The Bills are in a state of turmoil. They only went 6-10 last season and a lot of change has come because of it. The team has parted ways with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and fired head coach Chan Gailey. They brought in new head coach Doug Marrone and a new offensive coordinator in Nathaniel Hackett to try and right the ship. Will it be enough? All things have to start somewhere.
Hackett has remained uncharacteristically tight-lipped about what type of offensive system he'll bring to Buffalo. Many insiders believe he'll run a version of the West Coast offense with a dose of the read option thrown in. He is the son of a long time football coach, his father coached in both college and the NFL, and he knows he needs to get his players on board if he is going to succeed. Marrone brought him in because they developed a good relationship over the past two seasons while Hackett was his OC in Syracuse.
A lot of people felt the team reached in the draft when they took Manuel at No. 16 overall. Most had him projected as a second round talent, but the Bills obviously saw something different. He's big and strong at 6-5 and 237 lbs. They also resigned Jackson and added Kolb in free agency. It's going to be hard to get this team headed in the right direction if they don't at least get solid play from the QB. I'm not so sure Manuel is going to be the guy to do that.
I'm sure they have a lot more faith in Spiller than they do in their QB's. Spiller had a breakout performance last year that got him a Pro Bowl spot. This could be the year when he establishes himself as a top five guy at his position. He gained over 1,200 yards and recorded an astronomical 6.0 yards per carry and routinely made guys miss in the open field. He split some time with Jackson last year, but he will only rotate in this year, probably on 3rd downs. The running backs are the strength of this unit and they will need to continue to be with the question mark at QB.
One thing can be said, the team has a true, legitimate No. 1 wide out in Stevie Johnson, but after that it doesn't look to good. He is the only receiver in club history to rack up 3 straight 1,000 yard seasons and they will continue to try and lean on him.
"I can tell you one thing that anyone who played against him will corroborate," one scout said. "He has a move off the line that no one else has. He doesn't do it all the time, but if he wants to leave you at the line he can."
The starter opposite him will likely be second round draft pick Woods, from USC. He is a good route runner who is willing to go over the middle and make the tough catches.
The defense left a lot to be desired last year. The ranked only 26th overall last year out of their base 4-3. New defensive coordinator Pettine came over from the Jets where Rex Ryan had the team running a 3-4. The change won't be black and white, but look for some more variation in the sets they run. He wants to have the team not only play to their strengths, but also show enough looks to keep the offense guessing.
The D-line is the strength of this unit. When they line up in the 3-4 they will have Dareus in the middle. He had a bad season last year, his sophomore outing, and they need him to have a big bounce back. When they are in the 4-3 Mario Williams will need to be the star. He'll be lining up at defensive end and the team desperately needs him to apply pressure to the quarterback. He struggled with a wrist injury last year and still managed to accumulate 10.5 sacks. If he can return to his prime form the team will get a big boost in production. Good luck trying to have a productive defense in today's NFL without getting pressure on the QB.
The team doesn't really have a lot of talent on the roster. When you look at their QB's, wide receivers and linebackers, there is not much there. Stevie Johnson is a stud, but other than that what do they have? A good scheme will only take them so far and the coaching staff hasn't even proven they can deliver that. The team will likely have another disappointing year, let's just hope they don't get the first overall pick. A pretty successful head coach once famously said you can really hamstring a franchise with one of those.