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Over the past few months, we've spoken at length about some of the bigger changes that the Buffalo Bills have made this off-season. Even in an off-season that could have been more active had the team wanted it to be, massive changes were made. The team has a new-look front office led by GM Buddy Nix, a new-look coaching staff led by Chan Gailey, and have made several personnel and scheme changes that we're already getting glimpses of on the field at OTAs.
Perhaps the biggest statements the franchise made, however, were surrounded by inactivity. With major question marks at three of football's most critical positions - outside linebacker (a.k.a. "the pass rush"), left tackle, and, of course, quarterback - the most notable addition at those positions might be fifth-round left tackle Ed Wang, a big name in China, yet only a developmental prospect on the blind side.
Buffalo enters the 2010 regular season with more questions at these positions than any other team in the league - which happens to be exactly why many NFL prognosticators are placing the Bills near the bottom of the league in pre-season projections. There will be a three-way battle for the starting quarterback job throughout camp and the early portions of the pre-season. There appears to be a two-man battle developing at left tackle, and while the battles at outside linebacker will be a bit more understated, the team's most talented pass rusher, second-year pro Aaron Maybin, has exactly zero career sacks.
That brings us to the question posed in this headline: was the team's decision to leave these most critical positions largely unaddressed bred from confidence, patience, or both? It certainly reeks of chutzpah; it's very, very bold for a new regime to come in and leave itself with huge question marks as Nix and Gailey have done. Was the decision based on confidence in the stable of young players the team has built up at those positions? Was it based around patience in developing those talents, perhaps stemming from a lack of confidence in some of the other available talent this off-season?
One thing is certain: now that the off-season has played itself out the way it has, the team will need both confidence in, and patience with, its young talent to make it through the 2010 season. Can one of the young quarterbacks develop into a leader? Is Gailey's confidence in Demetrius Bell's athletic abilities justified? Can Maybin emerge as a potential star pass-rushing this early in his NFL career? These are the big questions, folks - and whether or not the team can satisfyingly answer them this year will try both the confidence and the patience of this team's loyal fan base.