After last season's end in which the offense sputtered and failed to produce on more than one occasion, the Buffalo Bills front office made a decision to overhaul key positions on the offensive side of the ball.
The Bills targeted two key positions to upgrade and a third position was opportunistically addressed. These three positions will influence the play-calling on the offensive side of the ball and should help propel the Bills to a winning season.
The first area the Bills addressed, and the biggest key, was the interior of the offensive line. They lost every game against the rest of the AFC East, and all those teams run the 3-4. Experts say that the game is won in the trenches, and in order to win against the 3-4, the Bills needed to upgrade the interior of the line.
The Bills in free agency signed two interior linemen, center/guard Geoff Hangartner who played for the Carolina Panthers, and center Seth McKinney from the Cleveland Browns. Hangartner is the favorite to start at center this season and McKinney is a valuable depth signing.
In the draft, the Bills draft guard/center Eric Wood from Louisville and guard/tackle Andy Levitre from Oregon State. Both project to start at guard, moving Brad Butler to tackle.
Butler played tackle in college and is the prototypical size for a right tackle. Levitre projects better at guard due to his size.
These acquisitions should lead to a more physical play which was lacking last season in the run game. This should allow the Bills to spread the offense out more and run the ball effectively.
The Bills for the past few years have simply elected to run out of a jumbo formation on situations other than third- and fourth-and-short to go. Yet even in that formation, there was a greater chance of the run failing.
The Bills have been lacking a physical offensive line for years, and that was with one of the biggest offensive lines in the NFL. This led to the release of left guard Derrick Dockery and not retaining the services of center Melvin Fowler and guard/center Duke Preston. The new acquisitions should form a more physical interior this season.
The second position addressed was a surprise as to how it was addressed, not necessarily that it was addressed. The Bills have lacked a threat at the wide receiver position opposite Lee Evans except for his rookie season. When the Dallas Cowboys released Terrell Owens, the Bills shocked the sports world and their fans by signing him to a one-year deal.
A number of NFL experts said that this was a bad move, yet it makes sense for the Bills. T.O. performs at a very high level and does not cause team trouble during his first season with a new team. If he performs well this season, he hopes to cash in for one last big pay day.
In turn, the Bills get a proven threat to play opposite Lee Evans, forcing the defense to finally account for multiple threats in the passing game. This should force defenses to stop double-covering Evans and even stop putting eight men in the box to defend against the run.
Another acquisition that should spread out defenses is fourth-round draft pick Shawn Nelson. A number of draft experts had him going in either the second or third round, but he fell to the Bills in the fourth.
He is a tight end who can cause match-up problems with his height and speed. If he can adjust to NFL defenses, he should be able to cause damage underneath coverage and continue to spread out the defense.
All these moves are moot if Turk Schonert does not utilize the upgrades in drafting game plans and Trent Edwards cannot execute well. Yet the potential is there for the offense to improve and make problems for defensive coordinators and players.