The Bills Should Be Making 2014 New Year's Resolutions
By Jo E. Prout
The Buffalo Bills are last in the AFC, and their chance at the playoffs – a goal Buffalo has not achieved since 1999 – is shot. The Bills still have five weeks left on the field to set the stage for the team they want to become next season.
Head coach Doug Marrone must work to develop young quarterback E.J. Manuel’s game in two ways: first, Manuel has to stay healthy. His knee injury early in the season cost him critical game time, and arguably affected the Bills’ 4-7 record.
Second, Marrone needs to let Manuel run the full offense in game situations to be sure Manuel is up to speed and ready to go for preseason 2014. At this late date, allowing Manuel to learn the game by trial and error should take precedence over winning or losing.
By the same token, the Bills need to figure out what happened to their running game. After hyping running back C.J. Spiller early in the season, Spiller suffered a high-ankle sprain, which severely limited his game time. Running back Fred Jackson pushed on for the Bills, but Buffalo’s running game was almost non-existent for most of the season.
“We’re trying to be very productive in the run game. We’re trying to gain yards, [and] keep things at a short distance,” Marrone said earlier this month. “We were not very good on third-and-four or third-and-five or less ... We put ourselves in those situations where we have to be able to be more efficient there.”
Marrone summed up the Bills’ running game this season while speaking about Buffalo’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Did we run the ball like we wanted to the other day? Absolutely not,” he said.
Finally, Buffalo needs to keep its newly-healthy defensive line intact. With a secondary diminished by injury and further weakened by roster additions and subtractions deep into the season, the Bills seemingly cut themselves off at the knees defensively.
The Bills’ success against the New York Jets in November was due, in part, to a recovered defensive line. If the Bills can keep their defensive line healthy and stable, the players might just mesh into a fine machine, ready to take on the remaining teams on their schedule this year and into the next season.