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Bills Today: Bounce back year predicted for Bills in 2017


Here's the Bills news of note for Feb. 15th.

1 - Bounce back year predicted for Bills in 2017The Bills were on the wrong end of several unfortunate breaks in 2016, but at least one media outlet projects them to bounce back in a big way in 2017.

The Ringer predicted Buffalo to be one of four NFL squads to improve upon their record next season, based off of injuries, missed kicks and tough, close game losses that hampered the team last season.

"Much like the Chargers, the injury bug got Buffalo early on this season," Danny Kelly wrote.  "Their top pick in last year's draft, defensive end Shaq Lawson, missed the first six games recovering from offseason shoulder surgery; and their second-round pick, projected starting inside linebacker Reggie Ragland, tore his ACL in training camp. Dealing with complications from offseason foot surgery, Sammy Watkins spent half of the season on the injured reserve, and in the eight games he did play, he was a shadow of himself. To top it all off, the Bills lost Pro Bowl center Eric Wood to a broken leg in Week 9."

To further Kelly's point, the Bills had Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy on the field together for only five games in 2016.

Despite the Bills finishing with a record of 7-9, the team had a plus-21-point differential, third-highest for non-playoff teams. However, they struggled to close out close games.

"The Bills finished 2–5 in one-score games, losing by three points to the Dolphins twice, by six to the Jets and Seahawks, and by a touchdown to the Steelers," Kelly wrote.

Kelly pointed out that several of those games could've been added to the win column if more kicks went through the uprights. Unfortunately for Dan Carpenter, he had the third-most missed extra points in the league with five, and his field goal percentage dropped to 76 percent—highlighted by two misses in Week 16 against the Dolphins.

"There are still plenty of issues with the defense, but new head coach Sean McDermott could see some improvement for no reason other than a couple of more bounces going his team's way," Kelly wrote.

 Kelly also had the Chargers, Vikings and Eagles that are likely to see the most improvement in 2017.

**2 - Alexander: You can't pigeon hole me

It's not often that a 33-year-old will be in line for his first big pay day in the NFL, but that is exactly the case with Lorenzo Alexander.

Jason La Canfora sat down with Alexander to discuss free agency and his whirlwind of a career thus far.

"Your role can change drastically from week to week, and within games," Alexander said. "So you always have to be ready, and I've always tried to make sure that I was that guy who the coach could trust if called on to do whatever he had to do for the team. I was taught that a long time ago by coach (Joe) Gibbs. He told me the best guys don't always last the longest, it's the guys you trust who end up sticking around."

After being signed by the Bills for the veteran's minimum last offseason and brought in as a special teams contributor, Alexander was forced into a much bigger role because of injuries and surprised everyone by becoming the team's most consistent pass rusher.

"I'm a football player," Alexander said. "I play off the ball as a stack linebacker, and I play on the line of scrimmage as an outside defensive end, and have good film at both positions ... I'm excited about what the future brings. I'm a throwback football player. You can't pigeon hole me, and people have always tried to do that. But every time they do I try to break the mold and show what I can do."

Alexander, who was named the Pro Bowl Defensive MVP this year, had more sacks in 2016 than he did in his entire nine-year career before joining the Bills.

Even with Alexander being a force off the edge, he still managed to play almost every special teams snap, and became a leader in the locker room, as well.

The linebacker has expressed his desire to remain in Buffalo, but also knows that with the team's tight salary cap situation he may be playing with his fifth NFL team when next season rolls around.

"We'll just go into March and figure things out then," Alexander said. "The last couple of years I've been on the other end of the spectrum, with one or two teams interested, and it's much easier when it's like that because the money is pretty much the same and the roles are all the same. So it's a harder decision when you have a bigger marker. I'm just praying that it's an easy decision, and it all works out. We'll see when it comes time to sign."

3 - Mixed history for pick 10 in the draftThe Bills will have their highest first round draft pick in three years come April, and if history is any indicator, the 10 spot has a hit or miss track record.

New York Upstate analyzed the selections made at that selection since 2007.

Most notably, no team was able to land a franchise quarterback, and the only team that drafted a passer were the Jaguars selecting Blaine Gabbert in 2011.

However, several franchise changing players were selected at that pick. The Rams took Todd Gurley in 2015, the Patriots grabbed Jerod Mayo in 2008 and the 49ers selected Michael Crabtree in 2009.

Three of the last four picks have been on the offensive side of the ball, with the Lions landing tight end Eric Ebron in 2014 and the Titans getting guard Chance Warmack in 2013.

The Bills have only drafted 10th once in franchise history—2012—when the team selected cornerback Stephon Gilmore from South Carolina.

Buffalo has drafted around the 10th spot several other times since 2007 as well, most recently when the team drafted C.J. Spiller ninth overall in 2010.

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