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unfortunately none will make the pro bowl. I feel so bad for Fletch, he wants to go so bad.
I don't think so I really think Moorman, Lindell, Schobel, Fletcher and MAYBE Jason Peters will. Lee Evans is a possibility.
Lindell I doubt would get in even though there's really no great argument for any one guy in the AFC. Moorman is great and liked around the league. Fletch and Schobel have numbers and some big plays, but they're both on the outside chance of getting in. Too much competition for Evans, and Peters has absolutely no chance
At the end of NFL draft weekend this past April no one at One Bills Drive, or anywhere else for that matter, could have envisioned how important the contributions of the nine men selected by Buffalo would be just seven months later. For a team on its way back to respectability it's been significant.
"Like everybody we thought we had a good draft," said head coach Dick Jauron. "Clearly you don't draft anybody that you don't think is pretty good. It takes a while, sometimes a number of years to see who developed and who was a good pick and who wasn't. Sometimes it's luck and sometimes it's skill. Our class has had to play quickly. A lot of them have had to go in there and play."
That has been particularly true on the defensive side of the ball where every defensive player drafted has made at least one start, with the exception of defensive tackle John McCargo, who was placed on injured reserve with a broken foot in Week Six after appearing in just five games.
In fact the Bills are one of four NFL teams to start four or more rookies through the first 13 games of this season. Only the Packers, Texans and Raiders have used rookies as extensively as Buffalo.
Donte Whitner and Ko Simpson were starters almost from the beginning of the 2006 campaign. Whitner and Simpson didn't start in Week One, but played extensively at New England. Whitner made his first career interception late the game which he would've taken back for a touchdown had it not been for a penalty called on Buffalo. Even Simpson didn't think he would play on defense any time early this season, but Troy Vincent's hamstring injury in the opener and subsequent release has allowed the rookie free safety to start in 12 straight games.
"I just thought I would come in and play special teams and back up Troy Vincent," said Simpson. "But he went down so I got thrown in the fire and I've been learning on the run. Now I'm at the point where I'm just out there playing. I'm not thinking, I'm just trying to make plays."
Both Simpson and Whitner made their first career starts at Miami in Week Two. The two safeties looked back at film of that game in preparation for this Sunday's second matchup with the Dolphins, and were amazed by their level of play at that time.
"We were watching the tape and we were thinking, 'Golly, we were young,'" said Simpson. "We were out there messing up. We weren't playing how we're playing now so we reflect back on that we know that we're a lot better right now."
"We know a lot more than we did then," said Whitner. "We now know more of what to expect in each ball game and we've become more comfortable with each other out there. We're just playing now."
The pair of defensive backs is third and fifth in tackles and they've combined for three interceptions.
"When we drafted these kids we said there were going to be some growing pains," said defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. "I think Ko and Donte have fit into our plans earlier than we wanted them to, but they've come through and done a nice job for us."
Fellow defensive back Ashton Youboty finally got on the field making his first career start last week against the Jets when the Bills opened up in the nickel package defensively.
Behind from the start in his rookie season, due to the death of his mother, the staff was reluctant to throw him out on the field having never even seen him in a preseason game. But his steady performance last Sunday will no doubt encourage the coaches to make use of his talents again.
"I was just happy to have a chance to help the team," said Youboty. "A lot of the guys were happy just to see me active (for the game). Being able to help the team get a victory is something I appreciate. I look forward to my next opportunity."
If Youboty finishes the season with some more promising performances it could give the Bills a potential replacement option if they're unsuccessful in re-signing Nate Clements.
Kyle Williams was considered a steal in the fifth round this past spring. And he stole the show at training camp as a no-nonsense, high-effort defensive tackle that quickly assimilated to the pro game.
Williams' play improved through the first quarter of the season so much that he assumed the starting nose tackle role in Buffalo's front four in Week Six and hasn't looked back.
"Kyle was a guy where what we saw on tape was what we got," said Fewell. "Kyle has been instrumental in terms of doing the things we needed to have done at that position. We'd like him to gain a little more weight, but his contribution has been significant."
He and fellow defensive tackle John McCargo could be a formidable duo in a few years. McCargo was just scratching the surface of his ability when his rookie season was cut short with the broken foot he sustained in early October.
Perhaps no one has been a bigger surprise however, than linebacker Keith Ellison. The sixth-round pick was expected to be a solid special teams contributor in his first season, but he quickly found himself lining up on the weak side at linebacker in Week One.
After Takeo Spikes suffered his hamstring injury in the first half of the season opener, Angelo Crowell took his spot on the strong side and Ellison stepped in on the weak side. His head was swimming, but he wasn't getting undressed by Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense and finished with eight tackles. Since then Ellison has made four starts, with his greatest challenge last week. Already starting for an injured Angelo Crowell on the weak side, Ellison had to flip over to the strong side when Spikes left the game with knee and ankle injuries.
"It's phenomenal what Keith did because he got no reps at the strong side linebacker position," said London Fletcher. "All his reps were on the weak side and there are differences between those two positions in terms of run fits and he did a great job of adjusting."
Ellison admits if he had to make that switch early in the season he may have been in trouble, but late in the year he doesn't even feel like a rookie anymore.
"I have a better understanding of the defense and my role in it and what they want me to do out there," he said. "Trying to adjust to the NFL game and learn a new system is tough early, but after 14 weeks you're a lot more comfortable out there."
For a sixth-round pick to provide quality play in four starts and several relief appearances as a rookie, at such an important playmaking position, has been huge.
"I think Keith Ellison has been the surprise of the class," said Fewell. "We thought he was a good player. We thought he was a smart player, but we didn't know how smart he was. He's the diamond in the rough in this draft class because he's come in and played SAM linebacker, he's play WILL and he's played nickel WILL. The kid has done a remarkable job."
And Ellison is not alone. On the other side of the ball Buffalo plugged in rookie seventh-round pick Terrance Pennington at right tackle during the bye week and never looked back.
The 6'7" 325-pound tackle knew it wasn't going to be easy at first.
"Of course my first couple of games I was a little nervous," Pennington said. "I guess all my confidence wasn't there. I was going through a learning process, but now my mindset is more like I need to do my job and do whatever it takes to win. I feel a lot more relaxed out there. It's just a game now to me."
While Pennington has received a lot of help in pass protection from the tight ends and the backs, he has held his own for the most part. In Week 11 this seventh-round pick went up against the player taken first off the board in Houston defensive end Mario Williams and held him to two tackles and no sacks in a Bills win.
"I just took being a seventh-round pick and used it as a chip on my shoulder to show the other teams what they've missed," Pennington said. "I just want to show the Bills that they got a good player, hard worker, good guy character-wise, basically everything they expected me to be and more."
Fifth-round pick Brad Butler and seventh-round pick Aaron Merz have also found their way onto the field in supporting roles this season. Butler is currently the team's third tackle and Merz is one of two backup guards.
Ultimately the players know what the benefits of all this early playing time can mean not only for them, but the future success of the team.
"Us coming in with the Bills trying to rebuild, it makes it even better for us to play now," said Pennington. "Instead of this being a season where we learn technique and learn how to play and then maybe next year get on the field, we're going in and jelling with the other players this year. So maybe after this year with everyone buying into the system we can get better in the offseason, and next season just dominate. That's what we're all hoping for."
Just as many had the Bills taking a TE in the first round last year, citing it as a "major need", I think we'll all be fighting those who have the Bills drafting a QB in the first round. JP is steadily improving after all the setbacks he's had in his small career. Here's to more hope over the horizon.
I actually believe OT, DT, and QB were the picks being oft given to the Bills last year
I doubt we'll see as many people going for QB to the Bills this year (though many are like sheep to the Scott Wright mock, so we could see it more than anticipated). We could see a tackle, guard, wide receiver, tight end, any defensive psoition besides safety, and yes, QBs in mocks this year. I'm going with a LB or WR for my pick, but players on either line could have fair arguments