Upon Further Review: Bills Week 14

December, 9, 2013
12/09/13
10:00
AM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- A review of four hot issues from the Buffalo Bills' 27-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

Bills must take hard look at Spiller: Here we are again. For the fourth time this season, running back C.J. Spiller averaged 2 yards or fewer per carry. Since the Bills did not list Spiller on the injury report last week, it's hard to blame injury for his performance, unless Spiller comes out this week and says he wasn't fully healthy entering the game. Of Spiller's 11 carries Sunday, seven gained 2 yards or fewer, a disturbing trend that puts the Bills at a crossroads with their former first-round pick. Spiller is signed through the 2015 season, but it's going to be hard for the offense to move forward unless Spiller can become a more consistent runner. We saw his explosive potential again Sunday, when he had an 83-yard catch-and-run touchdown called back by a penalty. However, the Bills must ponder whether those plays are worth the harm his running style causes the offense on an all-too-regular basis.

[+] EnlargeStevie Johnson
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsThe Bills have a decision to make in the offseason regarding the future of receiver Stevie Johnson.
Ditto for Johnson: The Bills will need to decide this offseason on wide receiver Stevie Johnson, who is due a $1.75 million roster bonus for 2014. Johnson is the Bills' leading receiver, but that's not saying much within one of the NFL's worst passing offenses. Johnson has been hurt by three factors: (1) inconsistent quarterback play from EJ Manuel, (2) a bevy of injuries that have caused him to miss two games this season and limited him in others and (3) critical mistakes, including a lost fumble near the end of the Bills' loss in Toronto and a pass off his hands that was intercepted by the Buccaneers on Sunday. The Bills must consider, then, whether their quarterback will be better, whether Johnson can stay healthy next season and whether Johnson can limit his costly errors. If not, they might move on with their second-round pick this past April, Robert Woods, as their top receiver.

Hedging Manuel in 2014: The one player who we know will still be with the Bills next season is Manuel. They won't move on from their first-round pick anytime soon. There have been times this season when he has looked promising, particularly three weeks ago against the Jets. Yet that's not enough. The Bills must hedge their bets and contemplate adding insurance for Manuel next season. Whether that comes through drafting another quarterback or signing a veteran backup is a topic for later, but if Manuel is having the same problems at this time next season that we're seeing now, and the Bills haven't improved their depth at quarterback, it will be a tough spot for the franchise. While Manuel has plenty of time to turn things around, there needs to be a backup plan in place going forward.

What about Graham? Like Johnson, the play of T.J. Graham has to be taken with a grain of salt, given the Bills' situation at quarterback. However, for Buffalo's third-round pick last season, Graham seems to be heading nowhere fast. He's a speed threat, no doubt, but the Bills have seen that come to fruition far too few times this season. More specifically, it's easy to get excited about his 40-yard touchdown catch against the Jets or his 47-yard grab against the Bengals, but Graham has exceeded two catches in only one game this season but has gone without a catch in three others, including the past two. You can point to either Graham or Manuel (or both) for such a lack of results, but either way, it's not a good sign for the Bills.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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