One of the biggest questions for the Buffalo Bill 2013-14 season is this: Do we have the talent on this roster to compete?
In a previous post, I broke down what I saw from Nate Hackett's offense schematically, illustrating the transition from what he has run (an attacking, vertical passing attack that dictates play to the defense) versus what we saw from Chan Gailey.
Take a look at the current depth chart from BuffaloBills.com. I'm not going to beat a dead horse and discuss the lack of a QB, because it's redundant. Instead, I started looking at what we do have, and how it translates to what a vertical passing offense with elements of the no-huddle would need to be successful.
OL: This is one noone is talking about, but they should be. When compared to a team like Alabama who prefers big, powerful lineman to wear defenses down with the run game, Syracuse would often switch to a "K-Gun"-like no-huddle and call their plays at the line. This requires lineman who are quick, good pass protectors, and are fit enough to keep up with the pace of multiple snaps without a huddle. We all saw what a tire fire Langston Walker turned into when they tried to force him into that role in 2009. Glenn and Wood both appear at first glance to be serviceable here, however they need to make sure whoever they get to replace Levitre at LG is athletic enough to make this work. I'd look for them to add a cheap veteran to push the young guys (Sanders, Snow, Hairston) in camp this year, unless someone they deem to be a blue chip prospect falls to them in the middle rounds of the draft.
TE: The evolution of this position in the modern NFL passing game has largely escaped the Buffalo Bills. None of our current TE's have the required skill set to become big factors in a vertical passing scheme. For as good a red zone target as Chandler has been, his athletic limitations keep him from consistently being an offensive threat. The other TE's represent little more than blockers, with no real offensive upside to speak of. If no FA move is made before The Draft, don't be surprised if the Bills use a 2nd day pick to upgrade the talent at that position. They need someone to can go up the seam with speed and the ability to create consistant separation against LB's, and right now that player isn't wearing a Bills jersey.
WR: I'm more concerned than most about this position. Stevie Johnson has been a standout among a crowd of no-name receivers. But with his lack of true top end speed and height, in this system he would be more effective as a slot reciever than anywhere else on the field. He could take advantage of his ability to lose nickle CB's/LB's in coverage with his route running and catch the ball in space. Look at the depth chart again, and you'll see that Marcus Easley looks to be our 3rd/4th receiver. For a guy with so much upside and all the right measurables, he has never been able to turn it into on-field production. The often maligned T.J. Graham is now likely to be thrust into an outside "starting" position, and I still have a hard time understanding what exactly Brad Smith is still doing on this roster. Graham and Easley are intriguing, because they share a similar size/speed combination as a pair that just got their first rings (Torrey Smith/Anquan Boldin) and the concepts of their offense are similar. In theory, each would be able to exploit 1on1 coverage with speed/size much in the way those two have done for the Ravens, with interior defenders having to account for Spiller/Jackson and Johnson/Chandler in the middle. Only time will tell if these players will ever realize their potential, but I would be shocked if the Bills didn't hedge their bets and use a high draft pick to add some more talent to this group as well.
Now before overreacting, take a deep breath and please realize that many of our offensive personelle are young. Many (if not all) of our current players have never been coached by our current staff, or anyone but Chan and his crew for that matter. Look at what happened for the Houston Texans in 2011 when given a competent DC in Wade Phillips and a solid draft. Yes, this roster has holes, but with some competent coaching, teaching and gameplanning they could be dangerous in the coming seasons, especially with an upgrade at the QB posiiton. Let me know what you think, and once again thanks for reading!