Man! How long have we waited for this?! Even with the disappointment of the last three games of 2007, I was ready for the season to start in June. Instead, we had to wait until now.
Welcome to 10 Things I Think. It’s a column I write after most Bills games – regular season and playoffs – and occasionally during other times of the year. I go to most home games, and I watch the others in sports bars near my home in Connecticut or, when possible, at home. I try to write without having listened to or read much commentary about the games, so you get what I think about what I saw.
In previous years, 10 Things I Think has appeared on the message board at BuffaloBills.com, and last year it also appeared at BallBurglar.com. This year, I’m happy to post 10 Things at BuffaloBillsReview.com. I hope you enjoy it.
Okay, here we go.
1. The plan Marv Levy and his staff put in place when they took over is now completely clear: Clear out the older players and the me-first players, and begin a complete rebuild. Keep the best younger players from the old regime, draft high quality guys, and sign good, young free agents. Do it year after year. Some of the players who had to go were gone in 2006, the rest in 2007.
The 2006 free agency and the draft was a start. The team actually played better than I expected. The Bills made more progress in 2007, but they still had holes. The defensive line needed help, the linebackers were weak or untested, and the receiving corps needed an upgrade.
Now the basic rebuild is done. For the first time in recent memory, the Bills come into the season without glaring holes and with some quality depth. There’s more to be done, of course – young players like McKelvin, Hardy, Posluszny and others still have a lot to learn, and there will be more upgrades during the off-season. But now we have a team that should be able to stay on the field with anyone.
It’s a good time to be a Bills fan.
2. No holes? Well, one: an unplanned hole at left tackle. The Peters saga is perplexing; we probably will never know the entire story. The Bills undoubtedly are weaker across the line without Peters; the important question is “how much weaker?” We’ll begin to find out on Sunday. Walker is a good player, and Chambers has potential. The Bills can’t count on Bell. The best solution is for Peters to report, get game ready and knock some defensive ends on their rear ends.
3. Trent Edwards is the starter. Some fans talked during the off-season about a quarterback competition. Against the Colts JP showed, as he has on occasion in the past, that he has a lot of what it takes to be a starter in the NFL. Still, Dick Jauron has been totally clear that Trent is the starter. He talks as though he’s just waiting to get John Elway back into the lineup. That makes me think that Trent must really have the goods. We’ll see.
4. Marshawn Lynch has been the forgotten man this summer. We haven’t seen much of him, and he isn’t talking. What’s he thinking about? The offensive line. Wouldn’t you?
5. Hardy’s already had a bigger role than I expected early on. He won’t be a star in September, but now I’m looking for him to be a factor early and all season long.
6. 2008 will be a big year for the defense. No one says much about Marcus Stroud, but they all say the same thing: powerful. Poz will be a big upgrade over DiGiorgio in the middle – DiGi had a lot of trouble getting to and controlling his gap last year, and it hurt the Bills. Mitchell, too, will be an upgrade, the corners are solid and eventually McKelvin will assume a bigger role, Simpson’s return will help, and there’s better depth all around. This is a defense that will put pressure on the other team. What it needs is the opportunity to play with a lead. That means that the offense has to move the ball and put points on the board.
7. As good as McGee and Parrish are, McKelvin has to return punts or kickoffs or both. He’s special.
8. As always, takeaways will be the key to the season. One way to get more takeaways is to buy them. The Ball Burglar already is promising to pay more than $100 for every takeaway the Bills get this year. When the Ball Burglar’s bounty goes over $1000 per takeaway, Ralph Wilson Stadium will be louder than ever before. Add your buck or two or five to the Burglar’s bounty at BallBurglar.com. Thanks.
9. The coaches are on the hot seat this season. They have players who can play. The coaches have to give the players the plays, the plans and the opportunities to win.
10. Obviously, the fans are expecting great things. Season ticket sales are up, and there’s a lot of buzz about the Bills. The national media are starting to take notice. Everyone who’s paying attention can tell something’s happening in Western New York. The competition is fierce in the NFL, and the Bills really haven’t been competitive for ten years. Finally, it looks like things have changed. All that’s left is for the Bills to do it on the field.