It pains me to write negatively about the Bills. Period.
But let's face it, our team does have some genuine concerns entering training camp that gets underway on July 29th in glorious Pittsford, New York at St. John Fisher College.
If you ask me, the Bills situation is a tad better than the Bill Simmons' of the world (who picked the Bills to be the worst team in the league this season) and the rest of the usually-wrong prognosticators are saying, but I'm not betting anything with anyone that Buffalo ends their decade long playoff hiatus. Not going that far.
Without anymore rambling on my part, here are the Bills' 10 biggest concerns as they approach Training Camp 2010.
This kicks off the list for a reason: it's not that big of a concern.
The Bills secondary is clearly the team's biggest strength, but the concern comes more specifically from the log jam at the safety position.
Donte Whitner was the subject of trade talks this offseason, but unless something surprising occurs, he'll be in a Bills uniform come September 12th.
Bryan Scott, George Wilson, Jairus Byrd, and if you love a hometown story, Jon Corto, will all be vying for playing time as the last line of defense in Buffalo.
I give the early edge to Bryan Scott at strong safety because he's willing to plug running holes and has remained relatively durable during his time in Orchard Park.
At free safety, Jairus Byrd's nine-interception, Pro Bowl rookie campaign makes him the default stater, at least in the initial stages of camp.
Keep Whitner, who's solid but certainly isn't flashy, and George Wilson, a true team leader with limited athletic ability at the front of your mind— they'll both be grappling for a starting position during the summer months.
Don't worry, I'll get to the tackle positions later- that's much more of a concern.
But for the nit-pickers like yours truly, concern surrounds the Bills newly formulated interior offensive line that definitely had it's up and downs last season.
Center Geoff Hangartner was a pleasant surprise in 2009, but was hardly fantastic (tough to blame the guy with the enormous nose tackles he faced in the AFC East alone).
Rookie guards Eric Wood and Andy Levitre showed their youth on more than one occasion but gave us glimpses of the superb players they could potentially become.
Unfortunately for Wood, (and every Bills fan in the world who's ready for Buffalo to once again have an aggressive and controlling O-line) he suffered a gruesome leg injury in November against the Jaguars and is still on his way back to 100 percent (albeit he's recovered faster than doctors initially believed).
Even the greatest scout, analyst, or insider wouldn't be able to tell you if the Bills interior linemen will grow as a collective unit, or continue their troubles run blocking and dealing with the increasingly popular colossal nose tackles.
I've got to search way back in the good ol' memory bank to find a time when the Buffalo Bills had a dangerous tight end galloping down the seam in their offense.
Mark Campbell, eh. Robert Royal, royally screwed up— the list goes on.
But now with a true athlete in second year player Shawn Nelson, Chan Gailey and the Bills finally possess a tight end that can be incorporated into the passing game.
I'm a little concerned about two things however— Nelson's ability to block consistently and Gailey's willingness, or lack thereof, to use a tight end frequently.
He's never really had an elite tight end to work with, but it'll be intriguing to see how he utilizes Nelson and sleeper Derek Schouman, who's got a knack for finding the soft spots in coverage.
Even if the two young tight ends play a bigger role in the offense, are they good enough to become real threats?
As if this isn't glaring enough. The Bills were ravished with injuries last year, some minor and some major.
Come on, let's name them together.
Kawika Mitchell, Leodis McKelvin, Brad Butler, Marcus Buggs, Derek Schouman, Eric Wood, Terrence McGee, Keith Ellison, Jairus Byrd, Paul Posluszny...you get my drift.
So in reality, we saw the majority of backups in starting roles last season for Buffalo, and most of them weren't terrible under the bright lights.
With that being said, the Bills are putting a ton of pressure on their new, non-John Allaire strength and conditioning coaches and trainers to nurse all those vital players back to 100 percent, and to keep them away from injury in 2010.
Whenever you've got that many players returning from injuries there's automatically concern that some of those guys may not get back fully, and could possibly get re-injured.
We all know that the Bills, on paper, have three fantastic running backs. We also know that this makes for a jammed backfield, one which hinders each back from finding a rhythm each game.
Fred Jackson should get the first hand off of the year, and is slated as the starter. C.J. Spiller brings speed, agility and playmaking ability not seen since Thurman Thomas. Marshawn Lynch, who's the newest love-hate guy in Western New York, finishes off the crowded running back trio.
Though I love the idea of these three guys running wild in OP this fall, I'm still a little worried that the split carries will negatively effect these backs from really having a big game.
Okay, rarely do I spend time analyzing a schedule, because as we've seen in the past, teams can perform much better or much worse than we believe before the season starts. (ex. Seattle and Jacksonville looked like tough matchups to start 2008, remember)
But when you look at the Bills 2010 rundown, trips to Green Bay, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Minnesota surely don't seem favorable and certainly have me on edge.
No matter how you look at it, there's nothing you, me, or the Bills can do about it. Their schedule— which right now looks rather difficult— is worrisome for sure.
Poor Lee Evans. What a talent. What a waste.
Well, Evans hasn't exactly been a waste, but you've got to believe anywhere else, he'd be a perennial Pro Bowler.
The Bills organization has acknowledged the fact that Evans needed help in the past and their previous attempts at a boost for the former Wisconsin star have failed rather miserably.
James Hardy has yet to pan out, and Hall of Fame lock Terrell Owens failed to deliver the compliment needed to avert attention away from Evans.
With names like Steve Johnson, Roscoe Parrish, Marcus Easley, and Chad Jackson formulating the rest of the receiving contingent, there's reason to worry about a No. 2 and No. 3 wideout stepping in and contributing and thus benefiting the blazing Evans.
Jamon Meredith. Ed Wang. Kirk Chambers. Demetrius Bell. Kyle Calloway. Cornell Green.
Not exactly franchise tackles.
Though the concern of the interior offensive line made this list, the edges are far more worrisome.
If these tackles get dominated, the QB injuries will pile up, making for a nightmarish situation once again in Buffalo.
Guys like Wang, Bell and Meredith have promise but I'm definitely concerned with these offensive linemen's protection skills.
For many reasons, it usually takes a good year for a newly instituted 3-4 defensive scheme to become successful.
It's not always the case, but you're lucky if your D can consistently make plays without surrendering the frequent big play from the opposing offense.
With the shift to the new defense comes the shifting of many player's positions. Former tackles will play end, like Marcus Stroud and Spencer Johnson.
Former ends will play outside linebacker, and cover on passing downs, a rarity for guys like Chris Kelsay, Chris Ellis and Aaron Maybin etc.
The linebackers become the playmakers of the defense, the real thumpers, but have to cover more ground than ever before.
Is everyone up to the new challenge?
Expecting anything else?
Listen, I actually like listening to Trent Edwards' press conferences— he seems like a very intelligent guy.
Once every so often, I like how he plays the game of football, but the majority of the time, his timid nature and weak demeanor really gets to me.
To me, Ryan Fitzpatrick seems like a career backup. Not flashy, not a great arm, willing to take a risk, and not a great decision maker.
Sure, once in a while he'll make a play, but I feel uneasy with him as my team's starter.
Brian Brohm is interesting. At one point in the spring of 2008, he was considered by some draft experts as the best quarterback in the draft.
Since then he fell out of favor in Green Bay and is currently the third string quarterback in Buffalo.
He's got a rocket arm, and showed a great QB IQ in college, but he's as unproven as they come in the NFL.
We don't know how Chan Gailey could change things for the better, which makes this story even more compelling.
It's safe to say this is the biggest concern for any Buffalo Bills fan out there.