After two seasons in Philadelphia marked by injury and inconsistency, cornerback William James recently signed with the Bills as a free agent and will get the opportunity going into next year to prove that he can be a starter once again.
The Eagles took a gamble when they signed James in October of the 2006 season because he was recovering from a back injury that was originally thought of as career-threatening. He missed 11 games in 2003 as a member of the Giants after suffering a stress fracture to a small bone in his lower back. James bounced back in 2004 and had a career-best season, but his back problems began to return in 2005 during training camp and worsened after the start of the season to the point that he was eventually placed on injured reserved two games into the year.
James was brought to Philadelphia the following season after the team's week nine bye to provide depth to the Eagles secondary, but the former Western Illinois standout struggled to get on the field in his first year with a new team. He missed two games with a sprained MCL, came back for one game, and then missed four more games after spraining his calf in pregame warm-ups. He finished the year with just seven total tackles.
Going into the 2007 season, a healthy James talked about challenging Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard for a starting spot on the defense, and he got his chance while Sheppard was inactive with his own injury problems. James started the first five games of the season and was targeted by the opposition early and often. The team had a record of 2-3 in games he started and stopping the other team's passing attack was clearly a problem. In consecutive weeks (three and four), Detroit's Roy Williams had nine catches for 204 yards and a touchdown, and the Cowboy's Patrick Crayton recorded seven catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles.
As the season went on, James was demoted to nickel corner and eventually was replaced at that position by Joselio Hanson. He was only on the field on special teams and dime packages by the end of the season, and it became clear that James' time with in Philadelphia was coming to a close.
In his two seasons with the Eagles, James had 38 tackles and just one interception. His best asset is his size, and at 6-feet tall and 200 pounds, he matches up well with many receivers. While he used to be known as an excellent coverage corner, injuries have limited his effectiveness and he missed eight games during his time with the team.
In Buffalo, James might have a better chance to get on the right track and jumpstart his career. With less competition at the position than in Philadelphia, he should be able to earn a starting spot as long as he can stay healthy. Also, outside of the Patriot's Randy Moss, the AFC East does not have as many high caliber wide receivers to face as the NFC East. The biggest concern for the Bills about James should be whether or not he can stay healthy and on the field enough to have a positive impact on the team.
Andrew Pluta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org