2008 Summary:The Bills had just stretched their lead on the defending NFC West Champion Seahawks to a comfortable 20-7 margin and were on their way to cruising to an opening day victory, when word broke about something that could have been far more significant to their season.
Over at Arrowhead Stadium, reigning MVP and Bills tormentor Tom Brady (he only threw for nine touchdowns in two games against Buffalo a season ago) had just sustained a season ending knee injury.
The window of opportunity was open.
The Bills would go on to win their next three contests, including come from behind victories against the Jaguars and Raiders in successive weeks, and before you knew it Buffalo had finished the month of September a perfect 4-0.
It seemed like everything was finally breaking the right way for a franchise that had seen more than its share of heartbreak for the past several years.
And then an ill fated road trip to Glendale, Arizona would begin to unravel the Bills season at the seams. Trent Edwards would sustain a game ending concussion at the hands of Cardinal star safety Adrian Wilson a mere three plays into that weekend matchup, and the Bills would be blown out of the building 41-17.
The Bills were like a prize fighter stunned at a violent jab, and while they defeated the Chargers following the bye week, a four game losing streak, with three of those losses coming to their other divisional rivals, would unravel the Bills chances at swiping a Brady-less AFC East once and for all.
After that fateful loss to the Cardinals, the Bills would drop eight of their next 11 games, including all six games against AFC East opponents, and a Bills defense that had started the year so surprisingly well would begin to crumble—surrendering 21 points or more in six of those final 11 contests.
The Bills offense also would not do its defense many favors towards the end of the season, as they failed to score a touchdown in three of their final five football games. Trent Edwards would begin to tail off in large part due to health, as he would throw eight interceptions to only three touchdowns in that aforementioned losing skid. J.P. Losman proved to be ineffective once again in relief, and the Bills rushing attack was disappointing after showing flashes of great success in 2007—with Marshawn Lynch barely rushing for over 1000 yards and eight touchdowns in 2008.
And so a window of opportunity and a great start to the season would be wasted, and with it, another teams disappointing finish to the 2008 season would lead to the Bills becoming one of the major stories in 2009 with the addition of a certain controversial free agent to be—one Terrell Owens.
2009 Free Agency Additions:
WR Terrell Owens (Dallas)
C Geoff Hangartner (Carolina)
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (Cincinnati)
RB Dominic Rhodes (Indianapolis)
LB Pat Thomas (Kansas City)
CB Drayton Florence (Jacksonville)
2009 Trade Acquisitions:
2009 Offseason Departures:
G Derrick Dockery (Washington)
LB Angelo Crowell (Tampa Bay)
CB Jabari Greer (New Orleans)
C Duke Preston (Green Bay)
TE Robert Royal (Cleveland)
LB Blake Costanzo (Cleveland)
QB J.P. Losman (Unsigned)
RB Anthony Thomas (Unsigned)
2009 NFL Draft:
1-11. Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State
1-28. Eric Wood, C, Louisville
2-42. Jairus Byrd, CB/S, Oregon
2-51. Andy Levitre, G, Oregon State
4-121. Shawn Nelson, TE, Southern Miss
5-147. Nic Harris, SS/OLB, Oklahoma
6-183. Cary Harris, CB, USC
7-220. Ellis Lankster, CB, West Virginia
Undeniably, all eyes will be on Terrell Owens this season in Buffalo. The 35-year old wide receiver could be on the verge of playing his way out of the league if he continues to live up to the negative expectations that have clouded him his entire career.
With that said, if Owens can keep himself in check, he's still one of the better wide receivers in football if you can live with the drops he will have from time to time. He should instantly make the Bills passing game much better than it was a year ago, when Trent Edwards was either staving off a heavy pass rush due to an ineffective offensive line, or throwing it to a very marginal wide receiving corps. The addition of Owens should free up Lee Evans and allow him to make plays deep down field thanks to his great gamebreaking ability. The Bills will be without Marshawn Lynch for the first three games of the 2009 season due to an off-field issue, so Fred Jackson and former Indianapolis Colts third down specialist Dominic Rhodes will be called into duty during the early stretch of the season.
The Bills offensive line, as kind of touched upon earlier, was generally bad in 2008 so Bills General Manager Russ Brandon decided to overhaul his line by trading last years camp holdout Jason Peters to Philadelphia and by releasing 2006 free agent signing Derrick Dockery. Brandon then drafted center Eric Wood out of Louisville and guard Andy Levitre out of Oregon State with two of the Bills four day one picks in the 2009 Draft. Tackle Demetrius Bell will take over permanently for Peters and be responsible for protecting Trent Edwards blind side, as veteran Langston Walker will resume playing right tackle for the Bills.
Defensively, the two biggest impact players in 2008 were both in the Bills secondary with safety Donte Whitner and rookie Leodis McKelvin both having great seasons a year ago. However, the Bills biggest weakness on defense a season ago was a pass rush that was extremely inconsistent, and the Bills drafted Aaron Maybin with the 11th overall selection to try and jumpstart the anemic Bills rush. Marcus Stroud will resume playing nose tackle for the Bills and attempt to free their linebacking corps of Paul Posluszny, Kawika Mitchell, and Keith Ellison to make plays.
|Mon 9/14||at New England|
|Sun 9/20||Tampa Bay|
|Sun 9/27||New Orleans|
|Sun 10/4||at Miami|
|Sun 10/18||at NY Jets|
|Sun 10/25||at Carolina|
|Sun 11/15||at Tennessee|
|Sun 11/22||at Jacksonville|
|Thu 12/3||NY Jets|
|Sun 12/13||at Kansas City|
|Sun 12/20||New England|
|Sun 12/27||at Atlanta|
Immediately we will see what the Bills will be like in 2009, as they will begin the season on the road against the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football.
And while Terrell Owens will unquestionably garner a majority of the attention this season, the Bills will only go as far as young Trent Edwards will be able to take them. Last year in the Bills biggest stretch of the season, Edwards was terrible, throwing for three touchdowns and eight interceptions as the Bills went from a 5-1 start to finish 7-9.
The addition of Owens makes one thing clear for GM Russ Brandon, if Edwards is his guy at quarterback, he will have to produce with two playmakers at wide receiver and one of the better young running backs in the game behind him. If Edwards falters, we may see the Bills not only make a coaching change in 2010 but a quarterback change as well.
In my opinion, the perfect opportunity to win the AFC East came a season ago when the Patriots lost Tom Brady to a season ending injury and the Bills drew the luxury of playing the NFC West and AFC West in the same season. This year will be much more difficult to post not only a playoff season - but a winning one as well given the competition in the AFC East and a much more difficult schedule for the Bills.
Predicted Finish: 7-9, 3rd place AFC East
Hassellbeck - VSN Writer