What's New for the Buffalo Bills in 2013-14?
The Buffalo Bills have been one of the busiest teams this offseason since their Week 17 win over the New York Jets last season. The team has brought in a new general manager, a new coaching staff with their own philosophies and a number of new starters at key positions.
The hope is that all of these changes will be for the better and they will be able to end their 13-year playoff drought. This will not be known until the end of the season, but fans will have a number of new players to cheer for.
This is a list of what fans can expect to be different heading into the 2013-14 season.
New General Manager
New general manager Doug Whaley is not necessarily a new face because he was brought on in 2010 to be the assistant general manager and director of player personnel. The plan was for him to be the eventual successor, and that plan was put into motion last May when Buddy Nix decided to step down.
He has had to make a number of tough decisions this offseason, specifically how to handle the Jairus Byrd situation and picking a franchise quarterback. The NFL draft was technically when Buddy Nix was still general manager, but Whaley was "an integral part in the draft process of EJ Manuel."
On Friday, Buffalo signed center Eric Wood to a multi-year deal and made sure he did not follow the same path as former teammate Andy Levitre. According to Chris Brown of the Buffalo Bills' official website, Doug Whaley was quoted as saying, "They wanted to do a deal and we obviously wanted to do a deal and it follows our mantra. Draft well and keep our core players."
It is still early in the new general manager's tenure, but with the moves he has made so far, it looks like the team is going to be in good hands under Doug Whaley's watch.
New Head Coach
With names like Lovie Smith, Andy Reid and Ken Whisenhunt looking for employment, Bills' fans were surprised and a little saddened when they initially heard the news of the new head coach. By hiring former Syracuse Orange head coach Doug Marrone, Buffalo made the statement that they were done hiring former NFL head coaches and were looking for a coach with a fresh approach.
Through Marrone's first offseason and training camp, it looks like that is exactly what they got. This ranges from the product on the field in terms of offensive and defensive philosophies to the culture within the organization.
In April, Marrone hung banners in the team's practice facilities recognizing the team's Super Bowl appearances as well as the two AFL championships in 1964 and 1965. This team seems to have a renewed excitement, and this is a credit to Doug Marrone and his staff.
New Offensive Philosophy
Nathaniel Hackett joins Doug Marrone as his offensive coordinator, the same position he held in Syracuse. As evident through the first three preseason games, the Bills are expected to run an uptempo style offense similar to the K-Gun of the '90s. The plan is to give the opposition a heavy dose of C.J. Spiller, which is a major change from former head coach Chan Gailey.
Fans who have watched the preseason games have seen the positives and the negatives of running this style of offense. If the Bills are moving the ball, this style of offense will quickly tire out opposing defenses. The downside is if the team is continually going 3rd-and-out, it will tire out their own defense because they will not have much time in between each series to rest.
New Defensive Philosophy
Mike Pettine is Buffalo's new defensive coordinator after holding the same position with the New York Jets last season. Just like on offense, fans will see a notable difference in how this team will play defense. It is expected for them to play an aggressive, blitz-heavy defense.
The team has the pass-rushers for this to work, but the question remains if the secondary is capable of keeping with their matchup long enough to make opposing quarterbacks hesitate. The loss of Stephon Gilmore for the first part of the year was a major loss and depletes an already weak position. Coach Pettine will have his work cut out for him early on.
The Buffalo Bills are expected to have at least five, possibly six, rookies who will have a big impact this season. With the departure of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the injury to Kevin Kolb, the Buffalo Bills will be starting a rookie quarterback this year.
It remains to be seen if it will be first-round pick EJ Manuel, who is recovering from minor knee surgery, or undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel. Both players have looked good so far this season, but Manuel provides Buffalo the best chance to win with what he brings to the game.
The team is also expected to rely heavily on middle linebacker Kiko Alonso, wide receivers Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin and kicker Dustin Hopkins. It remains to be seen how quickly they can transition to the pro game, but the playing experience early on will only pay dividends in the future.
Fresh Faces on Defense
The Bills have brought in a number of new players this offseason to support a defensive foundation that includes Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Stephon Gilmore and Jairus Byrd. The team didn't make a big free-agent splash like the previous offseason, but they brought in a number of role players to fill holes.
The three new players expected to play significant time on the Bills defense are free agents Manny Lawson and Alan Branch along with Jerry Hughes, who was traded from Indianapolis. The Bills obviously saw a need for pass-rushers and hope Lawson and Hughes can fill that void.
Fresh Faces on Offense
Outside of the rookies at quarterback and wide receiver, the Bills offense is very similar to last season. They brought back four out of five of the starters on their offensive line, with Colin Brown most likely stepping in for the departed Andy Levitre.
The Bills will have two new wide receivers with Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin expected to round out the top four wide receivers along with Steve Johnson and T.J. Graham. The quarterback position is still up for grabs, but there is only uncertainty because it remains to be seen if Manuel can recover quickly enough for Week 1. If not, Jeff Tuel will be the man leading this team against New England.
With this many new pieces added this offseason at key positions in the organization, it is hard to predict what team the Buffalo Bills will be in the upcoming season. Optimistic fans will point to last year's Indianapolis Colts, who made the playoffs with a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach.
Unfortunately, Buffalo will probably not have the same success as the Colts due to two factors. The first is the injuries this preseason and the fact that they have not been able to build great team chemistry with key players sitting out.
The second issue is the tough schedule they have ahead of them. This year, they face the teams from the NFC South and the AFC North, which have been two of the tougher divisions over the past couple of years. Add in four games against the Patriots and an improved Dolphins team, and Buffalo will be fighting for wins.