The Winds Of Change Are Coming To The Buffalo Bills Offensive Playbook

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The Winds Of Change Are Coming To The Buffalo Bills Offensive Playbook
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

When offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild left Buffalo at the end of the 2008 season to become the head coach of the Colorado State Rams, most Bills fans had the same reaction, "Good riddance."

The fans blamed Fairchild for the Bills conservative offense and looked forward to the promotion of Turk Schonert to offensive coordinator and his promise of a more wide-open attack. Well, the fans are still waiting.

And to make matters worse, while the Bills offense was stuck in neutral, Fairchild resurrected a dormant Colorado State program and led them to a bowl game led by all things...their offense.

There are a lot of different reasons why the Bills offense struggled at times last season. Trent Edwards is a young quarterback who was embarking on his first full season as a starting quarterback. Buffalo's offensive line was inconsistent all year long and there were very few viable options in the passing game outside of Lee Evans.

All these factors contributed to an offense that ranked 23rd in the NFL in points scored. But the biggest culprit was the play-calling. The Bills need to become more aggressive on the offensive side of the ball and now they have the personnel to do just that.

Edwards completed 65.5 percent of his passes in 2008 but his average yards per attempt was just 7.2 yards. Too often the Bills threw the ball in the flats, whether it was by design or Edwards calling a check-off. This season, expect Schonert and Head Coach Dick Jauron to take the training wheels off Edwards. You don't give Terrell Owens a ton of cash to throw swing passes. Not if you want to keep T.O. happy, you don't.

The addition of Owens changes the Bills offensive philosophy from being one of the most boring teams in the NFL, to what could very well be one of the more exciting offenses in the league this season. The Bills have speed.

A lot of speed. Owens, Lee Evans and Roscoe Parrish are all speed-burners who can stretch a defense. Throw in freakishly talented rookie tight end Shawn Nelson, along with 2008 second round draft pick James Hardy, and it's going to be bombs away in Buffalo this fall.

Schonert got destroyed by Bills fans all over the Internet last season. Some of the criticism was deserved. Buffalo did go into games at times, especially later in the year, with game-plans that appeared to be way too conservative in the first half.

However, in defense of Schonert, he didn't have much to work with. Parrish played in 13 games but it's obvious at this point that he's mainly a return man and not much of a receiver. Buffalo had no options at tight end. So other than Evans, who often had three defenders watching him, there was no place to deliver the ball down the field.

The Bills brain-trust believes Edwards is about to break out and become one of the NFL's premier quarterbacks. They brought him along slowly and they think that is going to pay big dividends this season.

While most are expecting T.O. to be the big deep threat, that may not necessarily be the case. Evans is actually one of the most dangerous deep threats in the NFL. What the Bills have really lacked in recent years is a big receiver to go over the middle and draw coverage away from Evans.

Either way, Schonert has to feel like a kid in a candy store. He went from having a young quarterback with little to work with to having the makings of the most exciting aerial show Bills fans have seen in over a decade.

Schonert has said all along that he wants to stretch defenses. He is a big believer in using the entire field, so we have to give him the benefit of the doubt. With the addition of Owens, look for Buffalo to not only run more fly routes but to also run a lot of crossing patterns and 15-20-yard square-in's, routes T.O. runs as well as any receiver in the NFL.

Bills fans have waited a long time to see some fireworks in Orchard Park. The team gambled and signed one of the most controversial players in recent history to help jump-start a stagnant offense. Schonert promised he was going to open up the playbook. Look for him to make good on that promise this fall.

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