As of now, the only headlines coming out of One Bills Drive for the past month or two have been a steady stream of positive developments for the 2012 Buffalo Bills.
The Bills have signed their key free agents for 2012 and are even making some progress on key free agents for 2013, which is another good sign that this franchise is headed in the right direction. That is the consistent theme that is emanating out of Bills headquarters. The team is gelling, gaining more confidence that they have a talented team where everybody is pulling on the rope in the same direction.
From the arrivals of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, to re-signing Stevie Johnson, Fred Jackson and Scott Chandler, the Bills appear to be a team that is happy to be playing exactly where they are.
There is a very talented young core that is developing in Buffalo. Not all of the young players in question have proven themselves yet, and for those players, the 2012 season could very well be a make or break season regarding a short-term versus long-term career in Buffalo.
The young core nucleus on offense includes: C.J. Spiller, Stevie Johnson, David Nelson, Donald Jones, Andy Levitre, Eric Wood, Marcus Easley, T.J. Graham, Cordy Glenn and Chris Hairston.
The young core nucleus on defense includes: Jairus Byrd, Torell Troup, Alex Carrington, Arthur Moats, Aaron Williams, Kelvin Sheppard, Da'Norris Searcy, Justin Rogers, Stephon Gilmore, Ron Brooks, Marcell Dareus, Nigel Bradham and Tank Carder.
For the Bills to realize their goal in the 2012 season of reaching the playoffs, and going as far in the playoffs as they possibly can, they will need a number of the young corps listed above to step up and play a key role. Some of them will need to have a career year if the Bills are going to have a 10-win season, which is probably needed to qualify for postseason play.
In OTA's and the mini-camp, the offense is toying with the possible addition of H-back Dorin Dickerson, expanding the usage of Brad Smith, lining up Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller in the same backfield and getting lots of reps for rookie tackle Cordy Glenn.
On the defensive side, everybody seems to be enjoying the transition to the new 4-3 defensive alignment under defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt. The only players that won't enjoy the transition are the players that were added to the team specifically for their ability to be a fit in the old 3-4. There will be a number of those players that don't survive the final roster cuts in late August to early September.
The defensive line will be one of the best defensive lines that the Bills have employed since the Bruce Smith-led Super Bowl teams. The front seven has a combination of veteran experience, aggressive youth and a passion to get after the quarterback and create havoc. From Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Chris Kelsay, Shawne Merriman, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Torell Troup, Alex Carrington, Nick Barnett, Kelvin Sheppard and Kirk Morrison, the Bills front seven appears to be loaded.
The secondary has youth, talent and depth with Aaron Williams, Stephon Gilmore, George Wilson, Bryan Scott, Jairus Byrd, Justin Rogers, Terrence McGee, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks. They stand to benefit the most from the revamped defensive line and should be responsible for creating more turnovers than they did in 2011.
The Bills have their share of concerns, as reaching the playoffs in 2012 won't be a walk in the park, even playing with a last-place AFC East schedule. There is the continued progress required of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is diligently working with new quarterback coach David Lee on footwork and fundamentals. There are also the players slowly coming back from injuries, such as Stevie Johnson, Shawne Merriman, Kyle Williams, Eric Wood, Fred Jackson and Terrence McGee.
While we sit back and wait for the official start of training camp, the Bills will be trying to figure out who their starting receivers will be, and make sure that the rehabs for Eric Wood, Erik Pears, Merriman and Johnson are going forward and that nobody is brought back too soon that would create further injury.
So far, so good in 2012. Here's hoping that the news that continues to come out of Buffalo Bills training camp will be positive and that 2012 will turn out to be a special year.