The Bills Offense in 2009...a Passing Fancy?

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The Bills Offense in 2009...a Passing Fancy?
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

I hate the West Coast offense. To be more precise, I hate the short passing game in general. There is nothing less inspiring in a football game than a four-yard out pattern.

The type of game that inspires me was played by teams like the Oakland Raiders of the 1960s and the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s. These are teams who ground out tough yards up the gut and when they wanted to pass they didn't nickle and dime it; they ran play-action and threw it deep.

While the Buffalo Bills teams of the past few seasons have used this annoying short passing game to some extent, the core mindset appears to have reflected the style of those classic teams.

The Bills built a mammoth offensive line and drafted powerful running backs Willis McGahee and Marshawn Lynch to exercise their will in the tough late-season conditions in Ralph Wilson Stadium. I applauded this strategy from the beginning.

Alas, it hasn't worked.

In what has to be a punch in the stomach to every native Western New Yorker who believes nasty late-season football is inherently their dominion, the Bills have stumbled, fumbled, and bumbled their way to a 6-13 December record over the past four seasons. Not only have they lost in December, they have been pushed around in the process.

While it may pain an old-school guy like me to admit it, the offseason revamping of the Bills offense is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Gone is the monstrous left side of the offensive line, Jason Peters and Derrick Dockery. They never produced the consistent steam-rolling power push the Bills needed in their running game to win when it counted and often made glaring errors in pass protection as well.

The new line is intended to be quicker and more athletic with Langston Walker moving from the right tackle spot to Peters' vacated position on the left and Brad Butler, who the Bills are very high on, moves from guard to right tackle, a position he played in college. Rookie guards Eric Wood and Andy Levitre are being counted on to make immediate impacts surrounding new center Geoff Hangartner, a veteran brought in from Carolina.

Of course most of the offseason hype centers around the arrival of Terrell Owens. Combined with Lee Evans, the duo should be one of the most dangerous receiving tandems in the league. But it's what the Bills can do with the other parts of their passing game that intrigues me the most.

During the Super Bowl years, the Bills maintained a balanced offensive attack from the no-huddle, but it was deceiving. They gutted defenses with quick slants and dump offs to Thurman Thomas in the flat early on, slowly wearing down the opponent's linebacking corps, setting them up for the running attack which ran downhill over a tired defense late in the game.

In 2009, with the opponent's top defensive backs trying to handle Owens and Evans, the gameplan calls for—no, screams for—quick-hitting strikes to Roscoe Parrish lined up against single coverage across the middle.

Parrish, who has been very unhappy with his role, or lack thereof, on offense has trouble getting off the line of scrimmage against physical corners. But there's no linebacker in the league who can keep with his first step should the opponent try covering him with one of them.

If they choose to bring up a safety or extra back on Parrish, the dependable Josh Reed can do what he does best and plant himself in an opening in the soft underbelly of the defense and make first downs.

But the real key for the Bills is to make Lynch or Fred Jackson into the second coming of Thurman. Both players have shown good hands and playmaking ability as receivers either coming out of the backfield or lined up in the slot, but the Bills have severely underutilized this aspect of the game over these past few seasons.

Bottom line, these Bills are built for speed, not snow plowing.

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