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Buffalo Bills Time Machine, Part 1: Losman, Gronkowski And Peters

In which we dream up an alternate reality for our favorite football team.

We're officially in the Death Valley of NFL coverage, that cruel dip in action that comes suddenly after the frenzy of free agency, the draft, OTAs and mini-camp, where time itself seems to distend and atrophy without a place to focus our attention on the matter at hand - namely, Buffalo Bills football.

So it's as good of a time as any to simply take stock of where we're at now and evaluate the key issues heading into training camp, should we ever get there.

The Bills' season will again hinge on the arm of quarterback J.P. Losman. Losman's coming off a career year in which he joined the NFL's elite 5,000-yard club, along with Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford. With his strong effort, Losman earned his fifth Pro Bowl nod, an appearance which he declined to fulfill his pre-season pledge to plant 5,043 trees in the city of Buffalo - a total matching his final passing yardage tally.

A lot of Losman's success was manufactured by the superior play of 2010 second-round draft pick, hometown hero Rob Gronkowski. "Gronk" finished the campaign with 17 touchdowns and 1,312 yards in 90 catches, good enough to re-define the record books at his position.

Of course, the Bills' tight end position has been one of great skill and innovation in the last decade, and a key to Losman's success. Need we again point out the role that two-time Coach of the Year, Mike Mularkey, has created and installed for Jason Peters?

After going undrafted in the 2004 NFL Draft, "the Mularkey" went right to work on Peters, making him an all-purpose offensive threat. In 2005, after jumping up from the practice squad, Mularkey gave Peters reps at tight end, who in turn rewarded his coach with an onslaught of merciless blocks in the run game while chipping in 32 catches and three touchdowns.

In 2006, the role for the now slimmer Peters expanded to include fullback and H-back, to capitalize on Peters' speed, power, and catching ability. Peters helped plow the road for Buffalo's all-time favorite running back, Willis McGahee, to record three successive 1,500-yard seasons. Peters has now caught an average of 50 passes and five touchdowns a year from 2006-2008, while carrying the ball about 50 times a year with an average rush of 3.2 yards per carry, often leading the league's running backs in the fewest carries for a loss. And beyond those numbers, Peters has helped the Bills to the league's best short-yardage and goal-line conversion rates.

In 2009, Peters was rewarded by Bills President and minority owner Jim Kelly with a new contract that made him the highest paid tight end in the league. Time will only tell if the Bills will decide to extend the same courtesy to the young standout Gronkowski. With the current ownership, all signs point to yes.

But Losman's legacy comes down to winning. He's brought the team to two Super Bowls, but has yet to seal the deal, watching his 2004 draft classmates Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning hoist the Lombardi trophy a total of four times. Most pundits believe that this is the year Losman joins his draft classmates among an elite group of championship quarterbacks.