Games Opinion

An Open Letter to One Bills Drive

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to you today on behalf of Bills fans everywhere. I feel both compelled and qualified to speak as a representative of this great collection of people scattered across the globe. First I am compelled by great frustration with what has now seemingly become the tradition of losing and mediocrity that surrounds and defines this once proud organization. The length of time that those under the Buffalo Bills’ banner have wallowed in this squaller of ineptitude, and a general mentality of losing has long since become too much for loyal fans to bear. Second, my qualification is simply that I have not met many other fans of any team quite as optimistically devoted to their home town team. (Though, admittedly, there are a good percentage more amongst Bills fans than any other team’s following.)

What is so perplexing to me is this annual routine that we seem to be mired in, which (understandably) produces the same results. First, following another below average (to downright dismal) season, we dip into the free agent market, but only manage to pull out a few lesser-known players whom you might designate “role players” on a team that already has its building blocks and stars. Then, as the draft approaches and all the professionals and amateurs discuss their various mock drafts, excitement builds for the possibility of landing even half of these future greats. Only, excitement wanes as the first pick is announced… then the second… then the third. And the draft comes and goes with questions like, “Why didn’t they trade up to get [insert great prospect name here],” or, “Who are these guys???”

Now, to be fair, there have been some gems in the past decade of drafts. (And some remain to be seen of course, since you really can’t fairly assess the success of players drafted until a few years into their professional career.) But overall, we still do not make a so-called “big splash” in free agency or the draft.

(Save the Terrell Owens experiment, of course. That was slightly out of character for our Buffalo Bills, and sadly, did not work out as hoped due to the previous methods for building the foundation of the team.)

And once the mediocre team is in place, Bills fans begin to see all the “up sides” of their new players. Certainly there are good things about each of these players, and they should be noticed. However, somewhere early in the regular seasons, our improperly inflated hopes surrounding these players that (rightfully) no one else in the NFL has heard of are quickly deflated … leaving us again in nearly utter sports-fan despair.

So this is my proposal. Please grab a pen and paper. (Or a laptop, or other note-taking device.) I will only say this once, so you must listen closely. And it can be completely trusted due to my impeccable record as a GM for two separate Buffalo Bills franchises in Madden ’08.


FIRST MOVE: Start at the top.
First, you need “football guys” running the show. You already did this! Good work! Buddy Nix has been a scout and an assistant GM and seems to know his stuff about football players. Chan Gailey has only been a winner everywhere he goes (though he’s slightly “off the radar” in terms of name recognition) and his toughness and hard work ethic will rub off on these young guys, as I believe it already is doing. So, nice job.

SECOND MOVE: Build the Foundations
The previous administration had begun doing some of this with the drafting of two rookie offensive linemen last year, but it is just not cutting it to have such inexperience in the most crucial part of the team. A great offensive line can make anyone a great running back, and even make an average QB look great. Right now we have a very poor (and porous) offensive line, and they are making our offensive play makers look, well… offensive.

Wood and Levitre may indeed be the answer on the interior of the line eventually, and I have no complaints about the center, Geoff Hangartner. But the cornerstones of an offensive line are its ends. Left and right tackle. You signed a RT in the offseason, Cornell Green, but I’m not seeing him as a brick wall, or a “House” (whom we Bills fans grew accustomed to seeing as a fixture during the 1990s in Howard “House” Ballard).

There are options. Bell may end up being a fantastic athlete and a great tackle. Why not move him to right tackle and make a trade for San Diego’s disgruntled LT, Marcus McNeill? McNeill was a Pro Bowl player last year, and is currently holding out. My proposal is that we trade Marshawn Lynch and either a draft pick or one of our generic wide receivers for Marcus McNeill, and immediately improve our offensive line.

Then, we need to deal another decent player for a first round draft pick in 2011 (so we have at least two 1st round picks) and grab a high-profile tackle in next year’s draft. The foundational piece of the offense is the line, and ours has way too many cracks and holes that need immediate attention.

On the defense, while all of our players have heart, it’s not clear that they have enough talent. Nearly every team that dictates play on defense has a play maker on the defensive line. If there is an option right now for a trade, make it. If not, then trade Chris Kelsay for as high a draft pick as possible. Then in 2011 or 2012 draft a play maker defensive end. Such as Mario Williams is becoming for the Houston Texans. (#1 overall pick a few years back.)

THIRD MOVE: Get Your Play Makers
Once the foundation is in place, then you add your stars. I believe that one was added this year in C. J. Spiller. That kid looks great. (Of course, no one can see how great he is, thanks to the defense being in the backfield with him when he gets the ball. See above.) And, Fred Jackson has proven to be quite a productive player as well. Nice job.

However, one position that once seemed a strength (if only due to the sheer number of roster spots taken by these players) is now currently a great liability. It is my belief that the Buffalo Bills have not only need for a #2 wide receiver, but also a #1 wide receiver. While I think that Lee Evans has incredible hands, and is equally incredibly fast, he can not dominate a game. He simply can not. He has had chances, and has never done it. Good teams have at least two threats, and we really have none. (Again, part of the blame must go to the lack of an offensive line—not giving Evans enough time to get open.) I’m not even sure that Evans is a good route runner. When there is any time for our QB to throw, the receivers are not open!

So starting right now, decide who you think are the top two game-breaking WRs in the game (pro or college level) and go get them. Spare no expense. Trade Lee Evans for a high draft pick if it’s a college player you want. Move Roscoe Parrish. Trade Brian Moorman if you think it will help! Great, game-changing WRs can make an offense unstoppable. And they need to be at least in pairs. Steve Johnson, David Nelson, and Donald Jones are all just fine. But that’s all they are. Fine. We need game breakers.

Then, I am sure you have noticed that other teams have game changers at the tight end position, right? How about last game’s performance by Jermichael Finley? Yes, you’re right. That was really good! Most good-to-great teams have a large, physical, fast, pass-catching TE who can change the game. Keep the chains moving, and put points on the board (to use a few football cliches…) Trade any or all of our current tight ends for one game-changing tight end. Throw in a few hundred chicken wings to sweeten the deal.

And lastly, quarterback.

I am actually a supporter of Trent Edwards. He is the best option on the roster currently, and he actually does (by my estimation) possess all the physical and mental skills of a good to even great quarterback in the NFL. He can make every throw. He is accurate. He has the strong arm. He is intelligent, and knows and understands football. He can even (most times) read defenses and make the right call.

Sadly… he is not he answer.

I have seen it all through the off-season, and during these past two regular season games. He does not want to win. The one piece he is missing is an intangible, that all great QBs have. The competitive drive/fire to win. Just win. No matter what it takes, and don’t ever settle for less. Anything less is a complete failure. (Granted, there will be clashes between two great teams where one team wins and one loses… and that can still be the bitter/sour taste of a loss, but the reality is that one team does lose.) The problem with Trent is that he is too accustomed to losing (through his entire life of playing football) and it doesn’t seem to bother him. At least, not as much as it should.

So, there must be a shake-up, and it should come from the draft. One of the two (or more) first round picks we have and/or acquire via trade need to be used on a big-name QB, who has always won. Don’t get cute, just do what it takes to land the guy who will want to win, and has the talent to make it happen. The next Peyton Manning is out there. Find him. And get him. At any cost.

The 2011 draft is said to be a quarterback-rich draft. Study them, and with no preconceived limitations, decide who is the best and get him. No exceptions.

FOURTH MOVE: Add depth
Honestly, there will be some depth when the above moves are made and some of the current players take their rightful place as “role players” and roster depth. Aside from running back and defensive back, there are no stars on this team. (Poz may be, but we can’t ever know because he’s always getting hurt. In fact, he should be on the list of potential trade fodder.)

Depth can be added via mid-to-late round draft choices and free agency. But the first three moves must be made first.


  1. Make some moves! No one is untouchable. Build the foundation, and begin adding real play makers by trading players like Marshawn Lynch, Lee Evans, Chris Kelsay, Paul Posluszny, Roscoe Parrish… really anyone!
  2. Specifically, trade Marshawn Lynch and a draft pick (or a WR) to San Diego for LT Marcus McNeill (or if he’s not available, someone of a similar caliber)
  3. Stockpile draft picks by trading the above players—really anyone with any value—and then spend those draft picks on TWO game-breaker WRs, an all-star OT, and a QB that has a proven record of winning at all levels.
  4. Use later draft picks and free agency to keep adding depth and role players.

All of these steps can be made in a maximum of three seasons. It can likely be done in two seasons. So what is keeping you from doing it? Is it just that we loyal Bills fans keep buying tickets, despite the your apparent lack of commitment to excellence and a championship in Buffalo? Perhaps. And I’m not sure how to fix that, since we Bills fans are clearly loyal to a fault.

But for the sake of those loyal fans. For the sake of Ralph Wilson. For the sake of the great Bills teams of the past… make these moves!. Start this week. Use the tools at your disposal and build a great team starting now.

Then you, One Bills Drive, will make a name for yourself as the first to bring a championship to Western New York. Then the prestige that was once known by all associated with this team will once again return. Then there will no longer be a chuckle at the mention of our team or the sight of our charging Buffalo.

Then this team will once again be a proud representative of the most loyal fans in all of sports.

It’s within your power, within your reach.

Now get it done.

Games News Opinion

The Buffalo Bills’ Strategy

C.J. Spiller of the Buffalo Bills

I am a big Buffalo Bills fan. Yes, believe it or not, there are still some of us out here. Though I may be ridiculed, though I may see little reward for my undying loyalty and eternal optimism, yet to do persist.

Many have puzzled over the operational decisions of our team in the past decade or more. I think it started when then head coach Wade Phillips decided to start QB Rob Johnson instead of the city’s favorite quarterback, Doug Flutie, who had been a huge part of a mid-to-late-season surge to get the Bills to the playoffs. The fans were in an uproar, and the Bills did lose the game—although, of course, that’s debatable, since the win for Tennessee came by way of the infamous “Home Run Throwback” play in the “Music City Miracle” game… IT WAS A FORWARD PASS!!!! Ahem… Ironically, that was the last time the Bills made the playoffs.

More recent years have seen several wasted 1st round draft choices—Mike Williams and J. P. Losman being chief amongst the busts. A slightly below average, mundane (and disappointing in the end) coaching choice: Dick Jauron. (Of course that followed several mediocre choices the years prior who amounted to almost nothing.)

Another piece is that the Bills rarely make the moves that seem necessary to build a championship team. They do alright in the draft overall, but there remain large holes to be filled on the roster. There are very rarely any “big moves” in the offseason, or otherwise. Likely the biggest splash the Bills made in the decade of the 00s was signing free agent wide reciever Terrell Owens. (And, other than setting the Buffalo Bills record for longest TD catch, Owens did not really amount to much either.)

So what is this team’s plan?

After a fairly encouraging pre-season, where Bills fans saw their team actually moving the ball and scoring points (as well as glimmers of brilliance from a few good players on defense and special teams) we have once again been jolted back to reality by an offensive offensive performance in game one against the Dolphins last week: this team is not that good.

And it gets worse. Today the Bills will play in Green Bay (not an easy place to get a win!) and then the next four opponents are New England, New York Jets, Jacksonville, and Baltimore. Ouch.

There are some really encouraging signs, still, despite the high probability that our favorite team might go 0-6 to start this 2010 NFL season. (Again… ouch.)

Young players like Buffalo’s new favorite running back, C. J. Spiller, our defensive backfield including Terrence McGee, Jairus Byrd, Leodis McKelvin and even Donte Whitner… not to mention a few players who have been around and whom we already know are capable of big plays: Roscoe Parrish, Lee Evans, and Fred Jackson.

The biggest questions are still our offensive line (they are, in general, VERY young an inexperienced still), our defensive line, our wide receivers, our line backers, and our quarterback(s).

Wow. Guess we’re still at the beginning of this rebuild, eh?

If the offensive linemen actually do have the talent, then the Bills will be set for years to come. Three of the five starters have only 1 or 2 years of NFL experience. (And not full seasons, due to injuries.) I think they still need to bring in more talent, but if most or all of these guys develop, then they’ll be in good shape. The problem is, it’s still a very big unknown.

Defensive line, line backers, and wide receivers are all positions where the Bills just need to bring in more talent. They still don’t have a reliable #2 receiver. I’m not even sure they have a reliable, game-breaking #1 receiver. Lee Evans is very talented, but I’m not sure he’s a #1 guy. The line backers have potential, but are also unproven. The Bills did bring in a few veterans at this position in the off-season (and recently added Akin Ayodele due to Kawika Mitchell’s injury) but again, this unit does not strike fear in their opponent’s hearts just yet. The defensive line has heart, but they may be lacking in talent, and surely the team is lacking depth there.

That brings us to quarterback. Bills fans were outraged when the team decided to keep the three players from last year’s team who all failed to impress, given a good number of opportunities to do so. Why not get a free agent like Jake Delhomme? Why not trade for Mike Vick or Donovan McNabb? Why not draft a hot-shot rookie like Jimmy Claussen (who was available at the #9 pick this year…) I think the answer is that the Bills wanted to add talent and depth at other positions, and wait for the 2011 draft to grab their QB for the future. (Hoping against hope that one of the three guys they already have might flip some magic switch and be “the guy” before they have to start over again.)

Blame the QB (Trent Edwards) if you want, but QB is not the team’s biggest issue. Trent Edwards has talent, toughness, and football intelligence. He just lacks that intangible piece: the insatiable desire to win. More of the blame for poor QB play should be placed on the broad shoulders of his offensive line. They were awful in week one.

If the Bills can get their running game established this year, they’ll do alright. They have some play makers on defense and special teams. And if they get the other team on their heels with the running game’s success, then they can also have success in the passing game. Unfortunately, this team has way too many “ifs”.

Bills fans wonder “if” that will ever end.

The Bills strategy seems to be very long-term. The best we can hope for this season, fellow Bills fan, is that our team is competitive (technically, even in a dismal performance by the offense last week, they were competitive right to the end of the game) and that we sneak out a couple of wins en route to a high draft pick for the 2011 NFL Draft next April.

Till then… grab some pizza and wings… maybe some beef on weck… and…

Go Bills!


The Buffalo Bills Are Bad! (But How Do We Know?)

Jairus Byrd, Braylon EdwardsThe news from One Bills Drive yesterday was that starting Pro Bowl safety, Jairus Byrd is out “indefinitely” with a nagging groin injury. That is not good news for the Bills, but it is definitely consistent with the pattern of recent history.

If you only follow the Buffalo Bills from a distance, it’s easy to just laugh them off. Their ten straight seasons of missing the playoffs, and their consistently mediocre-to-bad records, along with no superstars to speak of (save for Terrell Owens in 2009, of course) makes them more often the punchline of an NFL-related joke than a respected NFL franchise.

But if you’re up a bit closer, as a long-time fan of the red, white, and (used-to-be) royal blue… you’re apt to think that you don’t have any idea what to think about this team.

That’s because, in three of the past four years (including this one, 2010) the Bills have been ridiculously “snake-bitten” by injuries. (I haven’t officially heard that any of the players are out due to snake bite, but honestly, it wouldn’t be that surprising…) We have no idea if this team is good or not, because we have never seen this team play!

In 2007, the Bills finished the year with 17 players on Injured Reserve. And you’ll probably recall it started off in week one with Kevin Everett’s career-ending—and very close to life-ending—neck injury. It was all very downhill from there. After only suffering key injuries in 2008, the Bills bested their 2007 “performance” in 2009 by finishing the season with 20 players on the IR.

Now, as they prepare for their second preseason game of the 2010 season, they only have two players on any sort of injured lists, but there will be a handful (or two) of players on the sidelines.

In their first preseason game, last week against Washington, there were 13 players out at kickoff, and two more injured on the first drive! That was followed by a few more felled fellows this week in training camp… what is going on with this team?!?

Thankfully, the Bills will get a few players back tonight.

Starting offensive linemen LT Demetrius Bell and RG Eric Wood will be seeing their first game action since being injured last season (they were two of the 20 players from last year’s IR list). Also returning tonight will be LBs Paul Posluszny, Chris Kelsay, and Keith Ellison. So it’s not all bad news for the Bills.

But really, what gives? How can there be so many injuries to key players on one team?

What looked like one of their strongest positions—running back—with Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, and rookie C.J. Spiller is now somewhat suspect with Lynch out with an ankle injury, and Jackson hoping to be back in time for the regular season opener. And what was a deep position for the Bills—wide receiver—is now a tad more questionable with James Hardy still trying to get healthy enough to play, rookie Marcus Easley out indefinitely, and free agent hopeful David Nelson going down this week at practice.

Speaking of rookies, along with WR Marcus Easley, Buffalo is also minus several other 2010 draft choices, including OL Ed Wang, DL Alex Carrington, and LB Danny Batten. Wang and Easley (two rookies Buffalo was hoping to get some production from) are the more serious injuries, and thankfully, Carrington was back to practice this week, otherwise, four of Buffalo’s 9 draft picks would be out by the second preseason game.

It really is incredible.

Football is a team sport. Probably the team sport most reliant on the team being a team. Individuals do not succeed in football without the full support of everyone else on the team. And really, one of the key positions is usually one of the least noticed: Offensive Line. Sadly, that is where most of the Bills’ injuries have been. And continue to be, though starting tonight, the Bills are hopeful they can actually have a solid, starting unit together for a good string of games. (Minus RT Cornell Green, who is questionable for tonight’s game.)

I’m really not making any excuses. Certainly there are other factors involved. (Remember Dick Jauron?) But, if the Bills were ever able to field their best players, all at the same time… they actually might be not too bad.

But it sure seems like we’ll just never know!

For an up-to-date Buffalo Bills injury tracker, check out this page at


A Positive Look at the 2010 Buffalo Bills

Today is the day that the Buffalo Bills begin assembling at St. John Fisher. They have all been preparing in their own ways, separately and together as a team for the upcoming season. Pretty much since the last season ended. But tomorrow, when they take to the practice field, in front of a couple thousand fans eager to see their “weekend warriors” back in action, the 2010 season begins in earnest.

The expectations for this year’s version of the Buffalo Bills are expectedly low. Ten straight years of non-playoff, mediocre (or worse) football will earn you that. But, just like the organization did four years ago, they come to camp with a completely new face.

And I do mean completely.

Let’s Start From The Top

From the top down, the organization has changed. Gone are Dick Jauron and essentially all of his staff. Even Russ Brandon, who has been called the Bills’ General Manager for the past few seasons (though that was never officially his title, to my knowledge) has been “promoted” to Chief Executive Officer. That’s a really good move, actually, as Brandon has done a great job of marketing and growing and sustaining the organization as long as he’s been here. He should do a great job as the Bills’ CEO.

But a “football guy” he is not.

Enter Buddy Nix. Nix was working for the Bills last year as a head scout I believe (I forget exactly what his duties were) but this off-season, in the first move to remake the Buffalo Bills, he was hired as the team’s new General Manager. A “football guy” who has been around players and made player decisions for decades, and who knows that you need “football guys” to win football games.


Enter Chan Gailey. The very not highly-acclaimed Chan Gailey. Although names like Bill Cowher, Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Shanahan, Brian Billick, and Jon Gruden were not only “thrown around”, I believe most of those well-known coaches were interviewed by the Bills (or were themselves trying to get an interview with the team). In the end, the Bills eventually landed on Chan Gailey.

New Coach, New Hope

So, why Chan Gailey? The Bills are hoping that Gailey can have the success he’s had in the past, but… it’s becoming the distant past, in the world of sports. Gailey was last a head coach in Dallas in the late 1990s. And although he took the team to the playoffs two straight years, with 10-6 and 8-8 records, he was fired after just two seasons.

In contrast to his Bills predecessor, Dick Jauron, Gailey has always been a winner. In reviewing his (albeit quite small) record as a head coach at both the professional and collegiate levels, he has only had one losing season ever: 5-6 with Division 1-AA Samford Bulldogs. (Compared to Dick Jauron, who has more head coaching experience and has only ever had one winning season. Ouch.)

Gailey has a history of joining struggling teams and quickly “righting the ship”. That’s clearly one thing the Bills are banking on. Also, Gailey is an offensive-minded coach. For longer than I care to think about now, the Bills have been just ridiculously bad offensively. Offensively offensive, to be sure. So his being a successful offensive coach was definitely another reason that Gailey was chosen.

The question will be, does he have enough to work with?

The New Faces Under The Helmets

The Bills did not make the so-called “big splash” in free agency or the draft (many were hoping for more trades to happen in the draft) but they are certainly not the same team that we saw last year.

Of the 82 players the Bills had on their roster at the start of training camp last year (4 unsigned rookies and 78 signed players) only 47 are returning this year. That’s 35 new players. (The Bills currently have only 2 unsigned draft picks, and 80 players under contract.)

“But, who cares about training camp rosters,” you say? “The regular season roster is 53 players. That’s only 6 new players?!” A valid point, until you look at the roster for the opening game last season. Then you’ll notice that there are 23 players who began 2009 that are no longer on this team. (To be fair, that number does include eight practice squad and eight other reserve players.)

However you look at it though, the Bills definitely added to their team. If nothing else, simply by subtraction. When the new coaching staff came in, the first thing that happened was a massive cut of what were predominantly special teams players. I found that interesting in that those were the players who seemed to excel on our less-than-stellar roster. However, Bruce DeHaven (making his second appearance as Bills Special Teams Coordinator) must have disagreed.

Several WRs are among the more notable names who are gone: WRs Terrell Owens, Josh Reed, Justin Jenkins (one of those Special Teams guys). And yet, though clearly lacking experience, there is an abundance of talent at the WR position. Actually, there are several positions where the talent exceeds the number of roster spots. Besides receiver, the coaches will have a tough decision or two at LB, DB, RB, and even QB. (We’ll get to that in a bit…)

The Main Questions

Aside from the question of whether their head man was the right man for the job, the Bills clearly have many other questions. You probably know them all, so I’ll list them only briefly here:

  1. Offensive line. This unit was so badly injured last year that it’s hard to really assess the talent level. Returning are last year’s rookies Andy Levitre and Eric Wood, along with 2008 7th-round pick, Demetrius Bell. Add rookies Ed Wang (5th round) and Kyle Calloway (7th round) to an already vastly inexperienced line, and you’ve got a recipe for potential disaster! Geoff Hangartner, Kirk Chambers, and free agent Cornell Green are the only three players with more than two years of NFL experience among the Bills offensive linemen. Yikes.
  2. Quarterback. Clearly this is a big question for the team as well. For years now the Bills have never found “the guy” to lead their team under center. Just a season ago it was Trent Edwards for sure. But, with that broken offensive line, and poor play calling (as well as apparently, differing opinions amongst the coaching staff regarding that play calling) and likely other factors, Edwards was benched for a very mediocre Ryan Fitzpatrick, and later Brian Brohm was given a shot against the Falcons late in the season. Sadly, nothing has really changed, except reports are that Edwards seems to be “a different person.” More engaged, more leadership, and still has great physical ability. All three QBs will be given a shot to win the starting job… we’ll see what comes of that…
  3. Running Back. This offseason the rumors were flying regarding RB Marshawn Lynch’s future with the Buffalo Bills. Would they trade him? Were his days numbered? All of that followed the Bills using the 8th pick overall in the 2010 draft to get RB C.J. Spiller from Clemson. Spiller is a dynamic, exciting player, who has endurance and power also. He’s much like the Saint’s Reggie Bush, and the Bills are hoping to get that sort of production from him. Big plays. Last season Fred Jackson set records for the team with 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards in kick returns. He literally was the offense for this team. And if Marshawn Lynch returns to the form of his rookie season … the Bills don’t have question marks in their backfield, they have definitive exclamation marks. (Assuming their offensive line can hold together!)
  4. Linebacker. As I’ll discuss below, another big piece of the face lift for the Bills this season is their shift to a 3-4 defense. What that means is position shifts for many players. Several defensive ends moving to linebacker, and some of the LBs moving to other positions (outside linebacker to inside linebacker, or vice versa.) This not only means learning new positions, but it might mean some players don’t make the cut. Another one of the more deep positions for the Bills is LB with 14 players vying for a spot including: Paul Posluszny, Kawika Mitchell, Aaron Maybin, Andra Davis, Reggie Torbor, Keith Ellison, Chris Kelsay, Aaron Schobel, and more. Definitely a position to watch.
  5. Defensive Back. This is actually the most solid position on the team (besides maybe kickers and kick returners). Last year the Bills’ only Pro Bowler was S Jairus Byrd, a rookie with 9 INTs on the season! He was fairly amazing at being in the right place at the right time. (And he put up those numbers in only 11 starts!) Aside from Byrd, the unit returns all but one of their players from last season, adding a few free agents for training camp competition. The Bills also get CB Leodis McKelvin back who had a fairly promising rookie season in 2008, but was injured early in 2009 and missed most of that year. Good talent, and good depth, and—rare for this team—unit cohesiveness over a few seasons should lead to this being the most reliable, and perhaps most productive unit on the team.
  6. Special Teams. It deserves to be mentioned, althought usually these guys are (somewhat justifiably) overlooked. Even though the Bills have been mediocre or worse over the past decade, they have consistently led the league in many special teams categories. That will likely continue, or even improve in 2010. Thanks mostly to the return of their primary guys: K Rian Lindell, P Brian Moorman, PR Roscoe Parrish or CJ Spiller, KRs Spiller, Leodis McKelvin, and last year’s main guy, Fred Jackson. Bruce DeHaven (ST Coordinator for the Bills during their Super Bowl years in the 1990s) returns to head up this talented group and figures to maintain a high level of performance in this arena. The thing to watch will be just who actually gets picked to return the kicks. There is a really amazing level of talent and depth at that position for the Bills.

The “3-4 Defense”

If you know what that means, then you are a true football fan. The subject has been much discussed this offseason, after the Bills announced that that was the defensive scheme they would primarily employ in 2010. The “3-4” defense is a defense that features three defensive linemen (the guys right on the line of scrimmage) and four line backers (as it sounds, they are “back” off the ball, away from the line of scrimmage).

Previously (and like most teams have been in the NFL for a while now) the Bills ran a 4-3 defense, with four linemen and three linebackers. The main difference is that a 3-4 uses smaller, faster, lighter players. This actually will work to the Bills advantage in some ways as several of their defensive linemen will fit perfectly as outside linebackers in the 3-4 defense. (Aaron Maybin, Chris Kelsay, Chris Ellis, and—if he does not retire—Aaron Schobel are all former DEs moving to OLB this year.)

Adjusting to a new defensive scheme is always hard, but the Bills do seem suited to a 3-4. (And if you Bills fans will recall, the 3-4 is the defense that has given our team FITS over the past couple season, and is used by all of our division opponents.)

Another advantage will be the more frequent use of man coverage. The previous defensive scheme (a version of the “Tampa 2”) employed many zone coverages, which did not necessarily take advantage of the talent the Bills have in the defensive backfield. The cornerbacks and safeties are licking their chops for the added responsibility in 2010. The DBs will play tighter, one-on-one, and look to be up to the challenge. (Also this frees up players like ball-hawk Jairus Byrd to roam the backfield even more … adding to his already impressive INT totals!)

So, while it will be an adjustment, to be sure, the move to the 3-4 defense should also provide a marked improvement to a beleaguered, downtrodden Buffalo Bills organization.

There’s Hope, But…

So with many promising changes, and the hope of returning players gone for most of 2009 … the Bills really do have much reason for optimism in 2010. However, even if everything falls into place for them … check out this schedule:

Sept. 12 – vs. Miami
Sept. 19 – at Green Bay
Step. 26 – at New England
Oct. 3 – vs. New York Jets
Oct. 10 – vs. Jacksonville
Oct. 17 – BYE
Oct. 24 – at Baltimore
Oct. 31 – Kansas City
Nov. 7 – vs. Chicago (in Toronto)
Nov. 14 – vs. Detroit
Nov. 21 – at Cincinnati
Nov. 28 – vs. Pittsburgh
Dec. 5 – at Minnesota
Dec. 12 – vs. Cleveland
Dec. 19 – at Miami
Dec. 26 – vs. New England
Jan. 2 – at New York Jets

The AFC East has improved (most notably the NY Jets, but the Dolphins added WR Brandon Marshall, and the Patriots still have Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker. Oh, and that guy… Bill Belichick…) and the Bills face the AFC and NFC North. All (but Detroit and Cleveland, perhaps) quite formidable foes. That’s quite a tough schedule for a team who finished last in their division last season!

In the end, there are WAY too many questions about this year’s Buffalo Bills to have any idea about how they may fare. However, there are certainly enough bright spots to keep their biggest fans (and perhaps their smaller fans) hopeful that THIS will finally be the season the Bills are at least relevant… if not actually in the playoffs in 2011.

Sadly, though, the reality is that all indications point to this major “face lift” begun by the Bills in 2010 signifying that they are thinking long term. That means that likely 2010 will be setting the ground work for future seasons. That means… another season without playoffs.

That may be the reality, but for now… it will be fun to start with the blank slate of training camp and preseason and a fresh, new, NFL football season in September!

Bring it on! Go Bills!