Greetings Buffalo Rumblings! Throughout my Internet travels as a Miami Dolphin fan, I spend a fair amount of time perusing SB Nation's selection of other AFC east blogs—Pats Pulpit, Gang Green Nation, and, of course, your place here. I may not be as intimately in tune with the Bills as the fans of this site, but I still have my fair share of opinions and thoughts. So, I thought I might share those ideas with you all and try to provide some insight as to how at least one Dolphin aficionado views your team from a far.
I've already composed and published one of these posts concerning my take on the Patriots over on their site, and that seemed to go over rather well. I know the kind of insightful and heated debate you local Buffalonians and transplanted fans are capable of, so I'm hoping for more of the same from the BR faithful. So, with that said, I'll dive headlong into my analysis.
State of the Franchise
I certainly don't envy the type of media trashing the Bills and their fans have undergone this offseason. I've read and listened to everything that news outlets such as ESPN have had to say, from those John Clayton articles to seemingly every talking head (on every network) picking Buffalo to finish fourth in the AFC east this season. Some of it may very well be warranted, but I feel the vast majority of these so-called experts are simply piggy-backing off one another just for the sake of continuity and conformity. Now, I don't want my words to be misconstrued into the thinking that I believe the Bills are ready to "shock the world" in 2010, because I think you still have a ways to go in many areas. There are, however, what I believe to be many promising and exciting aspects of the Buffalo Bills going forward.
I'm sure you're all painfully aware of the Bills current shortcomings, but I'd like to first focus on what impresses me with your franchise. These, too, will not be anything mind blowing, but I feel it bears repeating. First and foremost, I consider myself an unabashed fan of several key features of your defense, namely, Paul Posluszny and Jairus Byrd. I've loved Poz for years, and could not have been more impressed with Byrd's Defensive Rookie of the Year* campaign in 2009. Overall, the Bills secondary as a whole (which I've argued possesses the strongest safety tandem in the division) should provide a strong nucleus around which George Edwards and Buddy Nix can build a fledgling 3-4 defense. If your young talent like Troup, Maybin, and McKelvin can grow and develop into what they're expected to become (Leodis is knocking on the door already) then we should see what is already the strength of the Bills mature into a distinct competitive advantage.
Offensively, I am less inclined to dole out praises. I can distinctly remember growing upset during the 2007 draft because Miami landed John Beck instead of Trent Edwards. My father, too, a Lions fan, was angry his team passed over Trent in favor of Drew Stanton. Today, I'm not quite sure how to categorize my feelings on Edwards—I find myself leaning more towards the Brian Brohm camp at the moment. Regardless, the quarterback position is, unsurprisingly, my biggest qualm with the Buffalo Bills.
A close second is left tackle, and the tackle position in general. I didn't feel the value was there in April's draft after Okung and Williams were off the board, but the situation needs to be addressed. I really don't know if Ed Wang is the long term solution, at least on the left side, but I like the depth he brings to the position overall. I'm much more confident in your interior line, but I feel the best NFL teams are always trying to upgrade the big nasties on a year-in and year-out basis. I consider C.J. Spiller to be an undeniable talent and an upgrade to an already potent rushing attack, so I won't harp too much on that. A friend of mine and stout Bills fan swears by Lee Evans, but to me, whether because of quarterback play or his own issues, he's a quintessential underachiever. In sum, the Buffalo passing game doesn't particularly frighten me at this point, but it'll be interesting to see if guys like Hardy (whom I had big expectations for) and Parrish can step up their game in 2010.
A look at 2010 and beyond
While I don't envision the Bills struggling to a 2-14 record like some media pundits might have you believe, I do think the team is going to have a rough go of it in 2010. The roster additions made by the Jets, Patriots, and my Dolphins have been touted by just about everyone by this point, and while it's goes a little overboard at times, those upgrades are difficult to ignore. Thus, I, too, project the Bills to finish the season in fourth place. Yet, traveling to Orchard Park for a game in the dead of winter is always a dismal prospect at best, so I'll continue to expect our divisional match-ups to be hotly contested, particularly with your underrated defense and formidable running backs. Who really knows, though, as stranger things have certainly happened.
Looking further down the road, I see many reasons for the Bills faithful to hold their heads high. As was wonderfully expressed by SamD8n in his post about the Buddy Nix plan, I agree that Buffalo will be well served by sticking to their guns and re-building their roster the right way. Transitioning to a 3-4 defense will in all likelihood be difficult (must be stout up the middle and dynamic on the outside), but I like the move of bringing in a veteran presence like Andra Davis and ex-Dolphin Reggie Torbor to provide leadership and system experience while until their long term replacements are drafted or signed. Miami took a similar approach back in 2008 and I feel it paid dividends for the team. Certainly, competition in the AFC east is going to be very difficult for the foreseeable future, but I really don't think the Bills will be left behind if the Nix/Gailey blueprint for success can be successfully implemented. The fans of Buffalo certainly deserve more.
Here are few, more specific views I hold about the Bills at the moment:
- I think the Marshawn saga is getting a little ridiculous. He's talented, for sure, but the baggage involved is both considerable and embarrassing. I don't know what's more likely, however, Lynch cleaning up his act, or the "Beast Mode" act setting up shop in another city.
- I really hope Eric Wood can make a successful comeback from that horrific leg injury suffered last season. Offensive linemen have always been my favorite players, and I hate to see young talent get hurt like that.
- What the heck happened to James Hardy, huh? Like I said, I had serious expectations for a second round pick with his frame.
- My favorite current Buffalo Bill is easily Poz. I liked him a lot coming out of Penn St., felt for him with those arm issues, and I'm looking to him to be the leader of your defense for a long time.
- I thought the signing of Dwan Edwards was a solid, if unheralded choice for a team making the move to a 3-4.
- Who is going to step up and be this team's offensive leader? Edwards? Spiller? Is he even on the roster yet?
- I was pretty unimpressed with the Chan Gailey hiring at the time it occurred, and I'm still not sure I'm in love with it. How many of you would dump him at the drop of a hat if someone like Bill Cowher expressed interest in the job?
- I'm a Dolphin fan and I would still be very disappointed if the Bills were forced to leave Buffalo. The Bills are a stalwart NFL franchise and belong to the people of upstate New York.
- Along those lines, I think the Toronto series is silly and unnecessary, though I appreciated that Miami got to play their road Buffalo game in a dome back in 2008.
Well, I could probably write you a ten page essay, but I think I'll cut it off right there. I'm sure I've found some semblance of common ground on some topics while inciting debate on others. I appreciate you taking the time to consider my views, and I hope you'll share your reactions with me!
[UPDATE: Comments for this FanPost have apparently been closed already (administrative decision for all posts after a certain period of time, I'm guessing?), but I just wanted to thank those of who commented with kind words and shared your opinions in reply. I appreciate your time, and I'm looking forward to more discussion with all of you!]