It was nearly two full months ago (my, how time flies when you're talking football) that the Buffalo Rumblings community assembled our very own BR Community Needs List. We spent nearly a week analyzing the weaknesses of the Buffalo Bills, using that information to prioritize the needs of the team. The final list we put together was in-depth and thorough - and folks, we pretty much hit the nail on the head.
Looking back on this list two months later, with free agency all but over and the Bills turning the majority of their attention to the draft, it's pretty safe to say that our consensus-based line of thinking was very close to what the fine folks at One Bills Drive were thinking. Here's the final list assembled, with commentary on how the landscape of each position has changed this off-season. You might be surprised at how accurate we were.
1. Defensive Tackle: Clearly, our main focus was the Bills' main focus, as the Bills used the opening weekend of free agency to completely re-tool their interior defensive line. Gone is Larry Tripplett, a nice veteran who wasn't getting the job done as the team's top tackle. In are former Jaguars Pro Bowler Marcus Stroud and former Vikings reserve Spencer Johnson, who along with John McCargo give the Bills three very talented tackles to rotate. Add the blue-collar Kyle Williams, and the Bills now have sufficient short-term depth to work with inside.
2. Wide Receiver: Clearly, the Bills are aware of their weakness at wide receiver, as their weeks-long courtship of Bryant "Panda" Johnson proved. But the Bills enter the final stretch of free agency, as well as the draft, without a new receiver on board. expect their top pick to be a receiver.
3. Defensive End: This is the only place where our community seems to, on the whole, disagree with the Bills. The team has looked at veteran James Hall as a potential fourth defensive end, so they are working to find a fourth end to replace Anthony Hargrove. It just seems unlikely that the team will address the position in a way that some of us would like, instead relying on the improved defensive tackle situation to bolster our pass rush. An end should, and probably will, be added.
4. Outside Linebacker: Check. Buffalo took care of this need quickly with the signing of former Giant Kawika Mitchell. Buffalo now has a relatively deep linebacking corps in terms of experience; they could use more depth, however. More on that in a moment.
5. Tight End: Buffalo has been aggressively looking to fill this need as well. "Aggressively" doesn't mean a big-name signing in this case (though they did reportedly pursue Alge Crumpler); instead, it means volume, as the team has already added two tight ends (Teyo Johnson, Courtney Anderson) and entertained two more (Crumpler, Ben Troupe). Still, Buffalo lacks a true difference-maker at the position.
6. Cornerback: Another check. The Bills have signed former Eagles dime back William James, who will likely compete for a starting position. The team is not done building depth at the position, but they've certainly addressed the numbers issue. The Bills have also visited with CB Chris Carr as well.
7. Interior O-Line: The only movement on this front was the re-signing of veteran reserve Jason Whittle, an important yet unspectacular move. It's likely that the Bills will look for a reserve guard or center in the draft to compete with the likes of Duke Preston.
8. Wide Receiver: Yes, we had this position on the list twice - that's how important finding players at this position is. I fully expect the team to add one to two more draftees to the depth situation at WR after finding a starter very early on in the draft.
9. Offensive Tackle: Two months ago, we were not comfortable with Kirk Chambers - and I, for one, disagreed. I still disagree to an extent, but after Whittle's re-signing, I believe tackle needs to be boosted up the list a touch. It's unclear whether or not the Bills will add a reserve tackle or rely on Chambers and Patrick Estes for depth.
10. Fullback: We weren't comfortable with Darian Barnes then, and we're still not. Buffalo may enter the season relying on Barnes as their starting fullback, but we still believe that adding a tougher lead blocker with special teams ability would be just the ticket for the Bills.
11. Linebacker: Yes, reserve linebacker made the list as well, and the need was only bolstered when the team released veteran Coy Wire. Neither of Buffalo's top two special teams reserves, Mario Haggan and Josh Stamer, have been re-signed, though that's still a possibility. With only five linebackers on the roster (sorry, Blake Costanzo), depth still needs to be addressed - especially with Angelo Crowell entering the final year of his deal.
12. Strong Safety: This need seems to have been much higher on the Bills' list, as they worked hard to sign Marlon McCree before he signed on in Denver. The team did re-sign Bryan Scott, but it appears that the club would like to get young Donte Whitner away from the line of scrimmage more often. It's still quite possible that the team adds a strong safety in the draft.
13. Quarterback: This only made the list due to J.P. Losman's trade request, which has not yet been granted. If Losman is traded on draft day, finding a backup becomes a priority. If Losman stays, the Bills are set at quarterback.
So there you have it - our original Community Needs List, which was pretty accurate. Our next charge - which we'll begin this afternoon - is tweaking this list to keep it up-to-date and draft ready. For now, marvel at our collective intelligence - and feel free to begin the tweaking process as well.