. Now for the sixth 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: J.P. Losman, Kelly Holcomb, Shane Matthews
Losman got off to a fine start leading the Bills to a victory in the opener. He then thought it was going to be easier than he thought. Boy, was he wrong. He never won another start and was benched twice during the season for Holcomb. Losman ended up 1-7 as he split the starts evenly with Holcomb. He did come off the bench to beat the Chiefs after Holcomb suffered a concussion temporarily giving him the starting job back. Losman struggled mightily in his first full campaign. He threw only eight touchdown passes and matched it with eight interceptions and a poor QB rating of 64.9. His biggest problem was accuracy, or lack thereof. He completed less than half his passes. Holcomb faired much better leading the Bills to three wins and had a QB rating of 85.6. He threw 10 TD passes and had 8 interceptions, four of those in the finale against the Jets. His worst game of the season. Matthews never saw the field this year although he was the number two QB for one game.
Running Backs: Willis McGahee, Shaud Williams, Damion Shelton, Joe Burns
Final Overall Grade C-: Lost a golden opportunity to let Losman take his lumps and gain valuable experience.
Losman F: He has a long way to go to live up to his first round pick status. Should have to fight for his starting job next year.
Holcomb B: Did a solid job settling the offense and managed a good game. Should fight for starting job next year.
Matthews Incomplete: Never played. Will likely follow through on his retirement plans.
McGahee got off to a fine start as he had a great first half of the season. He had four of his five 100 yard games in the first half. The second half was a different story, he averaged almost half the yards per game he had in the first eight weeks. He still finished with a respectable 1,247 yards on 325 carries for a 3.8 yard average. His average was near five yards in the first half. His touchdown production dropped tremendously as he only scored five times all year including huge drought in the middle of the season. Williams got the call on third downs almost exclusively which left people to wonder why their best back was off the field when the team struggled on third downs all season. Williams had 161 yards on 45 carries and caught 17 passes to McGahee's 19. Shelton was a solid run blocker but not as good as he was a year ago. He had one carry unfortunately it went for no gain on a fourth and goal play in Oakland. He was used a lot on screen passes, too much though as teams caught on. He caught 13 passes for 98 yards including one touchdown. No other running back touched the ball besides Burns who had one catch for 19 yards and a meaningless touchdown in the loss to Denver.
Receivers: Eric Moulds, Lee Evans, Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish, Sam Aiken, Jonathan Smith, Mark Campbell, Tim Euhus, Ryan Neufeld
Final Overall Grade D: McGahee's laid back me first mentality wore on the team and fans.
McGahee D: He will still be the number one guy next year but he has a lot to prove.
Williams C: Bills will look for an experienced back to challenge Williams for his role on the team.
Shelton D: Still will be the main fullback next year.
Burns Incomplete: Barely saw time in the backfield and will only stay if they value his special teams play that much.
Moulds struggled early in the year but caught fire late in the year when he became Holcomb's go to target. Moulds best three games happened after his one game suspension for arguing with an assistant coach on the sidelines. He caught 27 balls in the final three games finishing the year with 81 catches. He also led the team with 816 yards receiving but he became a possession receiver with a 10.1 yard average. He also added four touchdowns. Evans also had a much better second half of the season. He caught a team leading seven touchdown passes including two against Kansas City and three in one quarter against Miami. He averaged 15.5 yards on his 48 receptions for 743 yards. He seemed to be Losman's go to guy. Reed had a nice bounce back year as the slot receiver getting the call a lot on third downs. He finished with 32 catches for 449 yards and two scores. Parrish missed the first half of the season while recovering from a broken wrist. He worked his way into the offense slowly in the 2nd half and finished with 15 catches for 148 yards. He had a low 9.9 yard average for a person that is suppose to be a breakaway threat in the open field. He scored his first NFL touchdown in the finale loss to the Jets. He made one big play in the open field converting a 3rd and 18 that helped the Bills upset the Bengals. Aiken had only four catches for 57 yards while Smith had five for 56 yards including a beautiful move to score a touchdown on a third and goal catch. He was deactivated most of the second half. The tight ends struggled mightily catching only 22 passes all year and none for scores although Jason Peters scored one on a tackle eligible play. Campbell caught 19 of those passes for 139 yards. Euhus caught three and Neufeld only one. He was used more as a blocking tight end before suffering a season ending injury late in the year.
Offensive Line: Mike Williams, Chris Villarial, Trey Teague, Mike Gandy, Bennie Anderson, Jason Peters, Duke Preston, Greg Jerman
Final Overall Grade C: Unit would fare better with more consistent quarterback play.
Moulds B+: Gave the team a good reason to keep him. Will he take a pay cut after a lot of problems this past year? He most likely won't be here next year and that's too bad.
Evans C+: Came on in the 2nd half to recover from a sophomore slump. How will he do as the number one guy next year?
Reed B: Did a solid job in his role. May end up staying since it won't cost them that much to keep him.
Parrish D: Will have a bigger role in the offense next year but his size may hamper him.
Aiken F: Just hasn't developed. Won't figure much in the receiver role next year. Should stay for his special teams work.
Smith B: He's a playmaker and should have played more. Doesn't appear to be in the team's plans but should be on the roster next year.
Campbell F: Just didn't fit into the scheme. May be pushed for starting job by injured rookie Kevin Everett.
Euhus F: Knee Injury last year cost his development. May be back as the third tight end.
Neufeld F: Blocking tight end may have seen his last game as a Bill.
The unit really struggled opening up holes in the running game especially in the 2nd half. They also allowed 42 sacks, way too many with a young mobile quarterback getting 25 of them. Williams is officially a bust. He lost his starting job at right tackle and was moved to left guard. He had an array of injuries throughout the year that severely cut his playing time. Undrafted free agent Peters took over at right tackle and has tremendous upside. He played well for someone who was so green. Villarrial is steady at right guard but had one horrific game this season against Denver where he was called for four penalties. He also battled a few injuries and was replaced a bit by the rookie Preston who also has some upside at center. Teague was steady in the middle starting all 16 games. Anderson made way too many mistakes for a starting guard and lost his job to Williams but started 15 games because of injuries to Williams. Gandy played all 16 games at left tackle and graded out well but made some big mistakes at the wrong times all year long. Jerman played some right tackle early in the season when Williams was out and really played well before suffering an ankle injury.
Defensive Line: Aaron Schobel, Chris Kelsay, Ryan Denney, Sam Adams, Ron Edwards, Justin Bannan, Tim Anderson
Final Overall Grade F: This unit needs a complete overhaul. Levy will give it the attention Donahoe didn't.
Williams F: His days in Buffalo are over unless he takes a huge pay cut to play guard.
Villarial C+: The steadiest player on the line will most likely keep his starting spot.
Teague C+: A steady player who will likely be allowed to leave in free agency in the complete overhaul of the line.
Gandy D: Had an inconsistent year. May move to guard next year if the team gets a quality tackle or two in the offseason.
Anderson F: Was brought in for his run blocking but didn't open up holes and made mistakes. He may be gone or a highly paid backup next season.
Peters C: Showed tremendous talent and with experience will get better. Should be the starting right tackle next year.
Preston C: Did well in spot duty. Could end up as the starting center next year.
Jerman B-: Played well when he was in there. Should be brought back as a dependable backup next season.
Schobel had an inconsistent year. Getting two sacks in the opener, disappearing after that before turning it on down the stretch. He ended up with a career high 12 sacks. He also added 71 tackles as he was decent in run support. Kelsay didn't have as good a year as they thought he would. He didn't get too much pressure on the QBs and finished with only 2½ sacks and 46 tackles. Schobel and Kelsay both picked off one pass. Denney performed better than expected splitting time between end and tackle. He had four sacks and 35 tackles. Adams had a volatile season. He was benched for poor play and deactivated for a game which made him leave the team and go home. He didn't start another game all year but finished with two sacks against the Jets showing he can still play. He had three sacks in all. Edwards was grading out well before suffering a season ending shoulder injury early in the season. He was replaced by Bannan in the lineup who performed solidly but nothing to write home about. He had 40 tackles and 1½ sacks. Anderson didn't develop as much as the team hoped but did show some potential and improved his play as the season went on. He finished with 42 tackles and a sack and also deflected a few passes.
Linebackers: London Fletcher, Takeo Spikes, Jeff Posey, Angelo Crowell, Josh Stamer, Mario Haggan
Final Overall Grade C-: Didn't get much pressure and gave up huge chunks of yardage on the ground with huge holes.
Schobel B: Will be a fixture at right end for years to come.
Kelsay D: Disappointing season may have to fight Denny and a draft pick or free agent for his starting job next year.
Denney B: May have earned a chance to fight for a starting job next year.
Adams F: His days in Buffalo are probably over unless he can smooth over his relationship with Mularkey.
Edwards Incomplete: Likely will be re-signed at a reduced rate but needs to stay healthy.
Bannan C: Plays with a high motor. The free agent will likely be re-signed to stay as a role player.
Anderson D: Doesn't look like he will pan out as a starter. May look to replace him through the draft or free agency.
The Achilles injury to Spikes really hurt the defensive unit as a whole. He missed all but three games of the season. His replacement Crowell really came on nicely and finished 2nd on the team with 115 tackles and added three sacks and two interceptions. He looks like a playmaker. Fletcher had a monster year knowing he had to make plays with Spikes out. He finished with 158 tackles, four sacks and a pick. Posey was quiet again this year but added three sacks to go along with 61 tackles. Stamer and Haggan saw most of their time on special teams and on the goal line. Stamer was beaten by a rookie tight end for a score.
Secondary: Nate Clements, Terrence McGee, Troy Vincent, Lawyer Milloy, Jabari Greer, Eric King, Rashad Baker, Coy Wire, Jim Leonhard
Final Overall Grade C: Not the same unit without Spikes.
Fletcher A+: Best defensive player this year will be helped out by the return of Spikes.
Spikes Incomplete: It isn't a given that he will be his old self when he recovers from his injury.
Posey D: Most likely won't be back next year.
Crowell B+: Filled in so well he got a new contract. Insurance possible if Spikes doesn't make it back. If he does, one of them may move to Posey's spot.
Stamer D: Will return in his special teams role, not solid enough at linebacker to play when Spikes went down.
Haggan Incomplete: See Stamer above.
The Bills were suppose to have the best defensive backfield in the NFL but the veteran safeties seemed to get old overnight and their lockdown corner had a terrible season just before hitting the open market. Clements struggled all year and was constantly beaten by their opponents' best receiver. He had 102 tackles which are too many for a cornerback. He didn't make any big plays like he has in the past getting only two interceptions and one fumble recovery. Milloy seemed to slow down but he was hampered by injuries all year. He was tough enough to play through it. He had one interception and one fumble recovery to go along with 107 tackles, mostly in run support. Vincent seemed a step behind most of the time but did come up with some big plays. He had four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. McGee flourished this year and got a new contract as a reward. He tied Vincent with a club leading four interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. He also had one fumble recovery and made huge strides in his coverage abilities. Greer struggled mightily when pressed into action constantly getting beat. King developed nicely despite going through some rookie growing pains. Baker, Wire, and Leonhard all saw limited action. Baker did have one interception.
Special Teams: Rian Lindell, Brian Moorman, Terrence McGee, Nate Clements, Jonathan Smith, Roscoe Parrish, Mike Schneck
Final Overall Grade D: Pass defense slipped from an early number one ranking to a number 19 ranking.
McGee A: He was the playmaker and the lockdown corner. He may be the Bills number one corner for years to come thanks to his new contract.
Clements F: Terrible season will hurt him in the pocket in free agency. Still, he will get more than the Bills are willing to give him. Nice knowing you Clements.
Milloy C: Struggled despite playing with heart. Should return next year for his veteran leadership abilities alone.
Vincent C- Really getting old fast but should return unless the Bills find a better option.
Greer F: Showed promise in camp but played awful. May not return next year.
King B: Tremendous upside. May end up starting next year opposite McGee.
Baker D: Was inactive a lot late in the year. His days in Buffalo are numbered.
Wire F: Another Donahoe failure. May be gone under the new regime.
Leonhard Incomplete: Undrafted free agent showed some skills as a playmaker. Will return and may have a bigger role.
Lindell had a huge year for the Bills. He was 29 of 35 on field goal attempts but more importantly he was 10 of 13 from outside the 40 including a perfect 3 for 3 from 50 yards or more. He has never missed an extra point in his career. Moorman had another great year and finally made the Pro Bowl. He set a team record with a 45.7 yard punting gross average. McGee didn't make the Pro Bowl but he should have. He led the league with a 30.2 yard return average and returned one for a touchdown. Parrish averaged 26.1 yards on 10 returns and a whopping 13.3 yard average on 14 punt returns. Clements returned 8 punts for a 6.5 yard average while Smith returned six for a 6. 8 yard average and 5 kickoffs for a nice 24.8 yards average. The coverage teams did a great job covering punts and kicks led by Stamer, Burns, Aiken, and Haggan.
Coaching: Mike Mularkey, Tom Clements, Jerry Gray, Bobby April
Final Overall Grade A+: Bobby April had the best unit in the league for the second year in a row.
Lindell A+: Incredible bounce back year quieted his doubters. He will return as the kicker next year.
Moorman A+: He is the best punter in the game and finally got the well deserved Pro Bowl berth.
Return Game A+: Led the league in average drive starts after kicks with a whopping 26.6 yard average. McGee should be returning kicks for years to come with Parrish handling the punt return duties.
Coverage Teams A+: Another great year for a unit filled with great role players.
Schneck A+: Late free agent signee helped Lindell's game. A priority to re-sign him for 2006.
Mike Mularkey took a huge step back in 2005 and barely was able to save his job. He did a terrible job dealing with the personalities in the locker room and handled the Adams and Moulds situations wrong as well as the QB situation. He took over the play calling from Clements in week five but the offense showed little improvement. Gray got to hung up on blitzing and the defense was constantly burnt for big plays. April was phenomenal once again.
Final Overall Grade D: April's Special teams saves this from a failing grade.
Mularkey F: Struggled with the veterans, the QB situation, and the media. He's lucky to still have a job.
Clements F-: Was nothing more than a cheerleader down the stretch. He has already been fired.
Gray F: What a free fall for this unit. Gray will be elsewhere next year.
April A+: Should be elevated to assistant head coach for his outstanding job.