It’s the holiday season, so how about we take a break from bashing the Bills for a day and find something positive about the season? Sure, it’s tough, but even the Grinch eventually discovered his softer, gentler side and big heart.
LeSean McCoy was selected for his fourth Pro Bowl, giving credibility to the Bills’ decision to trade linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Eagles for one of the NFL’s premier running backs. Alonso didn’t capture the fan base in Philly the way he initially did in Buffalo. The Bills won the lopsided deal.
Richie Incognito was named a Pro Bowl alternate. It could be viewed as a negative that he wasn’t chosen as a starter considering how well he played this season, but let’s look at the bright side. He made the most of his opportunity in Buffalo, evolved into a leader, repaired his reputation and resurrected his career.
Marcell Dareus, Eric Wood and Tyrod Taylor also were named alternates. Dareus still commanded respect in a tough season by his standards. Wood played much better this year than last, and Taylor gave the Bills a capable starting quarterback that had been missing in previous seasons.
The Bills lead the league in rushing at 148 yards per game through 14 games and should finish in the top two for the second time in three years. Buffalo also had the second-rated attack in 2013. The last time they led the NFL in rushing was 1992, capping back-to-back seasons in which they were No. 1.
• If you’re a fan of players from mid-major basketball programs, keep an eye on Kahlil “Kay” Felder from Oakland University in Michigan. The electric 5-foot-9 guard is the best little man in the country and could evolve into an All-American despite playing in the Horizon League.
Felder is the nation’s second-leading scorer at 26.9 points per game. The left-handed junior dropped 34 points on Toledo and 38 points on Washington, both victories, before lighting up top-ranked Michigan State for 37 points in an overtime loss Tuesday. He’s a tremendous leaper who can – and does – dunk in traffic.
UB coach Nate Oats remembered Felder all too well from the Public School League in Detroit. Oats coached national power Romulus High to a 27-1 record in 2012-13 with the only loss coming to Felder-led Pershing High. Romulus beat Pershing in a quarterfinals rematch later in the season.
“Kahlil was what made them go all year,” Oats said via text. “He’s a big-time winner and did whatever he needed to do to get wins. He could score, set his teammates up and could really guard. He was a little shorter than those other guards but no less productive and made up for any lack of height with a toughness you can’t coach.”
• I’m no NFL draftnik, but the Bills should have an opportunity to select a quarterback without getting desperate. Many draft websites have, in some order, Memphis’ Paxton Lynch, Michigan State’s Connor Cook and California’s Jared Goff as the top three QB prospects. All three will likely land elsewhere.
One quarterback who could fall to the third or fourth round is Carson Wentz, a 6-foot-7, 235-pounder from North Dakota State. Wentz faced lesser competition in the FCS, but he played for a superpower and showed all the tools. N.C. State’s Jacoby Brissett (6-4, 235) is considered another sleeper.
I’m with Bill Polian when it comes to Penn State junior Christian Hackenberg. The last thing the Bills need is to become smitten with him the way fans did in Happy Valley. He was unimpressive against UB this season and failed to justify the hype when he entered college. In my book, he should stay in school.
It would be nice to see the Bills find a quarterback after the first round and groom him. Other than Jim Kelly, the Bills haven’t drafted a quarterback who played the majority of games in three consecutive seasons since they plucked Joe Ferguson out of Arkansas in the third round in 1973.
• League officials can continue saying otherwise, but suffocating defenses once again are sucking entertainment from the NHL. I’ve come up with numerous ideas in the past to increase scoring and make the game more exciting, but maybe it’s time for something really radical.
In addition to making players serve full penalties no matter how many goals are scored while they’re in the box, how about this suggestion: Erase the red line and eliminate offside from the rule book. Keep blue lines but only to ensure no more than four players from each team were in either zone at the same time.
It might create the wide-open freewheeling style we only find in pond hockey. And it just might allow the game’s best players to showcase their skill. It’s worth a shot.
• Too often, relationships with columnists and people they cover become strained when they have differences in opinion. It’s what made my interview with UB Athletic Director Allen Greene last week so refreshing.
We sat down for 45 minutes and had a great conversation. He strongly believed UB should continue playing football at the FBS level. I firmly believed they should move to FCS and redistribute money saved toward improving basketball and other sports. Neither was about to budge from our positions.
And that was fine. It made for a healthy discussion.
We continued about our business afterward without criticism or animosity. We came away with a greater understanding of how we arrived at our opinions. Greene is an intelligent man who is doing what he thinks is best for the university, as he should. I want the university to succeed and shared my thoughts, as I should.
Frankly, I hope that he’s right and I’m wrong.
Time will tell.