I don't know about everyone else, but this is the most optimism I've felt going into a Buffalo Bills season in quite some time. We still have the entire off-season, and I still feel exponentially better now than in any year since Jim Kelly retired.
Doug Marrone wasn't the sexiest name available to the Buffalo Bills, but they made a quick and definitive decision to hire him. He has a short, but rather stellar resume, and it feels like he is very confident in what he wants to accomplish.
He's already got his coordinators in place and hopefully, after five different sideline leaders in 15 years, the city of Buffalo can express some cautious optimism.
No, I'm not saying Buffalo will get Drew Brees, I'm just saying Doug Marrone had a big hand in the success and Super Bowl the New Orleans Saints won in 2009, even if he bolted for Syracuse after the 2008 season.
He took that same offense to upstate New York and made it work there. The Buffalo Bills already have quite a bit of talent on the offensive side of the ball and they haven't even had free agency and the draft to add to it.
We already know that he and Buddy Nix have to find the right quarterback, as its well-known that Ryan Fitzpatrick will not be returning.
There's a lot to deal with at the skill positions. Fred Jackson is still there and C.J. Spiller finally blossomed. Stevie Johnson continued to be a great possession receiver and T.J. Graham's untapped potential is still very intriguing.
The offensive line isn't bad, but could probably use a little retooling on the right side.
This is where I'm a little scared.
Mike Pettine is an exciting and splashy hire.
He ran the New York Jets defense that kept their inept offense in games, even when the talent level and age of that unit started to drop-off.
What worries me here is scheme. The Buffalo Bills played a 3-4 leading up to 2011. Then they played terrible defense while trying to decide what scheme to use. Last year, they made the official switch to a 4-3 by going out and getting one of the best defensive ends in Mario Williams and another stud in Mark Anderson.
Part of the reason they were able to get Williams was because he was unhappy playing out-of-position as an outside linebacker with the Houston Texans. He was still effective, but not as much as when he puts one hand on the ground.
Buffalo also has an incredible lack of talent in the entire linebacking corps. Nick Barnett is alright, but Kelvin Sheppard was a huge disappointment and the rest aren't even worth mentioning.
Yes, I feel like a hybrid would be fine, as long as our defensive ends aren't forced to play upright too much. That also means they have to go out and get another 3-4 lineman in the draft or through free agency if they don't feel like somebody like Alex Carrington is up to the task.
I was really on the Mike Wallace bandwagon, but my feeling is that T.J. Graham should be given a full shot at being the deep threat, first.
The real position I would really like to see an upgrade at is tight end.
Buffalo hasn't had a "real" player at that position since the Super Bowl years.
One of the most important positions in the New Orleans Saints offense is tight end. I'm not asking for Jimmy Graham, but I really feel like Jared Cook would be perfect.
Cook has never been properly utilized in Tennessee and has never been happy there. He's definitely on his way out after even requesting a trade during the season.
The other name that interests me is Alex Smith.
His days in San Francisco are over. He lost his job because of injury as his play hasn't been poor at all over the last year and a half.
I'm not going to say that Smith has the strongest arm, but its stronger than Ryan Fitzpatrick. He also makes very good decisions with the ball, something we haven't seen in Buffalo.
If Buffalo gets somebody like Alex Smith in free agency, the urgency at quarterback can be eased and they probably don't have to reach for one too early.
I know they got Cordy Glenn last year, but my best case scenario would be Luke Joeckel falling a few spots.
Glenn has been solid and I feel like he'll be fine, I just like him better at right tackle. Joeckel is a stud and he could solidify the offensive line for years. This will also probably not happen.
As I said before, the linebackers on this team are far from great. If they don't have to reach for a quarterback in the first round, they could jump on Manti Te'o, if he's there. Slotting him in the middle of the defense would instantly improve this unit.
I don't know what will happen with the quarterbacks in this draft, but aside from the raw talents of Geno Smith and the football IQ of a guy like Matt Barkley, the rest of the field either seems like they'll need some time to develop or will be a shot in the dark. If they can get Barkley, Tyler WIlson, Mike Glennon or use the Syracuse connection with Ryan Nassib, I'd be perfectly fine with that. Just as long as it happens in the second round or later.
Its been almost 20 years since the Buffalo Bills were considered a winner, and even those teams come with an asterisk because they never won the biggest game.
This has become a culture of losing. Buffalo has the longest current playoff drought. It has become a black hole in the NFL.
Doug Marrone needs to change the attitude of this team. He has won at every stop. He has even turned the listless Syracuse program into a winner. Lets hope he can create a winning culture in Buffalo.