In the two-plus weeks since the 2011 regular season ended, we've been conducting our annual State of the Buffalo Bills Roster series, in which we go over the Bills' personnel player by player and position by position.
We finished up reviewing the offense this morning, so after the jump, we've reviewed the positional outlooks in each area. Give them a re-read, put on your thinking caps, and then cast a vote in our poll (also after the jump) as we try to determine what the Bills' biggest positional need on offense is.
Quarterback: As long as Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey are here, Ryan Fitzpatrick is a lock to be involved in some fashion after the massive contract he signed. Again, that's just for the foreseeable future, because it's hard to imagine that the decision-making duo sees a quarterback on the verge of 30 as up-and-down as Fitzpatrick as the long-term starter. They clearly like him, though. They also seem to like Tyler Thigpen, and with two years remaining on his deal as Fitzpatrick's well-paid backup, the team appears set in the short-term at the position.
Running Back: The Bills have two very good running backs in Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, and it's on Gailey to figure out how to milk production out of both of them simultaneously. It's also on Gailey to figure out how to effectively use both not just as runners, but as receivers. This position is one where the Bills are very talented and more than sufficiently deep, but if Gailey's offense can only use one back at a time, does that really matter?
Wide Receiver: The Bills want Stevie Johnson back, and if they're able to accomplish that, they also want to give him help in the form of a true counterpart that can make plays when covered and keep defenses from rolling coverage Johnson's way. From there, they have prospects that they'll continue to try to develop (Donald Jones and Marcus Easley), a reliable role player (David Nelson), a guy potentially worth bringing back to compete (Derek Hagan), and the need for more explosive athletes as competition for the remaining incumbents.
Tight End: Scott Chandler made this position sporadically relevant again, which is why it's not surprising that the team wants him back. He fits into Gailey's offense as a secondary possession threat and a problem matchup in the red zone, but that's about the extent of his involvement in an ideal world. From there, the team's goals seem to be to find blockers and project receivers that they can try to mold into something better than what Chandler offers. For a position largely ignored, that's about as good as it's going to get on the scouting front.
Offensive Tackle: Between the two tackle positions, the Bills have stability on the right side in Erik Pears, and they have a budding competition on the left side, assuming Demetrius Bell is re-signed. That's a scary prospect for the latter half of that equation; Bell's a huge injury liability and may not even be back, while Chris Hairston's in-season regression shouldn't make the team eager to hand him any sort of prominent job. With that in mind, the team could always stand to try to upgrade its depth at the position, as well, so expect at least one new face - two if Bell leaves - to provide more competition, specifically for Sam Young.
Guard/Center: Between Andy Levitre, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik and Chad Rinehart, the Bills have four capable players. All are roughly the same age and fairly interchangeable; all four can play guard, and Wood and Urbik can reliably play center. Even though none of these players are true studs, that's an enviable depth situation - and now that the center depth chart has been resolved, the only hurdles are health and consistency. Levitre, Wood and Urbik will be penciled in as starters, and if they can finally stay healthy, they could turn out to be a very good interior trio.