Buffalo Bills fans are not used to all this attention. Some like it, some hate it, and others want the publicity to focus on something other than Terrell Owens when it comes to the Buffalo Bills in 2009.
However, when the owner gives him a key to the city before he plays a down, and VH-1 follows him around like SportsCenter follows Michael Vick, it can prove difficult to not talk about the walking, breathing soap opera.
The fact is the 35 year-old gives Trent Edwards a wide receiver threat that accumulated over 1,000 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns last year; a Trent Edwards that showed a ton of promise in 2007 only to disappoint in 2008. After starting the season 5-1, Edwards traveled to Miami and threw an interception with no touchdowns in a loss to the Dolphins.
The following week Edwards felt the heat at home against the Jets, taken down behind the line of scrimmage five times, a high for sacks allowed on the season. Edwards was also injured and suffered an apparent concussion on one of those sacks. He threw two picks during that game—a season high up to that point.
Including those two losses, Edwards and the Bills finished off the season 2-8 since the hot start. Edwards threw eight interceptions during that stretch, to just six touchdowns. Before that, he had racked up five passing TD's with only two picks.
However, in the two wins during that collapse, Edwards threw three touchdowns to zero interceptions, for 466 yards, and a 72% completion rate.
Now, those games were against two non-playoff teams in the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs, but the Bills did also lose to the Browns and the 49ers. In those two losses, Edwards threw just one touchdown and three interceptions, for only 260 yards, and a 55% completion percentage.
It's safe to say that as Trent Edwards goes, so go the Buffalo Bills. Which must've been what the Bills' front office was thinking in signing Terrell Owens. Adding a 10-touchdown guy opposite of Lee Evans (who only caught three touchdowns last season) makes the Bills' receiving corps instantly formidable. A receiving core that only caught 14 touchdown passes total last year.
Now of course Owens is notorious for ruining locker rooms through off-field issues, which could complicate things especially with RB Marshawn Lynch facing a possible suspension and DB Donte Whitner looking at an Ohio court case. Whitner had to be subdued by way of a stun gun after an altercation with police.
On April 11th, Whitner was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest outside a Cleveland nightclub. Lynch was arrested on February 11th after police found a 9mm handgun in his car along with four marijuana cigarettes. No drug charges were filed but Lynch pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge and was later suspended by the league.
If Lynch's appeal is not successful his suspension will begin after the Bills' last pre-season game and will not be allowed to re-join the team until the week of September 28th. Whitner awaits his court date on June 19th.
Lynch's suspension will indeed hinder the Bills in the first three weeks as Dominic Rhodes and Fred Jackson will run behind an inexperienced offensive line, possibly including two rookies in C Eric Wood and G Andy Levitre, whom they picked up in the draft. Last season's tackle Jason Peters was traded to the Eagles.
The rushing yards per game average was the only offensive category that ranked in the top half of the NFL last season, and they will still need to improve on that mark.
And even with Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo will have to find some cohesion on the front line if Buffalo wants to be successful--a task that might prove to be the largest obstacle for the Bills offense in 2009.
LB Paul Posluszny led the team in tackles and accumulated 28 more than the next highest tackler. Kawika Mitchell plays next to Posluszny and was second on that list. The two make up a linebacking corps that is the defense's strength.
At corner, Terrence McGee led the team in interceptions last year with a whopping three, and the now-second-year player Leodis McKelvin caught two. Ashton Youboty is in the mix at corner, a position that will have to be strong if the Bills are to defend successfully against, Brady, Pennington, and Sanchez.
Ko Simpson, Donte Whitner, and Bryan Scott will get the majority of the playing time at the safety spots. All three had 60 plus tackles and with the Bills only allowing 14 passing touchdowns last year, the defensive backfield shouldn't be in too bad of shape. It's youth provides some question marks but also a lot of potential.
The defensive line didn't do much to help the offensive line, only picking up 24 sacks compared to the 38 allowed last season. Rookie Aaron Maybin will get a chance to play but typically defensive lineman don't break out in their rookie season; see Mario Williams. Aaron Schobel will return from injury last season and will certainly aid in the sack total this year.
Veteran Marcus Stroud will try to bolster the middle once again, but will look for an emergence of John McCargo, former first round pick and so far disappointment. His broken foot during his rookie season required season-ending surgery, as did last year's back injury.
The two biggest question marks for Coach Dick Jauron this season lie within the lineman, on both sides. If the O-Line can provide some running room for Marshawn Lynch, and he has a pro-bowl type season, the offense will be scary good as the run will set up the pass and make it easier for Edwards, Owens, and Evans. If not, Edwards will be harassed like he was last year and the air attack won't be able to get off the ground.
If the D-Line can pressure the quarterback and clog the middle, Buffalo will make it awfully difficult to move the ball against them. If not, the rushing defense (allowing 122 yards per game last year) will again hold back the overall defense to a sub-par season, possibly calling for Jauron's job.
I don't think the lines will hold up and given the current caliber of the AFC East, I believe the 50th anniversary season will see the Buffalo Bills miss the playoffs for the 10th straight year.