2010 NFL Question Marks: Buffalo Bills

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 18: Trent Edwards #5 of the Buffalo Bills calls out orders against the New York Jets during the game on October 18, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Bills defeated the Jets 16-13 in overtime. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Merry training camp season, everyone. It’s been a long offseason, but football is finally gearing up again and to celebrate I’m rolling out a new series on TSR entitled “2010 NFL Question Marks,” where I discuss one or two of the biggest concerns that teams have heading into the new season. Granted, some teams have more issues than others, but I’ll primarily be focusing on the biggest problem areas. Today I’ll be discussing the Bills, who, as you may imagine, have a couple of issues on their plate.

Ugh. I think I had the Bills in mind when I first thought about doing this series, as there’s no limit to the number of issues going on right now in Buffalo.

Actually, that’s not fair because the Bills are moving in the right direction and the hiring of GM Buddy Nix is proof of that. Nix has 14 years of NFL experience and previously spent 26 years coaching in the college ranks. The guy knows how to scout and for a team that desperately needs to re-stock their roster with talent, that’s huge.

Whether or not Chan Gailey was the best choice for head coach is debatable, but at least a) he has experience and b) isn’t Dick Jauron. For the time being, let’s give Gailey a chance and take solace in the fact that the Bills actually have people in their front office who don’t base their decisions on simulations in “Madden.” (“Madden says that the Cowboys would be willing to take Marshawn Lynch, a fourth, and a seventh for Tony Romo, so get Jerry Jones on the phone and let’s see if we can wrap something up by lunchtime.”)

That said, things still look bleak for this team, especially compared to the rest of the AFC East. Defensively, the secondary is deep and the team devoted a lot of time this offseason re-tooling the line for new coordinator George Edwards, who will implement the 3-4. It’s going to take time for the new scheme to take shape, which is why I’ll leave the defense alone for now.

The offense, however, is another story.

Outside of running back (where the team is loaded after selecting C.J. Spiller in the first round of April’s draft), the Bills have concerns at every position. Aside from Lee Evans, the wideout position is chockfull of unproven talent (James Hardy, Chad Jackson, Steve Johnson, Marcus Easley) and players that just haven’t been productive (Roscoe Parrish). But compared to quarterback and offensive line, receiver is the least of Buffalo’s concerns.

After passing on Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen not once, but twice in April, the Bills are still left without a franchise quarterback on their roster (not unlike last year). Trent Edwards will enter training camp as the No. 1, but a lot can change leading up to the season and it wouldn’t be surprising if either Ryan Fitzpatrick or Brian Brohm eventually took over as the starter. Edwards is the ideal choice because of his youth, size, skill level and intelligence, but it’s been some time since he’s played with any kind of confidence. He buckles in the face of a pass-rush and too many times he’ll look to dump the ball off instead of going through all his reads.

Of course, Edwards isn’t helped by the fact that his offensive line is so inexperienced. Second-year guards Eric Wood and Andy Levitre showed promise as rookies, but they suffered plenty of growing pains and center Geoff Hangartner really struggled in pass protection. The tackle position is also a mess, as Demetrius Bell and free agent addition Cornell Green will be relied on as the starters. Given Bell’s issues in pass protection last year, it’s no wonder why Edwards looks to check down every opportunity he gets.

If the young line gels early and Edwards plays with more confidence, then maybe things will start to come together for the offense under Gailey. But would anyone be surprised if the O-line struggles again and Edwards is eventually replaced as the starter? It’s going to take time for Nix to build the team he wants in Buffalo and chances are, the Bills will struggle to win four or five games again this year.

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