Fact or Fiction: Buffalo Bills Offseason Edition
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Everyone enters the regular season with a certain set of expectations for how their teams will perform, and who will be the major contributors. Inevitably, our expectations are defied year after year.
If nothing else, the Buffalo Bills have set a precedent of missing the playoffs over the past decade and are trying their hardest to break that trend.
But there are expectations on the micro level, as well, from players to coaches to position groups.
We'll get a better idea of how things will play out as we get closer to the season, but for now, let's play a little early fact-or-fiction around the Bills' 2012 season.
Mario Williams Will Register Double-Digit Sacks
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Mario Williams has registered double-digit sacks only twice in his six-year NFL career. He was brought into Buffalo to revamp the pass rush, but on a pure production standpoint, he's never been among the top pass-rushers in the NFL.
According to Pro Football Focus, Williams ranked fifth, 10th and 14th among pass rushers from 2008-10.
His 2011 season was cut short by a pectoral tear, which shouldn't impede his ability to get after the quarterback.
Williams is back in his comfort zone in the 4-3 defense. The Bills may boast one of the best four-man fronts in football, and one look at Jared Allen's career tells you all you need to know about a defensive end being surrounded by talent.
Williams has never been surrounded by as much talent as he'll have around him in Buffalo, so double-digit sacks seems like a sure thing even if it hasn't been such a sure thing in the past.
The Bills Have Found Their No. 2 Wide Receiver
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Drafting wide receiver T.J. Graham in the third round helped the Bills in their lack of speed at wide receiver, but judging by the past production of third-round wideouts, he shouldn't be expected to carry the load.
Bleacher Report's Bills featured columnist, Chris Trapasso, called the wide receiver battle the most intriguing at camp, and not because of a logjam of talent at the position, but because of "so much promise, potential and upside in the guys not named Stevie Johnson, but all those words allude to production not yet made."
The truth is, the Bills may have found their No. 2 wide receiver, but we won't know it until he slaps us in the face with big plays and touchdowns.
Ryan Fitzpatrick Will Become an Elite Quarterback
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The Bills are hoping that Ryan Fitzpatrick can continue to blossom and build off his strong performance at the beginning of the season before his rib injury.
Before that injury, he was completing 67.7 percent of his passes for 7.6 YPA and a passer rating of 97.8, according to Pro Football Reference. After that point, though, he completed just 58.2 percent of his passes for 6.2 YPA and a 66.5 passer rating.
That's a pretty harrowing difference, but was injury the only factor? It's important to remember that Fitzpatrick has never put together a front-to-back solid season.
He's been working on his mechanics to try and get better as a passer, and while there's no shame in him being serviceable, it's a stretch to think he'll be elite.
C.J. Spiller Will Split Carries with Fred Jackson
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When Fred Jackson went down with a broken fibula, there were legitimate questions about whether C.J. Spiller could carry the load.
He answered those question marks with an exclamation point, averaging 5.2 yards per carry on the season and scoring a total of four touchdowns in the final three games.
Spiller has earned the respect of Fitzpatrick, who believes in Spiller's ability to make a big leap in 2012. He has also gotten the nod from head coach Chan Gailey, who has said Spiller is becoming more well-rounded as a blocker. Both Gailey and GM Buddy Nix think he can be a workhorse.
The evidence is piling up. Spiller is a talented back and deserves a fair share of the workload.
The Bills Have Surpassed the Jets in the AFC East
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On the one hand, the Bills appeared to have clearly surpassed the Jets at the beginning of last season, but the Bills faltered at the first altercation with the Jets and both teams were dead even at 5-3.
The Jets stuck it to the Bills once more and completed their second consecutive season sweep. They now hold a five-game winning streak over their AFC East foes.
The Bills have made bigger additions this offseason than the Jets have, but the Jets had a stronger core to begin with, especially on defense. The Bills' offense is better on paper, but a large part of that hinges on Fitzpatrick's ability to play consistent.
In closing, I'd like to paraphrase Joe Caporoso of TurnOnTheJets.com who points out that the Jets defense is far ahead of the Bills defense, at least as it stands now, and that neither team is clearly in front of the other offensively speaking.
Neither team is clearly in front of the other, so as of yet, the Bills have not officially surpassed the Jets. They'll have to wait until the regular season for that.