I’m naming the Buffalo Bills for this season as the “Odd Men Out” because when it comes to the AFC East Division, that’s exactly what they are going to be.
I mean, let’s be honest.We are all going to be very surprised if the Bills finish higher than fourth in the AFC East in 2010.
Based on what I saw out of their offense last season (which included star wideout Terrell Owens in the mix) they still didn’t do so hot. Many of you Bills’ fans out there could be saying “Well that’s because we had to use three different quarterbacks during the season.” This is true, but at the same time, even if Trent Edwards would’ve stayed healthy, the Bills wouldn’t have made the playoffs anyways. Just being honest.
Here’s how I see the Bills at each position.
The Bills are going to have the same set of quarterbacks they had last year—Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Brian Brohm. There are many people out there who are saying that missing out on acquiring Donovan McNabb or even drafting Tim Tebow, Jimmy Clausen, or Colt McCoy wasn’t good. However, I think the complete opposite.
Trent Edwards is a great quarterback who has proven that he can hang with the big boys. It’s just that the five big boys in front of him did a terrible job at protecting him last year. And I’m expecting the same to happen this year as well.
With Chan Gailey calling the shots, I think Trent Edwards will have a great chance at resurrecting his career. Ryan Fitzpatrick has also shown that he can do a little bit of something after making spot starts for three different teams. But if he is chosen as the starter for 2010, I can already tell the season will be a difficult one for Bills fans to watch, not that it won’t already will be.
And don’t count out Brian Brohm either. If he can play like he did in college, things could go decent for the Bills. At this point, I’m expecting the starting job to stay with Trent Edwards and would be shocked if it’s one of the other two.
I’m actually liking what the Bills have here at the RB position. They have three guys on the team that can be great starters if given the chance. Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch (the first two of the three I’m talking about) have already proven that they can be reasonably good running backs if given the chance. And then there’s C.J. Spiller who could end up getting the ball quite a few times out of the back field, as well as do some damage at the returning position.
Fred Jackson really impressed me last year when he came out of a Division III school and then the United Indoor Football League and racked up 1,000 rushing yards and led the entire league in all-purpose yards last season with 2,516. Look for him to have another decent year if he stays healthy and consistent.
But because of Spiller, he’s not going to get as many carries as he did last year. With Spiller in the mix, the Bills will improve an offense that ranked 30th overall last year.'
Marshawn Lynch is kind of the odd ball in the bunch. He’s going to need a productive camp along with staying out of trouble off the field if he even wants to keep his job. Overall, look for the Bills backfield to do a decent job this year with Jackson and Spiller backing up Trent Edwards.
The receiving corps isn’t looking so good on paper now that T.O. is out of the mix.
Lee Evans is the go-to guy once again. His 340 catches, over 5,000 yards and 39 touchdown grabs in six seasons rank among the top four in each category in Bills history. Even though his numbers as a Bill are very good, it seems as if they go unnoticed because of the team he plays for.
On the negative side, he hasn’t had an 80-catch season since 2006. The team is hoping that they can get something out of Roscoe Parrish, James Hardy, or maybe Chad Jackson and they could develop into a No. 2 guy opposite of Evans. At the tight end spot, the Bills are also hoping to see good things from Shawn Nelson. If he ends up not showing much a few games into the season, I expect Joe Klopfenstein to take the lead roll.
This is a group that need a lot of tweaking. They are basically the reason for the lack of offensive success last year. The Bills have ranked in the bottom eight of NFL offenses seven years in a row thanks to these guys.
They were chewed up by injuries last year, and they still didn’t make any significant upgrades. But they do have four starters returning in Geoff Hangartner, Eric Wood, Andy Levitre, and Demetrius Bell. Free agent Cornell Green is expected to start at right tackle.
He might not be the most attractive guy to sign but he does have 46 starts to his credit. Demetrius Bell is a questionable too with all the penalties he has caused in the past. If this continues, Ed Wang could take his spot. Eric Wood is also questionable because of his broken leg.
This is a spot that looks a little soft to me. I was looking at ESPN.com and it showed that the Bills only have three defensive ends on the roster (Marcus Smith, Alex Carrington, and Jermaine McGhee). If that's really the case, I'm hoping they are doing a litle of moving around to see what puzzle pieces fit if they want this whole 3-4 thing to be a success.
Gone are the small, quick two-gap tackles in favor of space-eaters such as second-round pick Torell Troup, who will play in a rotation with Kyle Williams at the nose. John McCargo is at a crossroads just to find out how he’s going to fit in with the new scheme. The ends could end up being a combination of former tackle Marcus Stroud, Spencer Johnson, and Chris Ellis as well as Dwan Edwards who the Bills signed after he has a successful stint with the Baltimore Ravens.
With the recent loss of Aaron Schobel, the LB position could get a little more interesting. This means that guys like Andra Davis, Kawika Mitchell, and Chris Kelsay and even younger guys like Paul Posluszny (who I’m a true fan of ever since his days at Penn State) will have to step it up a little more.
Posluszny seems to be a rising star after recording 100 tackles two years in a row now. The bigger issue is who will fill in the outside roles. Former ends Chris Kelsay and Aaron Maybin are being asked to move to the outside. Aaron Schobel was asked to do the same thing, but this will be difficult now that he has decided to retire, which does disappoint me. He leaves the Bills second on the team’s all-time list with 78 sacks. To wrap this section up, I’d look for Aaron Maybin to make a bigger impact in 2010.
Jairus Byrd is the most impressive out of this bunch. Mainly because of his nine picks he grabbed last season in his 14 games played. Because of him, this is the Bills defensive strength.
The safety position is a strong one. It involves Bryan Scott, George Wilson, and Donte Whitner, who could fight for a lot of the snaps this year. At the corner position, 2008 first-round pick Leodis McKelvin will make his return after missing 13 games in 2009 with a broken leg.
He’ll team with another guy who’s recovering from a serious injury—Terrence McGee. Just add those guys along with Drayton Florence (64 career starts), Ashton Youboty, and Reggie Corner, and the Bills have a very nice group of safties. The Bills ranked No. 2 overall last season in defending the pass.
Kicker Rian Lindell and punter Brian Moorman are two of the NFL’s best at their position, so I'm looking for more success from those two. Fred Jackson did an impressive job at returning kicks after Leodis MeKelvin, who set a team record with nearly 1,500 yards in 2008, got hurt.
The Bills need to do a better job returning punts, though. Roscoe Parrish averaged a pitiful 5.5 yards per attempt last year. The wild card in all this is obviously C.J. Spiller (who I can’t wait to see return kicks), who tied an NCAA record with eight career return touchdowns.
Did I mention that I can't wait to see him return kicks?
The Bills will be more interesting to watch this year. The only reason why people (including myself) were half-way interested in watching them last year was strictly because of Terrell Owens being added to the mix. But, now that Chan Gailey is calling the shots, things could get interesting. With that said, it’s still going to be hard to believe that the Bills will finish higher than fourth in the division with question marks they have at quarterback, receiver, and the O-line.
Having the always-successful Patriots, the defensive monster New York Jets, and the Wildcat-crazy Miami Dolphins doesn’t make matters any easier. They all made more significant upgrades than the Bills in the offseason.
FINAL PREDICTION: 4th in AFC East Division, Misses Playoffs.