Don’t blame the city — if the Bills want to sell themselves to Southern Ontario and continue a push for regionalization, maybe they should consider spending some money on personnel.
Three games in, the Bills Toronto Series has been an utter failure, but it has nothing to do with Toronto’s passion for American football.
44. A Giant defensive collapse
Heading into the 2009 season, the New York Giants were supposed to be the deepest defensive team in football. They were on the verge of getting Osi Umenyiora back and had made a splash in free agency by bringing in the likes of Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard and Michael Boley to bolster the front seven.
Things looked promising at first, as the G-men started 5-0, but then disaster struck.
Saints 48, Giants 27 … Cardinals 24, Giants 17 … Eagles 40, Giants 17 … Chargers 21, Giants 20.
New York went on to give up over 32 points per game over its final 11 affairs, with the loss of starting safety Kenny Phillips and the underperformance of Umenyiora being the biggest factors.
In the end, only the Lions and Rams surrendered more points than the Giants in 2009.
43. Rookie receivers shine
They often say that wide receiver is the toughest position for a rookie to find his legs and adjust to the speed and intensity of the National Football League. But that wasn’t the case this year.
Eleven rookie receivers had 500-plus yards through the air this year, compared to just six in 2008 and four in 2007.
And some of these guys played fairly major roles in their offences. You had Austin Collie making big plays for the AFC champion Indianapolis Colts. You had Percy Harvin as a featured target for Brett Favre and the 12-win Vikings. You had Michael Crabtree, who made up for lost time following a lengthy holdout by quickly become San Francisco’s top option.
Johnny Knox has probably become the No. 1 guy in Chicago. He made the Pro Bowl (eventually), while Hakeem Nicks busted through to become quite possibly the most reliable target with the Giants.
Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Kenny Britt and Mohamed Massaquoi had big inaugural seasons, too.
42. Rookie linebackers shine
Same deal for the linebacker position, which might have given us the top three rookies this year (at least in my uneducated opinion) — Brian Cushing (the defensive rookie of the year), James Laurinaitis and Clay Matthews.
Throw in stellar peformances from Brian Orakpo and Rey Maualuga and the NFL certainly doesn’t have to worry about its future in terms of star power at the linebacker position.
41. Cribbs becomes a legit franchise player
Most regular football followers already knew Joshua Cribbs was a special player prior to the 2009 season. But in ’09, the special-teams ace became the only legitimate “star” on the lowly Cleveland Browns.
There’s at least a small push for special teams players to get more credit, particularly in terms of Hall of Fame voting (we’ve yet to see a special teams guy make it to Canton), and players like Cribbs are helping to strengthen those arguments.
Five years ago, Cribbs, who returned four kicks/punts for touchdowns this year, wouldn’t have the same opportunities he’s had recently. But the Wildcatization of the game has made it possible for Cleveland to use Cribbs in many unique ways offensively — something that will only continue to become more commonplace.
First they give the city of Toronto the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills, and then they give them the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills. The “home team” has yet to win. The games have yet to be exciting. The crowds have justifiably been boring, uneventful and quiet.