Clayton: Buffalo's "Big" Question is Linebacker

Bills LB Angelo Crowell

Keeping up with today's ESPN.com theme, John Clayton has attempted to pose the "big question" for every team in the NFL. That story can be viewed here. Here is Clayton's big question for the Buffalo Bills:

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"Are the Bills really better at linebacker without Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher?

A follow-up question is whether the Bills are as good at running back with Marshawn Lynch replacing Willis McGahee. Naturally, the Bills wanted Patrick Willis to be their first-round pick. He would have been the anchor to their linebacking corps, but the 49ers drafted him one spot ahead of the Bills. Marv Levy believes he found a new Shane Conlin with the second-round selection of Paul Posluszny.

Spikes and Fletcher are gone, so the linebacking group has been completely overhauled. With a defensive line that isn't dominating, it is hard to tell whether the defense is even better. Making things worse is the loss of Nate Clements at cornerback. The Bills are hoping to get by with Terrence McGee and Ashton Youboty. As a low-revenue team, the Bills have to cut some financial corners. It remains to be seen whether they cut their collective throats by losing too many key defenders."

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Now, I don't have the most respect for Mr. Clayton - especially when a Shane "Conlin" never played for the Buffalo Bills. Edit your articles, Mr. Clayton. However, I digress. It was nice to see Clayton go out on a limb with this question as well. I'm going to answer his questions now for him and save him a season's worth of guesswork.

The Bills are not better at linebacker. Nor are they worse at linebacker. The new players are simply better-tailored to our scheme. The team is going to rely on a new young leader at the position, likely strong-side starter Angelo Crowell. Rookie Paul Posluszny will be a leader for us down the line, and the combination of Keith Ellison and Coy Wire will hold down the fort at the weak side. Depth is marginal, but it was marginal last year as well. The team lost an overpriced, over-the-hill veteran in Takeo Spikes, replaced by Crowell on the strong side. That is an upgrade in speed, youth and (by last year's standards) playmaking. Posluszny seems the most NFL-ready linebacker that was available in the draft, and he gives the Bills one thing that they were lacking in the middle: size. Fletcher was a playmaker for this team, but he simply was not an ideal middle linebacker in a Cover-2 system. Posluszny has a far better chance at filling this role ideally.

The team is much better at running back. Popular media hear the name "Willis McGahee"', realize he's gone and think the Bills have traded away a superstar. What they don't realize is that the Bills shed merely two straight mediocre seasons and a future ugly contract situation. Then they went out and got themselves the most versatile backfield they've had in a long time - Marshawn Lynch, Anthony Thomas and Dwayne Wright each have their own unique skill sets and all three figure to see playing time. That versatility and depth already puts us lightyears ahead at the RB position.

I don't think Clayton was close in his assessment of Buffalo's "big question". He wasn't even thinking on the right side of the ball. To me, the big question is this: Can J.P. Losman continue his development and show that he is a capable, playoff-caliber QB? Defense keeps you in games, but you have to score points to win in this league. We have a fast, physical, damage-control defense in place that is young. I don't expect the group to be stellar, but I do expect them to be consistent - most Tampa-2 systems are. The question, then, is whether or not Losman can consistently put up the points necessary to outscore teams and win football games next season. The Colts have played by these rules for the last half-dozen years, and it landed them a Lombardi Trophy last year. They have a damage-control defense and an offense that ranks among the most dominant in league history. Can Losman provide an attack consistent enough to mask the youth of our new defense?

That's the big question, John.

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