The Buffalo Bills are coming off a 4-12 2010 campaign under a revamped coaching staff led by head coach, Chan Gailey. The Bills played a lot better than their record implies, but there are still concerns across the board.
Heading into the 2011 season, Buffalo seems to be in a better position to succeed, with the addition of No. 3 overall draft pick, Marcell Dareus, who is expected to start at the five-technique defensive end position from day one.
General Manager, Buddy Nix, brought in Dave Wanndstet to oversee the linebackers that struggled mightily in the transition to the 3-4 defense.
Even with the joy fans have experienced after a successful draft, there still are several concerns Billievers will need to follow if the Bills hope to compete in the AFC East.
The Buffalo Bills used their No. 9 overall draft pick last year on the standout running back, C.J. Spiller, out of Clemson, with the hopes he would be the game-changing player who could break a 70-yard dash at a moments notice.
However, Spiller struggled to pick up pass protection and consistently failed to make his cuts at the appropriate time. He amassed just 73 carries for a mere 283 yards in his rookie campaign, and failed to score a rushing touchdown.
He showed promise on special teams, averaging just over 23 yards per return.
C.J. really needs to get the feel for the speed of the National Football League, so he can return to his form at Clemson in which he scored 50 touchdowns.
Over the past two seasons, since the departure of left tackle Jason Peters and Brad Butler's early retirement, the Buffalo Bills' offensive line has been in shambles, especially at the right tackle position.
Last year, the Bills used 12 different offensive line combinations, leading to a lack of continuity and not giving the players time to adjust to one another.
Demetrius Bell, a former seventh round draft pick, is locked in at the starting left tackle position, but head coach, Chan Gailey, hasn't found a solid suitor to hold down the right side. General Manager, Buddy Nix, brought in veteran right tackle, Cornell Green, from the Oakland Raiders prior to the 2010 season, but he was released due to "injury." That left the Bills with an uninspiring competition between Mansfield Wrotto, Cordero Howard and Erik Pears to start.
Furthermore, there are questions surrounding whether guard Eric Wood should be moved to center in place of Geoff Hangartner. The Bills drafted Clemson's massive left tackle, Chris Hairston, in hopes that he can make an impact on the right side, but bringing continuity to the offensive line will be a huge concern for the Bills entering the 2011 season.
Prior to the 2010 season, Steve Johnson, a former seventh round draft pick out of Kentucky was a non factor in the Buffalo Bills offense. In his first two seasons, he caught just 12 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
Entering the year, Roscoe Parrish was named the No. 2 receiver under Lee Evans, before Johnson finally got to see the field. Johnson made an immediate impact, soaring into the top tier of receiving statistics, recording 82 catches for 1,073 yards, and 10 touchdowns.
However, was his sudden burst of production a matter of teams double teaming Lee Evans, who had been the Bills' primary receiving threat over the last several years and overlooking Johnson, who hadn't shown any production?
Even as teams began to realize his skill, he continued to make plays and find the endzone, but one can bet that opposing defensive coordinators will be keying in on locking down Stevie Johnson next year.
From Terrence McGee's rookie year in 2003 until 2008, he was a consistent and solid cornerback in the Buffalo Bills' secondary. However, over the last two seasons, he has missed 12 games due to a variety of injuries that left the cornerback group depleted.
Fellow cornerback, Leodis McKelvin, hasn't lived up to his expectations as a former high first round draft pick, and Drayton Florence simply isn't an every down starter. The Bills selected Aaron Williams out of Texas with their No. 34 overall pick in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, but scouts were questioning whether he was a better fit at safety or cornerback.
Williams obviously isn't a day one starter, especially in the AFC East that features a plethora of talented wideouts, and McGee's health will be a major concern to keep an eye on as the 2011 NFL season approaches.
In January, the Buffalo Bills hired Dave Wannstedt as the assistant head coach and inside linebackers linebackers coach. Back in 2000 when he was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, Wannstedt hired Chan Gailey as his offensive coordinator, so the two coaches know how each other operate.
Wannstedt is a defensive specialist, and will be expected to improve the Bills porous run defense that allowed almost 3,000 yards on the ground last year in addition to allowing over 200 yards in eight games. Paul Posluszny, Andra Davis, Akin Ayodele, and Kelvin Sheppard will have a lot to prove to Wannstedt, who is a no-nonsense guy.
The Bills defense was atrocious last year, so it's a breath of fresh air to have a proven defensive mind like Wannstedt in coach Gailey's ear, who's geared more towards offensive philosophies.