Buffalo Bills fans are worry warts. In a city that has not won a professional championship in any major professional sport since 1965 - but has come agonizingly close on several occasions - there's a tendency to feel a little jinxed. That feeling intensifies under the realization that the oh-so-close moments have been very few and far between up here.
So, naturally, hardcore fans of any Buffalo sports team - the Bills in particular - tend to pore over rosters, coaches, trends, and anything else that can tangibly (when we're lucky) get our hands on to find the weakness. The one spot that we can point to to destroy any and all positive feelings engendered by off-season moves and other pertinent exciting developments. Don't blame us. It's genetic.
Naturally, with so much time to kill before Bills training camp opens on July 25 - and with a full month under our belts post-draft to let the splashy signings and draft picks' hypnotic effects wear off completely - it's time to commence our favorite pasttime. (To those of you who make this a year-round endeavor - kudos. Your wills are steely.) We'll open the mini-series with a poll: which Bills entity do you see as the biggest potential stumbling block to a successful 2009 season? Your candidates...
Trent Edwards. Young quarterbacks are always worrisome, mostly because they're always streaky and inconsistent. Buffalo, to their credit, took major steps toward improving the talent around its third-year starting quarterback, particularly at the skill positions. But it's not exactly a secret that at the game's most important position, Edwards needs to make strides if the Bills hope to do likewise in the standings.
Turk Schonert. Taking over for former coordinator Steve Fairchild (known as SF-M in these parts) last season, Schonert guided his offense up the standings, but still struggled mightily in his rookie season as an NFL play-caller. He flashed brilliance calling plays at times; other times, he was as predictable as a J.P. Losman sack. Just like Edwards, Schonert needs to take some strides. The no-huddle offense could help him immensely in that area.
The offensive line. Jason Peters was traded. Derrick Dockery was unceremoniously released. Duke Preston and Melvin Fowler? "Departed as free agents." Langston Walker is the new left tackle, and college tackle/pro guard Brad Butler is now manning the right side. Three new players - Geoff Hangartner, Eric Wood and Andy Levitre - will take over blocking duties against the division's excellent 3-4 nose tackles. Change doesn't always have to be good...
The pass rush. It's been bad. For a while. We can kick and scream about the lack of playmaking all we want, but the reality of the situation is that little is likely to change in that department until the pass rush improves. Aaron Schobel? We hope you're right in saying there's plenty left in your proverbial tank. Aaron Maybin? We hope one year of college and an additional 15 pounds is enough.
Dick Jauron. Quick - name the most-used ace up the sleeve of "realistic" Bills fans all off-season. Oh yeah, here it is: "Dick Jauron is still our coach!" To say that owner Ralph Wilson's decision to retain Jauron in December after a third straight 7-9 season was wildly unpopular is an understatement. Jauron returns for a fourth season in Buffalo - a "make or break" season, without doubt. No matter how good or bad the team is in 2009, every decision Jauron makes will be scrutinized to the fullest.
Terrell Owens. Yeah, I know. Owens has been nothing but excellent three months into his one-year deal with the Bills. That's fantastic and all, but Owens has never blown up a locker room in three months, either - he's a patient man. Seriously, though, let's not pretend to think that Owens has changed. He hasn't. Things could go either very well or very not well; the likelihood of finding a middle ground is small. Owens was, and will remain, a gamble for this franchise.