It is only preseason and it is way too early to throw in the towel, but it is not too early to panic for the Buffalo Bills.
In two preseason games, the Bills' starting offense has managed to put up a measly six points. They have had their bright spots, but the offense as a whole has been disappointing.
Last season, Buffalo's offense was fun to watch. For the first time in a long time, they had decent quarterback play thanks to Ryan Fitzpatrick. They had a break-out wide receiver in Stevie Johnson, while Fred Jackson showed he can handle the load at running back.
However, the major problem on offense was the poor play of the offensive line, The Bills would be sure to fix that in the offseason.
Or would they?
The Buffalo Bills ranked 32nd against the run on defense last season, so it was no surprise when they used their first three draft picks on defensive players Marcell Dareus, Aaron Williams and Kelvin Sheppard in the 2011 NFL draft.
While they did not address the offensive line early in the draft, the Bills would have to fix the offensive line in free agency.
Or, maybe not.
The Bills did a good job shaping up the run defense in the offseason. They brought in linebacker Nick Barnett, drafted to stop the run and gain former Pro Bowler Shawne Merriman off injured reserve list this season.
While they did a nice job of fixing the big problem on defense, they failed to take care of the big problem on offense.
It's not like Buffalo stood still in free agency. They attempted to bring in a big name offensive linemen in guard Tyson Clabo, but they ended up losing the bidding war with the Atlanta Falcons for his signature.
Okay, not such a big deal. They can just sign someone else, right?
Buffalo did not sign anyone to help out on the offensive line.
What makes matters worse is that there were and are linemen available. The Bills could have signed tackle Jared Gaither. Granted, he has some injury issues, but that does not mean he'd not be an upgrade or at least be of some help.
Buffalo could still could sign guard Brian Waters and tackle Bryant McKinnie. While both Waters and McKinnie aren't getting any younger, they could definitely be of some enormous assistance if added to the Bills' offensive line.
It seemed entirely possible that Buffalo's line might not be as bad as last year. Maybe they just needed a year of experience under their belt.
Two preseason games later, the Bills' offensive line looks horrendous. Running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller have been constantly hit behind the line of scrimmage and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has had barely any time at all to get rid of the ball.
Offensive line has not been the only problem for the Bills offense this preseason.
Indeed, finding a replacement for long-time Bill receiver Lee Evans has not been easy. The Bills have tried out second-year receiver Donald Jones as the starter opposite Stevie Johnson, but so far, not so good. Following the first two preseason games, Donald Jones has zero catches for zero yards and zero touchdowns.
Once again, it is only preseason and Donald Jones has not seen a lot of reps.
But—zero catches? Really?
One would have to think that David Nelson, who played extremely well at the end of last season, will get an opportunity to show what he can do opposite Stevie Johnson in the starting lineup.
Buffalo obviously intend to go younger at receiver, and this must have been one of the main reasons they traded Lee Evans to Baltimore. That is understandable. They are rebuilding at this point and they need to see if some of the young guys can do it for them long-term.
However, what if Buffalo has a better season than people expect? What if the Bills look like a playoff contender and the only thing holding them back is a legit receiver to start opposite Stevie Johnson?
Can Donald Jones really be the No. 2 receiver? Can Buffalo really survive if Kraig Urbik and Erik Pears are starting on the offensive line?
It is preseason, and it is far too early to give up on the regular season. However, Buffalo has to really make sure the offensive line steps up and they find a replacement for Evans if they have any intentions of contending this season.
That's right. Contend.
There is no reason for the Bills not to contend this season. Just because a team is rebuilding does not mean that team have to be 4-12. A team can rebuild and still win, but not with an offensive line like we have seen in Buffalo.
It is too early to quit, but not too early to panic. There are some good, solid veterans out there who Buffalo can use to fill in while the rebuilding continues.