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2008 NFL Season Previews: #18 Buffalo Bills

July 31, 2008

Team: Buffalo Bills
Division: AFC East
Last Years Record: 7-9
Head Coach: Dick Jauron
Offensive Coordinator: Turk Schonert
Defensive Coordinator: Perry Fewell

Key Losses:
TE Michael Gaines
WR Peerless Price
LB Coy Wire
RB Anthony Thomas
CB Jerametrius Butler
LB Kevin Harrison
DT Larry Tripplett

Key Additions:
LB Kawika Mitchell
DT Marcus Stroud
TE Courtney Anderson
CB Will James
DT Spencer Johnson

Breakdown of the offense:
After years of rebuilding, it's the proverbial fork in the road for the Buffalo Bills in 2008. Not only have they missed the playoffs since 1999, but the franchise finds itself being looked at for its financial concerns. The 2008 season sees the first in a series of five games that will be played in Toronto, it is critical that the Bills have some form of success in the next 2-3 years that generates new revenue from the current Rochester market. But for me these Toronto games signal to me the beginning of the end for the Buffalo Bills franchise(see: Seattle SuperSonics). You can look at the Toronto games as a trial seperation, and we all know how those end.

If the Bills are going to win their first playoff game since 1995,Trent Edwards will have to take them there. Trent Edwards took the job from J.P. Losman last season and looked impressive for a rookie quarterback. Edwards is decisive and accurate in the pocket but the question remains if Edwards is a playmaker or not. The Bills are banking on him being a better quarterback then Losman ever was and hope that he will improve in third-down situations and red-zone opportunities. Losman will serve as an insurance policy as Edwards' backup.

Marshawn Lynch burst onto the scene as a rookie, rushing for 1,115 yards and seven touchdowns, despite missing three games due to an ankle injury. Lynch has been described as stupid fast, his demeanor on the field is "beast mode", his skill set "solid" (and as we all know it don't get no better than that), and his mind "way too solid." Of course he was the one describing himself but who would do it better. Lynch may not drive well but he can sure break off huge runs(he had two runs of 56-yards), and with a little more air support he will become an elite running back in the NFL. Fred Jackson who averaged 97 combined yards a game in a four-game stretch late in the season will serve as Lynch's backup. Ex-Jet Darian Barnes is the favorite to win the job at fullback.

The recieving core last year was the shortest in the NFL, so their first priority in the draft was a receiver with size and skill. They got that with Indiana's James Hardy who stands at 6'6 and is 217 pounds. He will be a big key to the attack, as he will help take some attention from their stud receiver Lee Evans. Evans is coming off a bad year where he saw his receiving totals drop to 55, down from 82 in 2006. Evans can get deep if he has help and Hardy is certainly a good start. Josh Reed and Roscoe Parrish will be helped by the acquisition of Hardy as well. If Hardy is just average it will open Reed and Parrish out of the slots. This could be a dangerous group if Hardy adjusts well to the NFL. At tight-end they drafted Derek Fine in the fourth round, but don't expect him to be a game breaker. Robert Royal had the fifth fewest catches for starting tight ends last season, so expect Fine and Royal to battle it out for the position.

The offensive line improved greatly in 2007, the Bills improved from 27th to 15th in rushing yards and moved up from 30th to 13th in pass protection. Left tackle Jason Peters made his first Pro Bowl and is the anchor of this unit. Left guard Derrick Dockery helped firm up the interior of the line. Right tackle Langston(best name in all of football, sounds like a whiskey maker) Walker had a breakthrough year after coming from the Raiders in 2007, allowing only one sack and moving well on the outside blocks. Brad Butler looks to be the starting right guard after having a breakthrough season in his sophomore campaign. Melvin Fowler is a little undersized at center, but brings intelligence and mobility to the position.

If this offense is going to make a name for itself, Trent Edwards needs to keep improving and Marshawn Lynch needs to keep himself out of trouble. The league was nice enough to give Marshawn a second chance after his hit-and-run accident, but in the new NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will not give him a third.

Breakdown of the defense:
The acquistion of Marcus Stroud to this defense was the best thing the Bills could of hoped for. He brings size, speed, and the ability to put pressure on the quarterback. The only thing he needs to do is stay healthy, a problem he had in Jacksonville. John McCargo will join him in the middle of this 4-3 defense. At end, the Bills were hurt by a lack of depth last season. Aaron Schobel had 6.5 sacks, but managed to make the Pro Bowl anyway. Chris Kelsay hes just 2.5 sacks and Ryan Denney is returning from a foot injury that ruined his year in 2007. He and Chris Ellis(3rd round pick out of Virginia Tech) should allow the Bills to rotate ends more effectively. If the Bills are tough up the middle, then the ends should bother the quarterback all year long.

Paul Posluszny had a rough rookie year, knocking himself out after just two games due to a broken arm. He has impressive size, speed, and upper-body strength. With him healthy this unit becomes much more stout. Kawika Mitchell is coming off a good year for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. He brings size, weighing in at 253 pounds compared to last years starter Keith Ellison who is onlu 228. Ellison will be reduced to a back-up role. On the strong-side in Angelo Crowell, who has been a solid starter for the past three seasons. John DiGiorgio backs up Posluszny. Alvin Bowen is similar to Ellison, undersized and quick, will also be a back-up.

The Bills used their first-round pick to draft Leodis McKelivin out of Troy, he helps the Bills recover deeper and was the top-rated corner in last years draft. Jabari Greer is the incumbent starter and looks to keep the spot warm until McKelvin is ready for the top spot. Terrence McGee is the other starter, and is a tough solid player. The Bills also helped their depth by signing veteran Will James, who is hoping to rebound from injury. Reggie Corner was drafted out of Akron in the fourth round, he may bump incumbent Ashton Youboty off the team. At strong safety is Donte Whitner who has played solid for the Bills the past two seasons. He is versatile and great against the run. Ko Simpson is most likely to become the starter at free safety, but needs to stay healthy to keep the job.

Special Teams Breakdown:
Punter Brian Moorman and kicker Rian Lindell form one of the best kicking tandems in the league, and their is no reason for that to change this season. Terrence McGee and Rosoce Parrish are two great returners, with McGee on kickoffs and Parrish on punts. Expect McKelvin who is another dangerous returner, to get some looks returning kicks or punts.

Season Outlook: 8-9 wins
Much like the Bucanneers, there are no glaring holes and they are solid at each position. But they don't have the veteran leadership of a quarterback like Jeff Garcia. Also can they can put it all together for an entire season? Last year they looked to be headed to the playoffs before losing their last three games to finish 7-9. Having to play the Patriots twice a year does not help their chances, and the Jets look to be improved. So they won't have as easy a schedule as they did last year. I see them finishing around the same record and missing the playoffs yet again.

Here is the clip of Marshawn Lynch(with Gaines Adams) as they describe their talents at a pre-draft camp in 2007.

LCB Staff Opinion:
Teach: I'm hoping they put it together because they need to generate interest. They need to win. They need to stay in Buffalo. They do not need to be the NFL's Seattle Sonics.


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