Buffalo Bills fans are worry warts. In a city that has not won a championship in any major professional sport since 1965 (with all proper apologies to the NLL's Buffalo Bandits) - 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 we 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 a self-protective device.
Naturally, with so much time to kill before Bills training camp opens on July 29 - and with a full month under our belts post-draft to let the free agent 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 2010 season? Your candidates are profiled after the jump...
The new coaching staff. Though he comes into his new job with nearly four decades' worth of coaching experience, Chan Gailey has only spent two seasons as an NFL head coach - which remarkably makes him an unproven NFL head coaching commodity. Aside from a six-year stint as Georgia Tech's head coach from 2002-2007, Gailey has never held one coaching job for more than three years, when he was defensive backs coach at Troy State from 1976-1978. He'll also coordinate the offense, which has been a challenge for some far more well-established head coaches league-wide. New defensive coordinator George Edwards is instituting a switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4.
The quarterback competition. Three roster incumbents - Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm - will duke it out this pre-season for the team's starting quarterback role. It's tough to call Edwards and Fitzpatrick inexperienced, as they've both started their fair share of NFL games, but clearly, neither has distinguished himself as a viable starting option. Brohm has just one career start under his belt. Regardless of who wins the job, naysayers are sure to emerge.
The offensive line. Buffalo's starting offensive line in 2008? Jason Peters, Derrick Dockery, Duke Preston, Brad Butler and Langston Walker. Wow. In a little less than two years, that entire starting five has left the roster through a variety of methods. Now, Buffalo's got a two-man competition for the starting left tackle job, two young guards looking to take the next step (one coming off a catastrophic leg injury), an average center who isn't the long-term answer there, and a penalty-prone right tackle. Question marks riddle this unit from top to bottom.
The pass rush. Aaron Schobel and his 78 career sacks have all but called it quits, leaving the Bills with just six outside linebackers, who have combined for 28.5 career sacks. Aaron Maybin, a 2009 first-round draft pick with 0 career sacks, is probably now the team's best pure pass rusher. Chris Kelsay, Chris Ellis and Reggie Torbor, along with rookies Danny Batten and Antonio Coleman, will look to help Maybin as much as they can in that department, but to say that expectations are low is an understatement.
Overall youth. When the 2010 season kicks off on September 12, just four of Buffalo's 22 projected starters will be over the age of 30 - Cornell Green, Marcus Stroud, Kelsay and Andra Davis. The team only employs ten players above the age of 30, and one of those is the aforementioned Schobel. Meanwhile, 53 players on the roster are aged 25 or younger. Three players on the roster aged 22 and under - C.J. Spiller, Torell Troup (the team's youngest player at 21) and Maybin - are three of perhaps the top six or eight most important players on the roster, both for 2010 and long-term. This is a very, very young football team, particularly when discussing the game's most important positions.