This is truly the time of year that I loath, at least from a football perspective. There is really nothing going on, other than Brett Favre talk and other speculation. Mini camp is over, and we have to wait about a month until we get some taste of real practice. The Bills will begin training camp on Saturday, July 25th and until then we have really nothing to do as fans - other than what some of us are best at - speculation. I figured that this would be a good chance to speculate starters for day one at each position, and really give an idea of what I think this team should look like once they take the field in New England for the first game of the regular season. Today I’ll talk about offense and maybe some other day I’ll get to defense.
We’ll start with what we all know as the biggest question mark on this team - the offensive line. I am willing to say that Langston Walker will start at Left Tackle on day one, although, God willing, someone will take that job from him during the season. Perhaps Demetrius Bell. Wouldn’t the front office look like geniuses if they have yet another breakout Tackle that nobody knew about? The next definite would have to be Brad Butler starting at Walkers former position, Right Tackle. Then things become a bit more vague. I doubt anyone but Geoff Hangartner will start at center, but he is an unknown to this organization and myself thus far. I am high on the guy as a lot of the “experts” have told me I should be, but then I hear about how the Eagles stole one of the best LT’s in the league from us, and then I begin to doubt their expertise. Worse is the situation at right and left guard. People have been quick to assume that recently drafted Center Eric Wood would start at Right Guard as even that sounds better than starting Seth McKinney - the 30 year old injury prone 2002 draftee. While McKinney played well his first few seasons for the Miami Dolphins he bounced to the Browns in 2007 and played when he wasn’t injured. Then there is Left Guard, where there is speculation that Andy Levitre will prove himself in training camp and win the starting job from - well, Kirk Chambers? Would Kirk Chambers start if Levitre doesn’t perform? That is as unknown as any question we can come up with about this O-Line.
My opinion would be pure speculation, therefore I will not bother.
We know Trent Edwards is the starting QB and I’ve heard that for the first time in as long as I can remember there is no Quarterback competition scheduled for this years camp. Hardly reassuring. I have as high of hopes as anyone else reserved for Trent Edwards and his success, but I just don’t know.
Receiving will obviously be Lee Evans and Terrell Owens, but after those two things become a lot more unknown. A lot of people are going with Mr. Reliable, Josh Reed (still feels funny calling him that after his 2005 season). While there is the argument that he doesn’t score I would argue that he doesn’t get targeted in the red zone nor does he play much on the outside. He does convert 1st downs, though. His 36 first downs in 2008 was second only to Lee Evans, the undisputed (in 2008) no. 1 WR on the team. Then we are left with Parrish, who has proven that either he doesn’t have the size or this team still doesn’t know how to utilize his skill, either way it is my opinion that he makes too much money if we aren’t going to fully use him. James Hardy tore his ACL last December and may start the season on the PUP list, so we won’t even begin to discuss his impact on 2009 as it likely will not be much if any. Steve Johnson has been a nice surprise and if it was between him and Parrish to take Reeds job, I would put my money on him.
Running back is a position that the Bills seem to be set at for years to come - that is if Marshawn Lynch proves that he can keep his nose clean. It’s obvious that Fred Jackson will start for Lynch during Lynches three game suspension, though I wouldn’t doubt that we see quite a bit of Dominic Rhodes and Xavier Omon in spell situations. Rhodes has proven himself a capable backup in two separate stints with the Colts, scoring 6 touchdowns last year. His time with the Raiders might be a bit more on pace with what we’ll see of Rhodes in Buffalo, as although I have a severe case of “homerism”, I do acknowledge that the Bills are probably more in the league of the Raiders than the Colts as far as talent goes.
The team has a number of Tight Ends on the roster, and though they have been searching for the next Jay Riemersma for quite some time, they will have to do with what they have. Trent Edwards has said that so far in mini camp he is more comfortable with Derek Schouman than Derek Fine. He also said that rookie Shawn Nelson has a lot of work to do. Personally I have gone on the record to say that I thought that, given time, both Schouman and Fine will be, well, fine.
Every year around this time we hear about how the Bills are planning to implement a no-huddle approach to offense. While I am all for trying it out, I wonder if our small fast paced defense will get enough time off the field to rest their legs. I guess if it works and the offense scores loads of touchdowns that it won’t really matter. Personally I don’t really see this team going back to the K-Gun style offense of the glory days, partly because we don’t have the talent, and mostly because we lack the coaching to implement something so difficult to run. I believe I even read somewhere that Jim Kelly said “good luck” in a sort of “no way in hell” manner. The thing is that I’ve heard this talk for the past five off seasons or so, and it never happens.
I honestly don’t know what hurts more - the wait for the season, or the season itself.