If there’s one thing you can say the Buffalo Bills aren’t, it would be “lucky.”
- “so close”
…but yet each year for the new millenium we’ve missed the playoffs.
Sure it comes from the dominance of the Patriots over the past decade, but the reigning AFC East champs are reeling from a troubling offseason. Most of Brady’s past weapons are gone and he will need to build some familiarity with his new squad before I believe they can fire on all cylinders.
The Dolphins made some moves but spent a lot of money on Mike Wallace and a few other players who might not make much contribution outside of maybe Tyson Clabo.
The Jets are a laughing stock right now as their best highlight from last year was the infamous (and always hilarious) butt-fumble. They lost Darrelle Revis, though Dee Milliner has the potential to be a star in the league, and the Almighty Tim Tebow. With Geno Smith as the backup-in-waiting-for-another-Sanchez-butt-fumble the New York Jets look poised for a last place finish.
So where does that leave our beloved Buffalo Bills? Well we went through a dramatic offseason ourselves. Firing Chan Gailey was the beginning of a series of moves that seems to show the Bills are getting serious about this whole football thing. While I can’t say I knew who Doug Marrone or Mike Pettine Jr. was before coming to the Bills, I can say that I approved. Marrone was as “local” a guy as you could ask for, and quite frankly making the Syracuse Orange (semi)-relevant in something other than basketball is a huge accomplishment. (They did beat Louisville, who beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl so that’s pretty worthy I guess.) Even though I am not a huge fan of Kevin Kolb; I sure did love his attitude about being here to win a Super Bowl, as far fetched as that might be (is it?). We need to build and breed an attitude of winning around Buffalo, something that we have never been accustomed to since our Four Failures. I think that given a chance, Marrone and Russ Brandon could build something worthy and exciting enough for fans to cheer about in December, not just August practice.
The Road to the Super Bowl is long and grueling, but you also need a bit of luck too. You know those guys that won it last year? Yeah, if the Denver safety knew a bit about his job and wasn’t completely out of position; we could have seen a Peyton-Brady showdown in the AFC Championship. Luck isn’t just enough to win a game, you need to have a good, talented team, and I believe this Buffalo Bills team may have just enough talent to get into the playoffs. I know we go through this every year as Bills fans, but hear me out.
We saw last year that a rookie can come in and lead a team to the playoffs. Not one, not two, but three rookies and a guy named Colin Kaepernick took their teams to the postseason. Does this mean E.J. Manuel is going to take us to the promised land?
Not so fast, my friends! We haven’t even seen him take a snap. Although I was shocked, I applauded the Bills for at least having enough conviction to target their “guy” and pull the trigger even when everyone else criticized the pick. I am a big Miami Hurricane fan, so I have seen some games Manuel played in, and not a lot jumped out at me about him. Sure, he is huge and has a good arm, he is mobile, but there was just something I wasn’t 100% sold on.
But what do I know? Maybe it was just the Hurricane fan in me. I am no NFL scout so I’ll believe in the organization that E.J. is the right guy for us. Kolb is a solid veteran, but I would rather see the rookie get the starting nod opening day for a couple reasons.
One, it would show faith in him, which could be a huge boost for him. Gone are the days of drafting a QB first overall and waiting for him to develop. If you get drafted in the first round you get drafted to play right away. Second, I view Kolb as somewhat of an injury risk, so I think it would be better for him to learn the system and be used as a backup in case EJ gets hurt (God forbid) instead of throwing EJ into a game situation for the first time after Kolb goes down (again, God forbid).
If I see C.J. Spiller on the sideline again for “being winded” and it wasn’t after just rattling off a 40 yard gain, I will personally slap Marrone in the face. C.J. should be the undisputed starter. He has electrifying speed and talent and frankly I think Fred Jackson would be better suited as a 3rd down back instead of the primary ball handler.
The offensive line was surprisingly decent last year. There weren’t too many games where it was just unbearable to watch the offensive line getting decimated, as in many years past. I think we’ve done a fine job putting together some protection for our QB, so if we can stay healthy our line shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Defensively I am looking for a breakout year. We have been horrific recently on defense, and unless you got your mind wiped by one of those Men-in-Black pens, just the mention of the San Francisco game is going to bring immediate cringing. I like the idea of going to a 3-4. It gives a lot of space for Mario, Dareus and Kyle Williams to work with and the mention of blitzing packages is shockingly refreshing. Guys such as Kiko Alonso, Manny Lawson, Jerry Hughes, and Nigel Bradham are pretty good fits for a blitzing 3-4 scheme. The secondary was God-awful, save for Byrdman Byrdman (just pay him already, dammit) and Stephon Gilmore. While we didn’t get too much in the draft in terms of secondary; I hope Aaron Williams or Duke Williams can step up at their new positions at safety. I don’t have a lot of confidence in Leodis or Justin Rogers, but hopefully Pettine can do something with them.
That brings us to the true point of this column: Number 13. If this is the year we reverse the curse or destroy the memory of the forward lateral pass, it rests on the guy wearing the lucky number. Stevie Johnson has been in the league six years now, he’s had his time to mature and set up his own Yeevie Island. He has some of the best moves off the line and the extra room from the disappearance of Revis Island should give Stevie a lot of room to run in the division, especially with the weakness at the cornerback position of the other teams in the AFC East. But the burden isn’t all on Lord Yeevie, he has other weapons around him now. Speedsters like T.J. Graham and US Olympian Marquise Goodwin should stretch the field vertically, and Robert Woods should emerge as a legitimate No 2 target. Trying to game plan for 2 burners, 2 potential number 1 wideouts and C.J. Spiller should give many defensive coordinators headaches in the upcoming season.
The pieces seem to be coming together quite nicely and it’s going to take some time, and maybe a little luck, to enter into the promised land in 2013-2014. All I can say to Bills fans is: “Be patient.” We have a tendency of throwing our hopes away after the first loss of the year, but with a new head coach, new defensive coordinator, and not to mention (hopefully) a rookie QB starter; there will be many ups and downs. We could even be 9-6 heading into the final game of the season, but not without a little bit of luck.