Buffalo Bills Vs. Miami Dolphins: C.J. Spiller Primed To Explode For Bills Fans
This Sunday at 1 P.M. EST the Buffalo Bills kick off their first season under new head coach Chan Gailey as they take on their AFC East division foes, the Miami Dolphins.
The Bills experienced a vast overhaul in both the coaching staff and the roster, as every coach on the Bills sideline is new, and about a quarter of the 2009 roster is gone.
This slideshow features 10 keys to a Buffalo Bills opening day victory.
Trent Edwards Emerges As Buffalos Starting Quarterback
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Entering the offseason, Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards was unsure of his job security as the main man under center. Many draft pundits and gurus expected the Bills to select Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen or even Florida's Tim Tebow to be the new leader of the Bills offense.
However, new General Manager Buddy Nix opted against selected a quarterback until the seventh round, deciding to add bodies to assist the transition to the newly instated 3-4 defensive front.
Edwards entered training camp in a battle with Ryan Fitzpatrick, who saw significant playing time last season, and Brian Brohm, the front runner for the job.
Trent Edwards has worked hard throughout OTA's, training camps, and preseason games, and seems to have developed into the leader that the Bills thought they selected when selecting Edwards in the third round of the 2007 Draft.
Edwards has been highly criticized due to relying on completing short passes into the flats, earning himself the infamous nickname, "Captain Checkdown," but has proved the critics wrong thus far.
Throughout preseason, Edwards has been stellar, displaying excellent pocket presence and utilizing all of the weapons at his disposal, completing 28 of 41 passes for 370 yards, with two touchdowns and only one interception.
He completed four passes of 25 or more yards in limited preseason action, after completing just 11 passes of that distance all of last year.
Edwards has been highly regarded by teammates who have faith in him to lead this team to their first postseason since 1999.
C.J. Spiller Will Start In His First NFL Game
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When the Bills took the stage to make their ninth overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, they selected Clemson running back, C.J. Spiller, a game breaking, home run threat, who scored 51 touchdowns in his college career.
While most fans questioned the pick, referencing the current backfield of former first round pick Marshawn Lynch, and Fred Jackson who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season, he displayed exactly why he was chosen throughout the preseason.
After both Jackson and Lynch went down during the first series of the first preseason matchup against the Washington Redskins, Spiller went on to carry the ball 16 times for 122 yards, scoring three touchdowns, while adding three catches for 35 yards.
With questions surrounding the Bills offensive line, Spiller is a breakaway back with track star speed, and constantly makes opposing defenders miss, and often finds the end zone.
Lynch made the start in the last preseason game against the Detroit Lions, but as of today Spiller is slated on the depth chart as the starter. The Dolphins will be without nose tackle Jason Ferguson, who was suspended by the National Football League for violating the league's substance abuse policy, and defensive end Philip Merling recently injured his achilles tendon, and is out for the season.
Without the two premier players on the 'Fins defensive line, Spiller should have a field day in his first career NFL game.
Bills Wide Receivers Look To Make a Statement
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Last year the Bills made headlines when they signed Terrell Owens as a free agent to line up opposite of veteran wide receiver Lee Evans. The move was intended to take coverage off of Evans, who has the talent to be an elite wide receiver, but has only eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards twice in his seven years.
Last year, he caught just 44 passes for 612 yards, but managed to find the endzone seven times.
With Owens gone, former seventh rounder Steve Johnson is slated as the No. 2 receiver. Johnson had a subpar preseason, but has a lot of upside, despite appearing in just 16 games in two seasons, recording 12 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
Roscoe Parrish, a sixth year pro out of the University of Miami, has finally been let out of the dog house he was locked in throughout the Dick Jauron era. Parrish is a prototypical slot receiver, and had a productive preseason, catching six passes for 69 yards and a touchdown.
Coach Gailey is high on Parrish, and we can expect to see a lot of him throughout the season, something all Bills fans are happy to hear.
After releasing former second round draft pick James Hardy, undrafted rookie David Nelson will be the No. 4 receiver on the depth chart. At 6'5" he offers a large target for Trent Edwards to look to. Nelson has become a fan favorite throughout the preseason, as he caught eight passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns in just three games, despite struggling with injuries.
The Dolphins have a young group of cornerbacks, and former first round pick Jason Allen has surpassed Sean Smith as the No. 2 corner opposite second-year pro, Vontae Davis. The Bills wide receivers have a good chance to make a statement, as they have been vastly overlooked in the AFC East division.
Can The Bills Offensive Line Protect Trent Edwards?
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Last season, the Bills had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, mainly due to roster shuffling after sustaining injuries throughout the season.
Many believed that the Bills would target one of the many highly touted offensive tackles in the NFL Draft, however they waited until the fifth round to select Ed Wang out of Virginia Tech.
The Bills will rely on Demetrius Bell to anchor down the left tackle position, with Andy Levitre at left guard, Geoff Hangartner at center, Eric Wood at right guard, and either newly added Cornell Green or Jamon Meredith at right tackle.
The unit has been off and on throughout the preseason, but the Bills will rely on the group to gel together if they expect to stay on the field.
The Dolphins have a strong pass rush, and signed a star linebacker in Karlos Dansby during the offseason. Second year pro Cameron Wake is expected to make an impact as a pass rusher, as well as rookie Koa Misi out of Utah.
If the Bills offensive line can hold off the Dolphins pass rush long enough to let Trent Edwards find his targets, the Bills will be in for a great Sunday afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Will The Bills Secondary Contain Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall?
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The Bills have one of the most underrated secondaries in the National Football League, featuring veteran cornerback Terrence McGee, safety Donte Whitner, and the runner up for the Defensive Rookie of the Year in safety Jairus Byrd.
However, the Dolphins added a major offensive threat in Brandon Marshall, via trade this offseason. Marshall has caught over 100 passes in each of the last three seasons, and excels in making seperation and making large gains after the catch.
Marshall is a huge target at 6'4" and 230 pounds, and will be a good test for the 5'9" 195 cornerback Terrence McGee.
Along with Marshall, the Dolphins also feature Brian Hartline, a speedy and underrated receiver, as well as Davone Bess, who is also very productive.
Leodis McKelvin hasn't played well through training camps and preseason, meaning that veteran Drayton Florence will be starting opposite McGee. Florence has had a successful preseason thus far, the highlight being a interception that he returned for a touchdown last week in the first quarter against the Detroit Lions.
The Bills secondary will need to step up and play tough coverage if they wish to contain the Dolphins stronger passing game led by first year starter Chad Henne.
Will The Bills Be Able To Stop The Run?
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Last season the Bills were one of the worst teams in the entire National Football League when it came to stopping the run, allowing 1,867 yards on the ground.
The Dolphins are a run-first team with two superstar veterans in Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, who combined to gain over 1,660 rushing yards last season.
The Bills have made strides to transition to a new 3-4 defensive front, utilizing three down linemen and four linebackers, but Coach Chan Gailey reportedly hasn't seen enough production from it just yet, and stated that they will be switching back and forth with the 4-3 as well.
The Dolphins are masters of the Wildcat offense, and will likely turn to it to throw the young Bills defense off guard. Buffalo will rely heavily on their linebackers, including former Dolphin Reggie Torbor, to shut down the Dolphins rushing attack, and force Chad Henne into passing situations.
Marcus Stroud has moved to defensive end, and the Bills added former Baltimore Ravens defensive end Dwan Edwards this offseason, both of whom are excellent run stoppers, but the nose tackle position will need to hold up with the undersized Kyle Williams anchoring down the front.
Rookie Torell Troup out of Central Florida will be rotated throughout the game with Williams, and he has shown promise in his preseason action, and played the entire game against the Lions.
Can Aaron Maybin Make A Statement?
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The Buffalo Bills picked Penn State defensive end Aaron Maybin last year with their first selection in the draft, and he literally made no impact whatsoever.
He was undersized for the position and is now transitioning to outside linebacker, where he will have a better opportunity to rush the passer. He has made strong progress throughout the offseason, and added extra weight to increase his strength.
The Dolphins feature arguably one of the best left tackles in the league, Jake Long, who will be a headache for any pass rusher, especially one who has yet to play the position in a regular season game.
With starting linebacker Reggie Torbor's status questionable for the game due to injury, Maybin may get the call as the starting pass rusher.
If so, he will need to turn up the motor on every play, as he has done so far in preseason games, and prove why the Bills selected the "project" DE/LB so high in the draft.