Ricky Williams attempted this brutal pass at Buffalo in 2009 game
This coming Sunday the Buffalo Bills kick off their 2010 regular season by facing the Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
This contest is special for a number of reasons, starting with this being the first game for the new regime of Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey at the helm of the Buffalo Bills. Conversely, this is the first game for the Dolphins without Bill Parcels, as Parcels stepped down from his position as V.P. of Operations and turned over the duties of running the team to Jeff Ireland.
For Bills fans not that up on Miami, this is the same guy who, when interviewing Dez Bryant prior to the NFL Draft, asked Bryant if his mother was a prostitute. Brilliant!
This game will also serve as the introduction to the NFL for C.J. Spiller, the rest of the Bills 2010 draft class, the new look 3-4 defense, and all of the new members of the team that Buddy Nix brought on board.
Right from the beginning of training camp, Chan Gailey set the tone for this year's team. He gave everyone in camp the promise that they were coming in with a clean slate, that everybody would be given a chance to win a starting job. He emphasized attention to detail, toughness and mandated that the players wear pads daily to prepare for the rigors of the NFL season.
This is basically as far removed from the old regime of Dick Jauron as you could get. Jauron was fine with the defensive side of the ball (when injuries didn't take away his entire linebacking corp), but was inept at running a pro offense. Gailey is the converse of that, knowing exactly how to run an NFL offense, as he will actually play the dual role of being head coach and calling the Bills' plays on offense.
Gailey turned over the task of running the defense to George Edwards, who most recently was a defensive coach with the Miami Dolphins.
Finally, Gailey's refreshing attitude brought football life back in to Roscoe Parrish, who is inspired again. He allowed for a number of undrafted rookie free agents to make the team, meaning that this edition of the Bills will be athletic, young and physical.
Nobody is ready to claim the Bills have the best offensive line in football, but they aren't the worst offensive line either. The unit has continued to show progress from the dreadful 2009 that saw serious injuries occur to Eric Wood and Demetrius Bell, and the sudden retirement of Brad Butler.
Cornell Green will be expected to bring some experience and play a decent right tackle. If he is not up for the challenge, Jamon Meredith, (see picture) is continuing to develop his game. Rookies Ed Wang and Cordaro Howard will be asked to rotate in for Eric Wood and Demetrius Bell as they are undoubtedly not ready for four full quarters. All of the backups have seen extensive duty in the preseason, so they are already battle tested.
The offensive line for now is considered to be better at run blocking than pass blocking. That is a good thing considering that Chan Gailey believes in running the ball and taking advantage of the multitalented Bills backfield.
How much time will Trent Edwards be afforded to continually look for his second and third options on pass plays remains to be seen.
Major new faces: WR Brandon Marshall and LB Karlos Dansby. Plus the Dolphins are starting three rookies: Jared Odrick, John Jerry and Koa Misi.
No question that the five players above are talented.
Who Did the Dolphins Lose: Jason Taylor, Joey Porter, Charles Grant, Marques Douglas, Ted Ginn Jr. and the team just put Will Allen on season ending I.R.
Losing their top two sack artists in Jason Taylor and Joey Porter will be difficult to replace. They had the experience and knowledge of how to get to the quarterback. The Dolphins had a shoddy secondary in 2009 and losing Will Allen is a big blow. They will be hard pressed to not be in the bottom third again in pass defense.
All of the above bodes well for the Bills offense and Chan Gailey's game planning.
Considering that he has experienced winning streaks, losing streaks, being knocked unconscious, benched, getting injured and running for his life, Trent Edwards has pretty much seen it all so far in his first three years in the league.
During that time, he has seen numerous coaches come and go, and offensive philosophies scrapped on the eve of the start of the season. He seems to be reborn to a degree under the tutelage of Chan Gailey. Having an offensive minded head coach is a brand new experience for Edwards.
Despite all of the uncertainty that Edwards had to endure and all of the fans riding him for throwing one checkdown pass after another, Trent has managed to stay positive, be focused and emerge with a new level of leadership skills that are not lost on his teammates.
Commanding a greater level of respect in the huddle and the locker room can only be a good thing for Edwards and for the team. If he is allowed to throw a higher percentage of passes without someone getting ready to lay the lumber on him, expect to see Edwards production go up this year.
He does not have an all-star cast of receivers, but what he does have is a sure thing in Lee Evans and some experience in Roscoe Parrish. He will need to develop some greater degree of chemistry with rookies David Nelson and Donald Jones. Steve Johnson is expected to step up and be a solid No. 2 receiver.
The tight end position, however, has been something of a nightmare. The Bills lost Derek Schouman to injury and starter Shawn Nelson is suspended for the first four games.
But the real key to Edwards' season will be the running game. As strong as that appears on paper, that is what will allow Edwards to pass the ball successfully. Defenses will come up to play the run, and Edwards will be able to use play fakes to find wide open receivers.
George Edwards was a linebackers coach for the Dolphins in 2009. He served under defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, the ex-Syracuse head coach. Edwards now is running the Bills defense, but you can be sure that Chan Gailey has picked his brain for every little thing he would want answers to about his knowledge of the Dolphins defense and their players.
Other Dolphins that found their way over to Buffalo are linebacker Reggie Torbor and tight end David Martin. Torbor had played the last two seasons with the Dolphins, while Martin was a victim of the Dolphins final round of cuts this season. Martin sat out the 2009 season, but played for Miami in 2007 - 2008.
The trio of ex-Dolphins should provide Gailey with plenty of insight in to how to properly prepare for this game. It is expected that the Dolphins are aware of this, so they will be countering with new plays that they installed this week specifically for the Bills game. However, with all of the new plays aside, the depth of this insider knowledge is a definite advantage for the Bills.
Chad Henne can look at the film from the Bills' preseason games, but it is fair to say that he would not have seen very many changes from the basic formation that the Bills displayed in those games. They were keeping the blitz packages under wraps, and because there is no footage of the Bills playing this defense, Henne and the rest of the Dolphins will be forced to ad- lib accordingly.
While Miami has been a run-oriented team with Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, the Bills new defense will be looking to do a better job this year of stopping the run. It will be up to the defensive line of Dwan Edwards, Kyle Williams and Marcus Stroud to tie up the Dolphins offensive linemen, giving the linebackers an uncontested lane to blow up the running plays. The Bills defensive line is also being fortified this season with the addition of rookies Alex Carrington and Torell Troup.
The linebackers will need to be playmakers across the line of scrimmage, stuffing the run, putting heat on the quarterback and covering tight ends and backs out of the backfield. Paul Posluszny, Reggie Torbor, Andra Davis, Kawika Mitchell, Chris Kelsay, Aaron Maybin and Chris Ellis will see the lion's share of action this year.
For the Dolphins game, there are some question marks from a health perspective, as Torbor, Mitchell and rookie Antonio Coleman have all missed time in practice this week.
Then we come to one of the Bills' strengths, the defensive secondary. The Bills welcomed back Jairus Byrd to practice this week, and he seems ready to go for Miami. The Bills defense came up with 28 interceptions in 2009, second in the league to Green Bay's 30 picks. The defense picked off passes from Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford to return them for touchdowns in the preseason. They are primed and ready for another big year.
This is not news to Chad Henne, as he was picked off three times last year in Buffalo and finished the game with a 42.5 passer rating, which was much higher than Ricky Williams, who was picked off in his only pass he attempted down in the red zone.
The Dolphins might be able to bottle up C.J. Spiller for a while this Sunday. But the Bills will be content to continue to find ways to give him the ball and watch him make things happen. His speed is something that is very difficult to practice against because it will be hard to simulate that in practice.
So far, Spiller has been predominately featured in the preseason as a running back. How the Bills will employ him in the regular season has been under wraps so far. Expect to see him line up in the slot, at running back, as a kick returner and maybe even running the Wildcat formation.
I have the distinct impression that the Dolphins will have more than their fair share of witnessing what Spiller can and will do against them. For Bills fans, they can sit back and enjoy the ride.
The other thing I wanted to introduce was the topic of Spiller as a decoy. Once teams start to maneuver their defenses to load up a certain side of the field, Spiller can then be used as a decoy, where you fake the pass to him, and then hand the ball to Fred or Marshawn to exploit the vulnerable other side of the field. This probably won't come in to play until later on in the regular season, but it is something for Bills' fans to watch for.
C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch: Two running backs who have 1,000-yard seasons under their belt and a potential NFL Rookie of the Year all in the same backfield. That is what I would call a three-headed monster.
The possibilities are almost endless. Wildcat formations, putting all three backs on the field at the same time, pounding away at the defensive line with Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson, then watch C.J. Spiller sprint past the tired defenders. The Bills have plenty of options available to them with this trio of talented backs and the imagination of Chan Gailey to design plays and schemes to take advantage of all this talent.
You would expect that each week Gailey will devise new plays to take advantage of the Bills' running backs. For now, both Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson have been able to overcome their injuries suffered in the first preseason game against Washington and have returned to practice. They are both expected to play against Miami. While C.J. Spiller has been named as the starter, I expect that all three will get touches in the game and will be involved in the offense. Let the fun begin !!
Chris Kelsay introduces himself to Chad Henne
In the last six years, Miami has recorded one win against the Bills on the road, which happened when the game was played in Toronto. That oversight by the NFL schedule-maker was corrected, and the game is in front of the Bills' faithful, where it belongs. In Buffalo, the Dolphins have lost five straight times.
Will the recent departure of Bill Parcells cause the Dolphins to play less than inspired ball? Maybe there is some sort of residual sense of abandonment now that Parcells has left the team on the eve of the season starting up. His timing seems somewhat curious, to say the least.
For that matter, Parcells has now been linked to every other AFC East team except Buffalo, so when will he start getting involved with the Bills? He has coached college football in New York (West Point) and professionally with both New York City teams.
Getting back to the game, from a health perspective, Miami is banged up. They may be without Channing Crowder at LB, and Jake Long has been limited due to an injury suffered in the final preseason game. He was spotted wearing a knee brace and may not be 100 percent for Sunday. They had to place Will Allen on the I.R. list.
The Dolphins are a very young team, as are the Bills. The Dolphins only have 23 players that have five years or more in the league. The young team on the road to start out the season is something that the Bills will try to take advantage of.
They also have the confidence that they can beat the Dolphins in front of their home fans. The Bills teams over the past six years have not been great by any stretch of the imagination, but they have had the Dolphins number in Buffalo.
The Bills team will be fired up to play for the first time under new head coach Chan Gailey. The first game under a new coach is a statement game. It is a chance for the whole team to make a statement that the so- called experts did not have a clue how good the Bills are going to be this year. It is a chance for all the non-believers to eat some crow.
Miami is a team that appears to be in a transition right now, and the Bills need to exploit the weaknesses on their defense.
If the line can give Edwards some time to throw, the running backs can keep the chains moving, which keeps the defense off of the field, it should result in another Bills victory over the Dolphins.
A picture sometimes is worth a thousand words.