Monday, January 13, 2014
Bills positional review: Safeties
By Mike Rodak
Back in September, we broke down the Buffalo Bills' 53-man roster, position-by-position. Now that the Bills' season has ended, we'll review those grades:
Position: Safety (preseason grades)
Aaron Williams -- 80.9 percent
Da'Norris Searcy -- 63.7 percent
Jairus Byrd -- 55.4 percent
Jim Leonhard -- 53.5 percent
Duke Williams -- 2.9 percent
Jonathan Meeks -- no snaps
Preseason take: Drafting Williams and Meeks in back-to-back rounds in April helped to shore up the back end of the depth chart at this position. The Bills have a good mix of established veterans (Byrd, Leonhard), developing players (A. Williams, Searcy), and rookies (D. Williams, Meeks). Having Aaron Williams or Searcy become a more solid starting option would push this grade higher. Grade: B+
Postseason review: This grade should have been lower. Neither Williams nor Meeks made any sort of impact, which is troublesome considering the injuries the Bills endured in their secondary. Williams last defensive snap came in Week 5. Meanwhile, Leonhard gave the Bills valuable fill-in snaps throughout the season but showed that he is nearing the end of his career. He was a liability at times, as was Searcy. What seemed like a deep position at the beginning of the season ended up being top-heavy: both Williams and Byrd performed well, but when they weren't on the field things went downhill.
Preseason take: Byrd's contract dispute aside, his foot condition leaves this position in a tough spot, as it's not known when he'll return or if he will have to again miss time down the road. Beyond that, the Bills are relying heavily on a player who played another position (cornerback) for his first two seasons in Aaron Williams. Leonhard brings a steadying presence here, but it's still a position with a lot of short-term question marks. Grade: C
Postseason review: Byrd wound up missing the first five games but his foot injury was hardly a concern thereafter. Searcy and Williams shook off some midseason nicks, with Williams later placed on injured reserve with a rib injury that knocked him out of the final two games of the season. From an injury standpoint this grade should have been higher, but shaky play kept it from being among the team's more consistent and reliable positions.