Tsuj’s Ten: Cautious optimism
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • September 20, 2011 @ 8:00am
1) Shocking Bills: I’ve live-blogged every Bills game since Week 1 of the 2009 season, but I opted not to for the Raiders game. I know, I apologize to the 10-15 people I disappointed, but you learn a lot more from a football game when you can watch it without typing furiously between plays and guzzling caffeine-infused beverages. Basically, the Bills are a 10 win team with very little margin for error. A key injury—to a Fred Jackson or a Ryan Fitzpatrick, not a Roscoe Parrish—sinks the ship, as the Bills definitely lack the depth of a Green Bay or New Orleans in order to keep up.
The positive signs are obvious—a stouter than expected offensive line, an aggressive, multi-faceted passing game and a stiffer run defense—but the next two points are weaknesses that could keep Buffalo from the playoffs.
2) Leodis McKelvin: It’s safe to say that he’s moved from “frustratingly inconsistent” to “maddeningly bad.” What makes it more troubling, though, is that he teases us with his athletic ability and then ignites our anger with his decisions. I’m sure his Pro Football Focus rating this week will be in the (-3)s, and fifth rounder Denarius Moore shouldn’t have been too much to ask in a match-up. If Terrence McGee misses a large portion of the season, Buffalo’s pass defense has to compensate by admitting that McKelvin isn’t the #1 corner, or else DeSean Jackson, Vincent Jackson, Santonio Holmes and Brandon Marshall will run wild against the Bills.
3) Sample size: For Shawne Merriman’s sake, I’m happy he’s made it through two games in full health. Still, I was able to watch him more closely without live-blogging, and the Raiders’ Jared Veldheer, the sixth worst left tackle in the NFL in 2010, shut him down a week—without much help—after Branden Albert single-handedly stymied him. The explosion we saw in the preseason game vs. Chicago has vanished again—or maybe J’Marcus Webb is that slow! When Chris Kelsay is the most dangerous pass rusher of your linebacker corps, you won’t get much pressure on the opposing quarterback.
4) Not worried about the Bulls: UB lost on the road to Ball State, 28-25, conceding two fourth down conversions on the Cardinals’ game-winning drive. The Bulls were a Khalil Mack step away from their first road win against a MAC West Division opponent, and that’s admirable enough. We’ve learned that Chazz Anderson should be able to keep Buffalo in every contest—aside from maybe Tennessee—and Branden Oliver is a different runner this year than last. If you told me in August that the Bulls would be 1-2 but competed well in all three games, I would have been shocked. Despite the blip, this team is still playing beyond expectations.
5) Means too nice: Without an opportunity to watch the Ball State vs. UB game, I can’t say I’m positive about this point, but the Bulls needed more from Steven Means. Still too undersized at the point of attack, especially as a 3-4 DE, if Means isn’t getting after the passer, he’s rather useless. No sacks and only one QB hit? Not enough, unfortunately. By all accounts, the Bulls’ secondary has held up well—especially with Najja Johnson recording four passes defensed against Ball State—but it’s the defensive line that’s slowing the unit.
6) Mercer Timmis is a monster. I’ve written extensively about Chad Kelly, the St. Joe’s quarterback that’s committed to Clemson, but Timmis, the running back/linebacker for Canisius, isn’t far behind in terms of potential. Syracuse, the University at Buffalo and Pittsburgh are reported to be in play for the ferocious runner, and Scout.com projects the Canadian transfer as a linebacker at the next level. He laid at least one borderline-dirty, message-sending hit on Kelly at the end of the first half and showed toughness by playing through an ankle sprain. I suppose 248 yards on the ground isn’t too shabby of a total either. Watch TBN reporter/videographer Lauren Mariacher’s highlights here!
7) Stuuuuuu: I’d be remiss if I didn’t have a soccer paragraph in the Tsuj’s Ten, and while Roberto Mancini’s wild collection of playthings (that came out worse than I intended) is a deserving topic, Stuart Holden, United States men’s national team midfielder and probable key cog in the 2014 World Cup team, returns for his club team, the Bolton Wanderers, against Aston Villa in a Carling Cup clash on Tuesday. Ideally, a quick return to form will have Holden in Jurgen Klinsmann’s plans for two October friendlies against Honduras and Ecuador, but Klinsmann seems sensitive to club obligations thus far.
8) Fantasy Football, team: Magnum Rolle: I’ve had golden luck the past decade with first round picks staying healthy—not so in 2011, as Jamaal Charles’ ACL tear shelved him for the year. My third round pick, Tony Romo (hey, there was a quarterback run, and I’m a follower), nearly bit the dust in the same week (cracked rib, punctured lung.) I guess it’s good I have five different teams.
9) Trouble in Banditland: I can safely admit this now—my favorite Buffalo Bandit was traded to the Edmonton Rush. Chris Corbeil, once thought to be the lynch-pin of a young, physical Buffalo defense, was shipped to the West Division for a second round pick in 2011 and a conditional first rounder in 2012. In the dispersal draft—R.I.P. Boston Blazers—Buffalo added sharpshooter Kevin Buchanan, a player that minced the Bandits for five goals and four assists (on 19 shots!) in Boston’s 16-9 win late in the 2011 regular season. A sound addition, for sure, but Buffalo’s defense will be considerably weaker next year, barring further player moves.
10) And now watch former Bill Donte Whitner (SF, #31) take a huge bite out of this run fake, and then get burned really, really badly by a guy no one has ever heard of!