Well, football fans, it is that time of year again; the draftees have been picked and they are already hard at work to make a spot on their first NFL team.
But it is not only the rookies who are breaking a sweat. Many teams are trying to find a way to improve from last season, and the Buffalo Bills are most certainly amongst those.
Last season ending in bitter disappointment showed the NFL that there is talent and heart within this organization. With a shocking 5-1 start to the season, many eyes were focused on the Bills for the first time since the Music City Miracle ended the team's playoff run in 1999.
Coach Dick Juron surely wants to show that ten years has been long enough for this team.
Talent on this team was not incredibly hard to find last year. Marshawn Lynch was expected to be very good, and, despite the teams weaker than expected run game, still ended the season with decent numbers.
Trent Edwards showed his leadership abilities as well as silencing critics about his deep ball, Dante Whitner make a playoff guarantee and it almost payed off thanks to the incredible start, and Lee Evans signed a new contract making him the highest paid player in team history (per year salary). Evans lived up to it by showing fans why he deserved the extension with his route-running skills and catching ability despite his short stature in terms of receivers.
The disintegration took place for many reasons; however, the line on both sides of the ball showed weakness when we were unable to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks frequently, and when we could not protect our own QB. This also was a reason why the potent rushing combination of Lynch and Jackson never shined to their full capability.
A new year with a few solid draft picks may change everything.
Penn State's Aaron Maybin has already proved to be an effective pass rusher in college, and his early experience in the pros has not slowed him down. In fact, during the workouts and at Rookie Mini-camp, he has been very vocal showing that not only is he still talented, but he will be able to play a leadership role, as well.
Eric Wood and Andy Levitre have been both lined up in the center of the offensive line, making the move of Brad Butler to the right tackle position seemingly imminent. If they can be as effective as many believe, getting to Edwards from the center will be much more difficult than in the previous season.
The Bills also seem happy with TE Shawn Nelson and his ability to catch the ball. He is at a position that the Bills historically have liked to use. However, in more recent years, they have been ineffective at using it. With a threat down the middle of the turf, Evans may see more opportunities coming his way down the field.
Let's not forget why we have popcorn ready in Buffalo, however.
Terrell Owens is now one of the Bills, and that means that opposing teams have multiple players whom they will be forced to cover down field when playing against Buffalo. It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that chances are good that Buffalo will be throwing the ball much more this season. And if Owens keeps with history and has an outstanding first season with Buffalo, we can expect to see a higher average score on the Bills side of the scoreboard.
Owens' presence on the field will open up Evans for more opportunities, and will, more importantly, give our running game some breathing room as the threat of a pass will always loom over opposing coaches' heads.
This will be Turk Schonert's second year as the Bills Offensive Coordinator, and, if we can gauge this years performance on last year's, fans can expect another year of his unique play-calling ability. It's a style that may certainly play to the passing game's advantage since Schonert was a quarterback at Stanford, the same school for which Trent Edwards played.
In 09', I think it is safe to say the Bills can be expected to make a serious run for the playoffs because of improvements to their most needed positions. And the timing could not be any better because of the addition of Owens. The media from around the country will be right here in Buffalo to cover the run.
There are still a few questions regarding important transitions.
The first is the position left vacant with the departure of Jason Peters. Langston Walker started in Peters' spot in the first game of the year when Peters was not allowed to play because of his holdout during the offseason. However, Walker stated that he feels more comfortable on the right side. But if Butler makes the move to right tackle, then Walker may be the only viable man to fill the void.
Second, we have the question of whether or not Edwards can return to form. His play was certainly affected after the hit that left him with a concussion during the Arizona game in week five. Hopefully for the Bills, though, the offseason rest as well as the addition of some offensive lineman will give the young quarterback the opportunity to be as good as he was early last season.
The coaches feel very optimistic about the way things are going with the team, and if everything continues to go the way they are for the Bills right now, Buffalo should expect an end to the postseason drought they have endured this last decade.