“Football Numbers” examines the compelling numbers in the NFL. Follow the column on Twitter @nflnumbers
Football Numbers: Buffalo Bills Offseason
The number of times C.J. Spiller ran the ball in 2013. Before the season started, the Bills hinted that the talented back would have a huge workload, but he didn’t even lead the team in rushing attempts—Fred Jackson had 207. He did have some injury issues around mid-season, but even when he was healthy the team seemed to split carries between the two. Why the Bills shied away from their plan to run Spiller into the ground is puzzling; he is, without a doubt, the best playmaker on the team, and one of the more gifted athletes in the entire league. The Bills need to focus their offseason by building around Spiller and giving him a chance to be the guy in 2014.
The number of career interceptions by safety Jairus Byrd, who will hit the free agent market this offseason. Byrd is one of the NFL’s better-kept secrets; he’s picked off 22 passes in his five-year career, including four in 2013. If he played in a bigger media market, he would be a household name. If the Bills are smart, they will fork over the money and keep him, but if they let him walk, a big-market team that is in need of secondary help could snatch him. The Cowboys, Eagles, and Chargers come to mind. The Bills could place the franchise tag on Byrd for the second time in as many seasons, and have indicated that they plan to do so if a long-term deal cannot be reached.
The number of times Buffalo fell to eventual 4-12 teams in 2013. In two of these games, against Cleveland and Tampa Bay, the Bills lost by double digits. The other loss came at the hands of the Falcons, in overtime. If the Bills didn’t have such a thin roster, they would have probably won these games. And get this: if the Bills took care of business against these cellar-dwellers, they would have finished the year at 9-7 and vying for playoff contention. This offseason, Buffalo will need to add more depth at key positions, like offensive line, corner and wide receiver, in order to avoid these bad losses.
The Bills’ punt return average, which ranked 29th in the league. They also ranked 29th in a similar category— kickoff return average. How to fix these special teams woes? Many believe that a full season from speedster Marquise Goodwin would help, and it will, but he only returned kickoffs and not punts when healthy last season. The Bills would be smart to target a top-flight punt returner in free agency. Dexter McCluster would be a great addition; not only did he average 11.8 yards per punt return, but he also was a main contributor in the passing game. Signing McCluster would kill two birds with one stone.
The Bills’ third-down success rate in 2013, ranking—you guessed it—29th in the league. Much of the blame can be attributed to the revolving door at quarterback, as the Bills fielded three different starting quarterbacks over the course of the regular season. Buffalo could spice up a divisional rivalry by going after the Patriots’ Julian Edelman. Edelman showed in 2013 that he is one of the top possession receivers in the league, and New England is well known for not paying big for diminutive receivers like Edelman, so the Bills could have a chance at signing him.
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