Although the Buffalo Bills have used this off season to revamp Greg Roman’s offense, it’s the defensive side of the ball that continues to receive most of the praise. After turning in a top-5 overall performance in 2014 and with Rex Ryan in town, this unit’s expectations couldn’t be higher heading into the 2015 season.
We’ve seen over the past few years how a Rex-coached defense can hang tough and stay competitive even if the skill on the roster isn’t top-notch. That’s good news for a Bills squad that returns all but one starter and has an infusion of talent ready to break out. While the dominant “Cold front” garners a majority of the headlines, there’s another position that’s been ranking highly this off season.
The Bills’ cornerbacks are rated fifth-best in Bleacher Report’s NFL Power Rankings that look at the top CB Duos across the league for 2015. In the write up, Ian Wharton mentions Stephon Gilmore as a rising shutdown corner and how the 24-year old impressed last season. Gilmore was only targeted 69 times on 489 cover snaps (plays he’s actually in pass coverage) and totaled three interceptions in the 2014 breakout campaign. His play making ability was clearly on display while often covering the opponents #1 receiver.
The second half of the dynamic duo is veteran Corey Graham, who had the 8th-best PFF ranking out of 108 cornerbacks last year. The versatile veteran saw a lot of time filling in for the injured Leodis McKelvin and made the most of it, forcing quarterbacks into the 5th-worst QB rating of 57 when they threw at him. Besides being on the field for a lot of snaps, Graham’s exact role isn’t currently defined as he could start opposite of Gilmore or slide over to safety and replace the departed Da’Norris Searcy.
Even though he wasn’t mentioned in the write up, it’s worth noting that McKelvin had a pretty solid season himself in 2014 despite only appearing in ten games. He held QB’s to a 79.0 QB rating when targeted and came away with a team-high four interceptions. Leodis grades out as a top-20 CB in 2013 and will be looking to regain that form in Rex’s new defense.
With three legitimate cornerbacks on the roster and another talented one taken in this year’s NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills are looking deep in the secondary. Their exact roles may not yet be clear, but having an influx of starting-caliber player’s at the position is a good problem to have.
It’ll be interesting to see if this unit can live up to all the preseason hype.