OK folks, before you think I've gone off the deep end, I am completely aware that the three "games" we have seen our Bills play in this fledgling 2008 season have all been pre-season games. I realize that not only do we not see the best players and play books that our team has, we also see more (or less) of the same from the opponent. It's really very hard to make any sort of judgments about a team from pre-season.
But I don't believe that's what I am doing.
I believe I have said for quite a while now that between the massive pruning that Jauron and Co. have done since the start of their tenure with the Bills, to the great - and key - additions they have made through mainly drafts, and a few very good free agent signings...
This really could be the Bills year!
The pre-season contests we have seen have simply confirmed what I have been seeing through flashes in recent years, reading in various articles and on-site reports, and seen through OTAs and training camp. (Save, of course, the lackluster Washington game where the Bills did not look like they got the memo that it was a live game.)
Tonight the Bills disposed of the Indianapolis Colts (first game in their brand new stadium) fairly easily, posting a 20-7 victory. The end result is almost meaningless in pre-season contests, but the way they got there is not.
Consider that the Bills were 10 of 18 on third down conversion. TEN of EIGHTEEN. First, they got eighteen chances to convert on third downs, that's rather impressive for a notoriously anemic Bills offense. But then, they converted on ten of them! And some were long conversions! The Bills kept drives alive (especially the first team guys, who really included several second team guys - including the QB) and they finished drives, scoring points on drives of 13 and 18 plays in the first half.
Also, this Bills defense is not only talented, but aggressive. The first play of the game for the Colts ended in a big sack by multiple Bills defenders. And they kept coming. That forced several turnovers from a usually sure-handed Colts offense.
On offense, defense, and special teams ... this Bills team has so many pieces in place. They will be a challenge for any team who plays them this year.
Add to the great plays by the players the refreshingly innovative play calling, and this team really stands a chance to have a much better than average year - perhaps culminating in long-awaited return to the playoffs.
Again, it's just pre-season. And things are not all sunshine and lollipops for the Bills. Langston Walker left the game in the second quarter with an injury to his left forearm. X-Rays at half-time were negative, but more will be known on that injury in the days to come. That left the Bills with 7th round draft pick, Demetrius Bell to occupy arguably the most important position on the offensive line. Not good.
Starting QB Trent Edwards could have benefited greatly from playing in this game with the starting unit for an entire half. The third game of the pre-season is often looked on as the "dress rehearsal" for the regular season, but Edwards' thigh injury was not healed enough for the Bills to take the chance of having him play on it.
But all that did was allow the backups to shine.
Turk Schonert's offense definitely utilizes the strengths of these players much more effectively. The offense spread the field more, opening great running lanes for Lynch and Jackson. Josh Reed looked like a star, making many grabs in the opening quarter. Even J.P. Losman looked more than competent under center. Xavier Omon had a decent showing as well.
One thing that stands out on this Bills team is that there is a decent amount of depth. Some is still a bit raw, but there are definitely second and third-stringers who will be making a contribution to the success of the team this season. Definitely.
There is one more pre-season contest to play. That will determine the last several slots on the 53-man roster. Should really be interesting to see who makes the cut this year.
Whoever they will be, the 53 men who will represent the Bills this year will have the best chance of making the playoffs–and doing well in the playoffs–that a Buffalo team has had in a very, very long time.
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