After a strong start, the Buffalo Bills sputtered to the finish line and left fans with an empty feeling after getting their hopes up.
To start the year, coach Chan Gailey installed an easy offensive system that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick ran well, calling a number of quick passes to slot-type receivers and catching opposing defenses off-guard.
As other teams caught on to the Bills' game plan, Gailey tried to expand the installed offensive scheme, calling more intermediate and deep passes.
The progression failed miserably and Buffalo was stuck with their short-throw game that was eventually rendered unsuccessful in the copycat NFL.
With a critical offseason fast approaching, the Bills must diagnose their problems and deal with them before it is too late and 2012 begins.
Near the top of the list (along with a pass-rusher and offensive tackle) should be a deep-threat wide receiver. The Bills have no wideout who can play the split and come up time and again with huge catches down the field.
The NFL formula for success involves a big-play, tall, strong receiver and we saw it this year in New England (Rob Gronkowski), New Orleans (Jimmy Graham), Detroit (Calvin Johnson) and New York (Hakeem Nicks/Victor Cruz).
I'm not about to go say that the Bills are going to grab Gronkowski or Johnson, but there are viable options to be had out there.
As it currently stands, Dwayne Bowe, Vincent Jackson and Marques Colston could all hit the free-agent market in the coming months. Any one of those three would be a perfect fit.
Even Reggie Wayne, who could bolt for greener pastures, may be a solid option.
Remember that Stevie Johnson may be leaving too, and without No. 13, the Bills would be in desperate need of a No. 1 wideout.
I realize that other needs exist, but the Bills will not be able to take their team to the next level if they can't bring in a big, strong receiver to make Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chan Gailey's lives easier.
To put the Bills' ineptitude on intermediate-to-deep throws in perspective, Fitzpatrick had as many completions for 20-plus yards as Rex Grossman. Rex Grossman.
Past that, Fitzpatrick had just eight completions of over 40 yards, tying him with Tarvaris Jackson and Kevin Kolb. He even falls behind Matt Schaub in this category and Schaub missed significant time with injury.
Getting a deep threat like Victor Cruz did wonders for Eli Manning, cutting his interception total from 25 down to 16. As for Drew Brees, the emergence of Jimmy Graham helped the star quarterback post 46 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, compared to 33 touchdowns and 22 interceptions a year earlier.
The effect is undeniable.
The Bills can win a few games here and there with their quick passing attack, but the team will not be able to get over the hump until they bring in a guy like Jackson, Bowe or Colston.
With free agency looming, the Bills need to focus on signing a big-time wideout to help the cause.
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