Bills fans, it’s been a long offseason but the preseason is finally here! In their preseason opener, the Buffalo Bills will be traveling to Fed Ex Field to face the Washington Redskins on Friday night.
Throughout the offseason, the Buffalo Bills have made many significant changes. They have a new general manager, a new head coach, a new coaching staff, a new defensive scheme, new players, and a new attitude. But with all of these changes, one question comes to mind: can the Bills leave its recent history of mediocrity and disappointment in the past and take on a new identity as a challenger to the perennial powerhouses?
Well, if that is going to happen, many things need to work out in the team’s favor. Going into the preseason, there are many uncertainties the team will look to resolve. Here is what to watch for throughout the preseason:
1. Chan Gailey
Is Gailey the coach Buffalo has been waiting for since Marv Levy retired in 1997? Although the answer to that question will not be answered for quite some time, one thing is for sure: he brings passion and energy to the sidelines. His in-your-face coaching style is something the Bills certainly did not have with ex-coach Dick Jauron.
2. 3-4 Defense
It almost seems counterintuitive that the coaches would take a big defensive lineman off the line in favor of a smaller, but faster, linebacker because the defense struggled against the run last year. But when you consider the success of other defenses with this scheme and the depth the Bills have at the linebacker position, the move makes sense.
Of course with Aaron Schobel’s release, the defense will be suffering a big loss. But remember, last year, the defense’s strength was the secondary. Therefore, the defense may enjoy moderate success if the defensive backs remain healthy and if the defense is able to stop the run.
3. The Quarterback Controversy (or lack thereof)
During the offseason, the Bills failed to trade for a quarterback, to pick up a free agent quarterback, and to draft a big-name quarterback in this year’s draft. Now, the Bills are left with what they had last year and it looks like Trent Edwards will be the starter going into the preseason. This leaves Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Brohm, and Levi Brown to challenge Edwards for the starting position.
Because Edwards has not locked up the starter position, look for all four quarterbacks to get a significant amount of playing time throughout the preseason. But look for Edwards to keep the job going into the season opener against Miami. He has the experience and he has, in the past, shown that he can win football games. Let’s see if the Trent Edwards from two years ago can come back.
4. Offensive Line
The offensive line was bombarded by injuries last year. As a result, Edwards and Fitzpatrick were constantly under pressure and the offense simply could not move the ball. During the offseason, the Bills failed to bring in a star offensive lineman. But the team has most of last year’s offensive linemen returning. Assuming the offensive linemen can stay healthy, can they protect their quarterback?
5. Wide Receivers
The only proven receiver the Bills have is Lee Evans. Even if the Bills will not rely on the passing game during the regular season, the passing game should see a good amount of action during the preseason as Gailey is charged with the difficult decision of sorting through the young receivers currently on the roster. Look for James Hardy, Steve Johnson, and Chad Jackson to get a good amount of playing time.
6. Running Backs
It looks like the Bills will be a ground and pound team this year. With the talent the team has in the backfield and the uncertainty at the quarterback and wide receiver positions, this should surprise no one. We will finally have the opportunity to see Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, and Marshawn Lynch in action and competing for the starting running back position. We will also see if the team plans on using two or all three backs at the same time.
7. Special Teams
C.J. Spiller and Leodis McKelvin should be returning most of the kicks and punts this year. This is another area in which the Bills should and must excel. Good field position from these explosive returners will make up for an offense that struggles to move the ball.
Brian Moorman (Punter) and Rian Lindell (Kicker) are both returning for another year with the Bills. The team will likely depend very heavily on both of these veterans this year.
So these are the main story lines entering Week 1 of the Buffalo Bills’ 2010 Preseason. Please come back this weekend for a review of Friday night’s game.