STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
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QB Tyrod Taylor rushed for 53 more yards and finished the season with a team-record 568. That total is the 53rd-best in NFL history for a QB.
RB Karlos Williams rushed for 24 yards and a TD, but suffered a knee injury on the scoring play and did not finish the game.
RB Mike Gillislee had a brutal day as he rushed 24 times for just 28 yards.
DT Marcell Dareus suffered a broken foot in the fourth quarter.
WR Sammy Watkins caught a career-high 11 passes for 136 yards, abusing Jets CB Darrelle Revis on most of the catches.
WR Greg Salas stepped into a prominent role for the first time since joining the team and caught three passes for 41 yards.
P Colton Schmidt had a 44.4 net average on five punts on a cold, windy day.
CB Leodis McKelvin made a critical interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter, and he also made five tackles.
DE Mario Williams, probably playing his final game with the team, recorded his fifth sack of the season.
UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS: (*ended season on reserve list)
Starter - Tyrod Taylor. Backups - EJ Manuel, Josh Johnson (UFA).
In his first year as a full-time starter, Taylor had a surprisingly efficient season. He ranked seventh in the NFL in passer rating and threw 20 touchdown passes to just six interceptions. He also proved to be a dynamic dual threat as he set a franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 568. The one weakness in his game was reading the full field, but the Bills are confident that will come with more experience. EJ Manuel lost both of his starts when he replaced an injured Taylor at midseason.
Starters - LeSean McCoy, FB Jerome Felton. Backups - Karlos Williams, Mike Gillislee, Boobie Dixon, Cierre Wood.
McCoy came to Buffalo in a trade from Philadelphia and his season was curtailed by injury at the start and finish. He was only able to play 12 games, and in three others he either left early because of injury or was too banged up to be effective. Still, he led the Bills with 895 rushing yards. Williams was a tremendous complement because of his power running style, and he rushed for 517 yards and nine touchdowns, but he, too, was injury prone and played in only nine games. Gillislee took advantage of late-season playing time to earn a contract extension.
Starter - *Charles Clay. Backups - Nick O'Leary, Chris Gragg, *Marqueis Gray.
The Bills made Clay the fourth-highest paid tight end in the NFL when they signed him as a free agent and he was having a decent season with 51 catches, but he scored only three touchdowns and then he missed the final three games with an injury. Gragg has been with the team since 2013 and has produced very little. Gray missed the final three quarters of the season, and O'Leary was on the practice squad until being promoted for the last three games. Still, the Bills seem content with this group moving forward.
Starters - Sammy Watkins, *Robert Woods. Backups - Chris Hogan, *Marquise Goodwin, *Marcus Easley, *Percy Harvin (UFA), Dezmin Lewis, Greg Salas, Leonard Hankerson (UFA), Walter Powell.
Watkins emerged from a slow, injury-plagued start to surpass 1,000 yards on 60 catches, with nine touchdowns. He and Taylor clicked as a deep-threat duo, and it looks like Watkins is on his way to stardom. Woods and Hogan were decent second and third options, but they did not command the same respect as Harvin before he got hurt. It seems unlikely Harvin will return. The Bills re-signed Salas to a contract extension after he showed a few flashes in the last two games. Powell took over kick returns late, but was not part of the offense. Goodwin was hurt most of the year, and said he will try to qualify for the 2016 Olympics as a long jumper, putting training camp in doubt.
Starters - LT Cordy Glenn (UFA), LG Richie Incognito (UFA), C Eric Wood, RG John Miller, RT Jordan Mills (UFA). Backups - T Cyrus Kouandjio, G Kraig Urbik, G Ryan Groy, *T Seantrel Henderson, *T Tyson Chandler.
Incognito proved to be the Bills' top free-agent signing of the year and deserved to be picked for the Pro Bowl. Instead he's an alternate, as is Wood who had a nice bounce-back season due in part to playing next to Incognito. Glenn was rock solid, which he has been most of his time in Buffalo. He and Incognito rank as the top two re-signing priorities in the offseason, and losing either would be a blow because the Bills led the NFL in rushing, doing most of it over the left side of the line. Miller had an up and down and injury-slowed season, but seems like a building block. Right tackle is a weakness that may have to be dealt with.
Starters - DLE Mario Williams, DRE Jerry Hughes, *DT Kyle Williams, DT Marcell Dareus. Backups - *DE Jarius Wynn, DT Stefan Charles, DT Corbin Bryant, DE Jerel Worthy, DE I.K. Enemkpali, DT T.J. Barnes, DE Lavar Edwards, *DE Alex Carrington (UFA).
By far the most disappointing unit on the team. This was a group that sent three players to the Pro Bowl last year, and had none this year. Losing Kyle Williams in Week 6 was a blow, but the biggest problem with the line was its inability to adapt to head coach Rex Ryan's defense. The Bills went from 54 to 21 sacks, a remarkable decline. Mario Williams will be released, but the other three will return. Bryant and Charles provided the only notable depth. The Bills will look to replace Mario Williams in free agency or the draft because no one on the roster is capable of filling his shoes.
Starters - WLB Nigel Bradham (UFA), MLB Preston Brown, SLB Manny Lawson. Backups - MLB A.J. Tarpley, LB Kevin Reddick, LB Max Valles, *LB Tony Steward, *LB Ty Powell, *LB Randell Johnson.
Week after week, the Bills just never seemed to get much production from this group and if the line was the most disappointing unit on the team, the second level was the most unproductive. Bradham missed the last five games with an injury, while Brown played almost every snap but rarely made plays that caught your eye. He had a tough time playing quarterback of the defense in a new scheme that is complicated and demands excellent communication. Lawson was a jack of all trades, but he'll be 31 and can't be relied on to a big extent moving forward.
Starters - *LCB Stephon Gilmore, RCB Ronald Darby, S Corey Graham, S Bacarri Rambo. Backups - CB Leodis McKelvin, *S Aaron Williams, *S Cam Thomas, CB Nickell Robey, S Duke Williams, *CB Ron Brooks (UFA), CB Mario Butler, S Jonathan Meeks.
Gilmore was having a Pro-Bowl worthy season when he got hurt and missed the last four games. Darby was a revelation as a rookie, starting all 15 games he played and leading the team with 21 pass breakups. Losing Aaron Williams for almost the entire year hurt because Rambo and Williams could not adequately fill his shoes. Graham led the team with 122 tackles, but he was occasionally a liability in coverage in his first full year at safety. Robey was average at the nickel spot, and McKelvin was inconsistent as he always is. Safety will be a spot the Bills look to upgrade in the offseason.
K Dan Carpenter, P Colton Schmidt, KO Jordan Gay, LS Garrison Sanborn, KR/PR Walter Powell.
Carpenter had a weird year in that he made 23 of 27 field-goal attempts, but also missed six extra points. His job is on the line come training camp. Schmidt had an excellent season with a 41.3-yard net average and 22 punts inside the 20. Gay's touchback percentage dipped a bit from 2014, but he earned his roster spot after he was released and then brought back. The return game was a mess as three different players lost fumbles on punts, and penalties were a big problem for the first two-thirds of the season.