For a team that hasn't made the playoffs since 1999, pressure from the fans and owner Ralph Wilson is on head coach Dick Jauron to put a winning Buffalo Bills team together quickly.
Despite the losing seasons of late, fans have continued to buy season tickets at an impressive rate.
Mr. Wilson has made it clear that he wants to win now based on this offseason’s free agent moves, and a strategic draft that makes the Bills look great on paper.
The question is can these moves transfer to on-the-field success?
A lot of that success falls on third year quarterback Trent Edwards’ shoulders. Edwards, who went out in week five last year after getting hit hard to the ground vs. the Cardinals, will be the "X" factor this year and will have to play consistently in order for the Bills to perform at a high level and among the NFL's elite.
Remember the Bills were 4-0 to start the season with Edwards at the helm, but neither he nor the team ever seemed to recover after he went out, losing nine of the last 12 games.
Edwards should be more poised and confident with two excellent options at receiver, Lee Evans and Terrell Owens, who will create match-up problems for opposing defenses. They’ll be faced with the decision to compromise their coverage by doubling one and leaving the other in a favorable one-on-one match-up.
Sure, T.O. is 36, but he is still hungry for a ring and under a one year contract. There is no time to be wasted. If he can put anywhere near the kind of numbers he put up last year (1,052 yds., 10 TDs) the deal will have paid off for the Bills.
With Roscoe Parrish and Josh Reed running in the slot, Edwards shouldn't have to worry about an inexperienced offensive line getting pummeled as he can quickly get rid of the ball to either one of the speedy, sure-handed veterans.
The Bills have more options as well after drafting tight end Shawn Nelson, a possible sleeper of the draft, who ranked among Southern Mississippi’s most productive pass-catchers in school history with 157 receptions for 2,054 yards and 16 touchdowns.
The importance of having a sure handed tight end cannot be underestimated and is something the Bills have been lacking for a while.
The Bills also have the benefit of developing tall receivers James Hardy (6’5) and Steve Johnson (6’2) under T.O., instead of last year where because of injuries, they were placed into the starting lineup before they were ready.
The signing of Ryan Fitzpatrick was a great security move by the Bills should Edwards go down again.
A veteran backup from the Bengals who in his four year career played under the likes of Carson Palmer and Marc Bulger, Fitzpatrick should put them in better shape than the last few years with inconsistent J.P. Losman.
Regardless of the situation at quarterback, the Bills' special teams have, and should continue to, put the offense in position to score.
If the offense (23rd in ppg. last year) can get used to a short field, they should put a lot more points on the board.
A concern early on for the Bills is that they will be without Marshawn Lynch, who is facing a suspension for the first three games because of an off the field incident this summer.
In another great move by the staff, they went and picked up veteran Dominic Rhodes, who won a Super Bowl with the Colts in 2007, to run alongside Fred Jackson, keeping that one-two punch that was so effective for the Bills last year.
This excellent tandem of running backs should be enough to keep defenses honest as offensive coordinator Turk Schonert looks to open things up on offense this year.
Big changes are inevitable at the offensive line as the Bills released Derrick Dockery, and disgruntled tackle Jason Peters left to play for the Eagles, signing the biggest contract in NFL history for an offensive lineman.
To fill the void the Bills look to develop to rookies Andy Levitre and Eric Wood quickly into guards and move Langston Walker to tackle.
Their starting offensive line will be composed of five guys all in new places with Brad Butler at right tackle, free agent acquisition from the Panthers Geoff Hangartner at center, and the previous mentioned rookies.
It usually takes time for an offensive line to mold as one, but Buffalo doesn’t have the time to wait.
The Bills need to get more pressure on the quarterback to prevent opposing teams' passing games from being so effective.
The absence of former Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Schobel last year was huge, and it killed them not to have him in the lineup for 11 games. He should be pumped up about returning and needs to have a big year.
The Bills also drafted a rookie defensive end from Penn State, Aaron Maybin. In his sophomore and final year with the Nittany Lions, his explosive first step allowed him to get 12 sacks in 2008. If he can provide the Bills with eight to 10 sacks this year, the team that ranked 30th against the pass would be ecstatic.
At linebacker, the Bills released Angelo Crowell, who had 126 tackles in 2007 but missed all of last year. They picked up veteran Pat Thomas who played 11 games with the Chiefs last season, recording 48 tackles in nine games.
John DiGiorgio missed 10 games last year because of a torn ACL and is expected to be back for training camp. Keith Ellison, who was put into the starting lineup as a replacement last season filled the role well with 78 tackles.
Alongside veteran Kawika Mitchell and possible Pro Bowler Paul Poslusnzny, the Bills should have one of the best linebacker corps in the NFL.
Depth in the secondary has been an issue for the Bills the last few years.
To address that need, the Bills signed veteran cornerback Drayton Florence from Jacksonville and drafted cornerback Jairus Byrd, who is expected to play free safety alongside strong safety Donte Whitner.
Not to mention, rookie standout Leodis McKelvin comes back at cornerback, and the veteran Terrence McGee only seems to get better each year.
They will need all the coverage they can get considering they will play against some marquee name receivers in Randy Moss (twice), Reggie Wayne, and Steve Smith, just to name a few.
Another issue the Bills face is their tough schedule. They play 11 games against teams with winning records this year and 13 against teams that went .500 or better. They must improve their division record from last year (0-6) if they hope to have any chance at the playoffs.
The Bills, who look much improved from last year as far as depth and talent, look to fight for a wild card spot in the AFC and could shock some critics and fight the Patriots, Jets, and Dolphins for the AFC East title.
The same division that saw a 1-15 Dolphins team the previous year crowned as division champions should be just as unpredictable and competitive this season.
If the Bills play to their strengths and stay healthy, they should be able to win at least 10 games and secure the franchise’s first playoff berth in 10 years.
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