Thanks to the dozens of Buffalo Bills fans that submitted questions for this week's mailbag post. Please continue to do so, dear readers; I'm reachable at @BuffRumblings or firstname.lastname@example.org. We've got some good conversation-starters this week. Let's get to it!
What happens to Russ Brandon's new found authority/power if Ralph Wilson passes away in the near future? It seems to me that his new role will be short-lived once new ownership takes over. Will all the things that he has put in motion be in vain if the new ownership doesn't agree with his vision? - Doctork44
It would be lovely to know the answer to this question (or even be able to hazard an educated guess), wouldn't it? The bottom line here is that when the Bills do have a new owner, everything will be up in the air. It wouldn't be unreasonable for a new owner to keep Brandon in some capacity - the man does have a great track record on the business side of the organization, after all - but that might be true only if said owner is into the idea of keeping the team local. Then again, a new owner could come in and completely clean house, too - which would obviously render what the franchise has done under Brandon's presidency obsolete. We just don't know what would happen, but I'll guarantee you this: when the ownership change occurs, everyone will be more concerned about the team's viability in Western New York at that than Brandon's job security - Russ Brandon included.
Stay healthy, Mr. Wilson.
What parallels (if any) are there between the two situations in Syracuse and now Buffalo prior to Doug Marrone’s arrival? Using Syracuse as a model, what kinds of things can we expect to see from HCDM as he tries his hand at duplicating that success at the NFL level? - Scott
I don't follow Syracuse football nearly as closely as I do the Bills, but I know enough about the program to tell you this: if you were to compare Marrone's mindset in 2009 and 2013, you're likely to find a head coach that's much more optimistic about his team's chances of competing in Year 1 with present day Marrone. That Syracuse team he inherited from Greg Robinson had gone 10-37 overall in the past four seasons, had two seasons with double-digit losses and finished 3-25 in the Big East. It took Marrone quite a while to recruit enough talent to get them team into a better spot to compete in that conference. It's not too difficult to fathom why Cuse fans were thrilled with Marrone's 25-25 record (11-17 in the Big East) and two bowl wins in four years when you consider the tire fire he inherited.
Mathematically speaking: if Marrone is able to create the same increase in the win/loss column in Buffalo as he did at Syracuse, he'll turn the 16-32 team he inherited from Chan Gailey into a perennial playoff team racking up 12 or 13 wins per season. (Seriously: crunch the numbers.) Whether you consider that likely or not, that was the type of meteoric rise he brought to Syracuse's football program. Now he's got better talent in Buffalo. I'm excited to see what Marrone and his coaching staff can do with it.
I was wondering who you would pick to have a breakout season this year? We already know who can and will produce, but who are some players you think could surprise us? - Dana H
There are names that I'd rather be talking about here (and probably could if I wanted to) - like, say, E.J. Manuel or Marcell Dareus - but I'm going with strong safety Da'Norris Searcy. The more I watch Mike Pettine's defense in New York last season and try to project Bills personnel into it, the more convinced I am that Searcy will play a big role in Buffalo's version of Pettine's system. People forget that Searcy played some corner at North Carolina, so he provides a bit of versatility to the defense. He's a downhill player, which makes him perfect for this system, and he'll have the opportunity to log four or five times the number of snaps he received as a part-timer in 2011 if he wins a starting job and stays healthy. That combination of increased playing time and a more aggressive system that suits his talents could lead to big things for the third-year safety.
We have been terrible at stopping the run for what seems like forever. How is it we are so bad? And what can we do to correct it given our current personnel? - Ig from the sticks
I'll keep this answer short, because the current plan is to touch more on this in a re-watch post within the next couple of weeks: there are a lot of factors in the bad run defense, ranging from personnel issues (poor technique and tackling) to coaching issues (an easily manipulated defensive system and poor in-game adjustments). More on this soon, but for now, I'll say this: people that are placing the run defense issues squarely at the feet of the past two defensive coordinators aren't seeing the big picture.
Should we be concerned that there aren't better veteran receivers to help groom our young WR prospects? - chernesky
Not at all, in my opinion. T.J. Graham, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Da'Rick Rogers are already in a meeting room and on the practice field with one of the NFL's most consistent producers (Stevie Johnson) and a model professional (Brad Smith). They've got an excellent young receivers coach in Ike Hilliard who played in the league for more than a decade, already has four years of coaching experience, and is well-respected. These four young receivers are already in a great situation - particularly since all of them could be in line for serious playing time - and now it's just a matter of them performing.