I received an interesting request from an emailer on Tuesday night that I'd like to share with the Buffalo Rumblings community today. It's a thought-provoking and timely request that I wish I could attribute to a commenter or reader here, but unfortunately cannot due to the anonymity of the note:
"Would you mind re-capping the Bills offseason as if you were describing it to a casual football fan?", the emailer asks. "Sometimes we as fans are so close to the action that we lose perspective and get caught up in the wrong details. Stepping back could really sharpen the focus of how the team has improved this offseason."
It's an interesting point, to be sure. We've spent large chunks of the past 24 hours talking up the merits of various backup quarterback options; name players drafted in the middle rounds are fun to talk about, but aren't likely to contribute much; and many popular re-signings were a nice change of pace for the organization, but don't change the team that we saw in 2011 at all.
This is how I'd describe the Bills' meaningful changes to a casual NFL observer. It highlights how successful the Bills have been this off-season, to be sure, but eliminates some of the more trivial points that we obsess over as die-hards.
KEY ADDITIONS: OT Cordy Glenn, DE Mario Williams, DE Mark Anderson, CB Stephon Gilmore
- Glenn, a second-round pick out of Georgia, is exactly what the Bills have been looking for at left tackle: a massive, long-armed athlete with the feet to keep speed rushers at bay in Buffalo's quick-strike passing offense. Glenn may not start immediately, but shouldn't have a problem locking down the full-time left tackle job as a rookie.
Williams, now the highest-paid defender in the history of the NFL, is being counted on to revive Buffalo's anemic pass rush. That's no small feat for one man, but he'll be aided by Anderson, coming off a 10-sack season in New England. The two free agents give the Bills a potentially highly productive set of bookend pass rushers for the first time in years.
Gilmore, the team's first-round pick out of South Carolina, spearheads a youth movement for the team at cornerback. Though he, too, will need to unseat some veterans, he is by far the team's most athletically gifted defensive back, and he should quickly earn a starting role - though it's possible that he'll start out as a nickel back.
KEY SUBTRACTIONS: OT Demetrius Bell
- The Bills needed a left tackle to replace Bell, who showed no interest in re-upping in Buffalo before signing a potentially lucrative free agent deal with Philadelphia. The injury-prone four-year veteran was never what the team wanted athletically at the position, though they'd have liked to bring him back simply for the added depth.
KEY ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGES: Once the 2011 season ended, the team quickly fired defensive coordinator George Edwards and replaced him with Dave Wannstedt, the former head coach of Chicago and Miami and Super Bowl-winning coordinator in Dallas. Wannstedt will permanently switch the Bills to a 4-3 defensive alignment, and the team has focused on giving him better athletes at rush end, linebacker and cornerback this off-season.
I explicitly tried to write this as if it were something you'd read in a national publication just prior to the regular season. It highlights, I believe, the biggest changes that the team has made, and they're universally for the positive, in my opinion. There are other important moves that the team made - the aforementioned re-signings, improved depth, and the like - but in terms of really meaningful change from the 2011 Bills to the 2012 group, the above is what matters most.
Maybe I'm alone in getting something out of Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous Emailer's request. Maybe y'all are able to keep this kind of perspective while steeped in the more detailed portions of our daily analysis, but I sometimes struggle with that. Many thanks to the guy or gal that asked this of me. I feel better than ever about what the team has accomplished this spring, but lingering question marks that have been glossed over - which I now look forward to writing about again - are fresher in my mind.