Questioning The Competition
Sitting Down With The Enemy – Bills Editions
Nick: What’s the fan reaction to the waiver wire claim being put on Merriman to only have him be put on IR several weeks later? Any chance he stays with the Bills next season?
Frankie: I think the initial reaction among the fan base was optomistic surprise at first. You go back a year ago and Buffalo made a splash with the free agent signing of Terrell Owens. On the surface that move was pure marketing. Owens is a lightning rod for both controversy and attention, and controversy creates cash. The Bills were looking to pump life back into a frustrated fan base and it had its moments a year ago. I think in this case with Merriman, at the time the Bills were winless and a laughingstock around the NFL. I think they were looking for help in all areas and they believed Merriman would help this defense and maybe generate some ‘Lights Out’ flashes from a few years ago and help them win some games and avoid the 0-16 dubious mark. Unfortunately it never happened. His first practice lasted 15 minutes as a result of tweaking and aggrivating a pre-existing Achilles injury. It was clear he wasn’t going to get on the field any time soon this season and so the Bills put him on IR. Certainly it’s disappointing because you look at what he’s accomplished in his first few seasons in the league and you believe if this guy can get a clean bill of health what a factor on defense he could be again. I think his future with the Bills is questionable. Merriman has to be able to get fully healthy and show perspective buyers he’s got his legs back under him and he’s got to be able to sell that he can return to the form of his rookie and sophomore seasons rather than the injury plagued last two years he’s endured. The Bills were certainly interested before and I imagine they’ll be interested again. I think what might work in their favor is that Merriman will no longer attempt to command huge dollars because the fact he’s now deemed as damaged goods, and with a potential lockout looming, I don’t think there’s a GM in the NFL that’s going to throw a lot of money in his direction. I think now at a much reduced price tag, perhaps the Bills could be in play to keep Merriman in the offseason.
Nick: C.J Spiller is a phenomenal athlete no doubt, what do you contribute to his poor production his rookie season?
Frankie:Well, it certainly hasn’t gone as planned for marriage of CJ Spiller and the Bills in year one. With only 59 touches and one touchdown in the rushing and receiving game combined, Buffalo isn’t getting big returns on their ninth overall pick in last April’s draft. There’s no denying his speed and talents and capabilities. You can go back to Week 3 against New England to see he can be a force. Sadly, Week 3 is the last time Spiller has made any significant impact for the Bills. Selecting Spiller made some sense and had merit. He was a dyanmic playmaker throughout his career at Clemson. He was heading to a team that, let’s face it doesn’t generate much excitement and didn’t have any home run threats outside of Lee Evans and Fred Jackson. It’s a bit puzzling to me as to why Chan Gailey and his staff have brought Spiller along at snail’s pace this year. I thought they should’ve done what the Detroit Lions did with their rookie runner Jahvid Best and that’s try and get the football in his hands as much as possible. I definitely thought he’d have a lot more touches by now. I think part of it is Buffalo botched things up in the backfield early on. They tried to re-create the New York Giants’ three-headed attack a few years ago when they had Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw. It blew up in the Bills’ face right away. Fred Jackson became a ghost. Spiller’s touches were scarce and they probably held on to RB Marshawn Lynch too long before finally pulling the trigger on a trade with Seattle. No question Spiller has work to do. He’s not a great runner between the tackles and though his speed was a tremendous asset in college, I think he’s found out the hard way that in the NFL everyone’s fast on defense. With Fred Jackson firmly back in the driver’s seat as the No.1 back, it’s going to be difficult for Spiller to cut into Jackson’s touches. I still think Spiller could be a Reggie Bush-type player for the Bills in the future, but I feel confident in saying his rookie season has been a huge disappointment.
Nick: What would you deem the Vikings biggest threat this weekend? How do you believe the Bills will work around this?
Frankie:Even though it appears his status for Sunday’s game is questionable (I think he’ll be playing!!), their biggest threat is, was and continues to be Adrian Peterson. You’re talking about an all-world runner, one of the premier backs and players in all of football. It’s no secret, the book has been out on Buffalo going on two years now: run the football against them. The Bills sported the league’s worst ranked rushing defense a year ago and they’re well on their way to holding that dubious mark again this season. The New York Jets ate them alive on the ground earlier this season. Kansas City had much success running the football. Last week, Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall went for 150 yards against them. Clearly the Vikings sport a stout rusher and the Bills’ achilles heel is stopping the run. For me, if I were Minnesota it would be a simple formula: feed the horse! And the horse in this case is Adrian Peterson. I also look for Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe to be a factor. After failing to stop the run, the next item on the Bills’ can’t-do list is covering tight ends. Jermichael Finley, Dustin Keller, and Marcedes Lewis all found prime real estate in the Bills’ defense. The Bills are badly thin at linebacker and this could be a big spot for Shiancoe.
Nick:What are two players on the Bills that casual NFL fans don’t know about but should keep an eye out for future years?
Frankie:For me, 2 guys would be DT Kyle Williams and WR Steve Johnson. Johnson is probably more well known now than this time last week because when people hear his name they immediate think of ‘that guy that dropped the game winning touchdown’. But he’s been a true blessing this season, especially with the offseason losses of WRs Terrell Owens and Josh Reed. There was a huge void to fill at the No.2 receiver spot across from Lee Evans. I don’t think anyone could have expected Johnson to be so dynamic and so good that he’s arguably taken over the No.1 receiver spot from Evans. He and Fitzpatrick have developed a great rapport and he’s enjoying a potential Pro Bowl type season thus far. Williams won’t get much recognition and he’s not your typical Volkswagon-sized nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. But the guy brings such high energy, motivation and fire each play, each week. I think he’s become the best player on defense for Buffalo. He’s got 5 sacks and he’s becoming a steady force and a piece the Bills can build around in their front seven.
Nick: How can the Bills win against the Vikings this weekend? What will they have to overcome and or what match ups will they have to take advantage of.
Franie: If you asked me in August, I would’ve probably told you this one had potential blowout all over it. But a lot has changed for both teams since then and even over the past three weeks. I think if Buffalo is going to win this game, first they must at least contain Minnesota’s running game, specifically Adrian Peterson. If he goes off, it’ll be a long afternoon for the Bills. On offense, Fred Jackson has put some action back into the backfield and it’s no coincidence his 2009-type resurgence the past three weeks has the Bills playing head and shoulders above where they were in the first portion of the season. I just look for the Bills to continue to be aggressive. Look, they’re 2-9. What’s there left to lose? There’s not much of a difference if they’re 2-10 or 3-9, so go out be aggressive and take some chances. Defensively, if they can get to Brett Favre that’ll help and it’ll be a bonus if they’re able to force some turnovers.
Thank you so much Frankie for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by. We truly appreciate it. Good luck this Sunday, It will definitely be another fun match up!