The Buffalo Bills entered the 2008 offseason with concerns at receiver, their running game, and in their secondary.
In free agency, Buffalo bolstered their linebacking group by signing Super Bowl winner Kawika Mitchell from the New York Football Giants, added a veteran corner in Will James, and added beef to the defensive line with the signing of Spencer Johnson and the trade for three-time pro bowl defensive tackle Marcus Stroud from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In April's Draft, Buffalo grabbed what many thought was the best corner back prospect in Leodis McKelvin. In the second round, they went big and added 6'6" James Hardy from Indiana. They also improved the skill at TE by grabbing Kansas' Derek Fine, and who some call the steal of the draft, Kentucky's WR Steve Johnson. At 6'2", he also has considerable size.
Coming into the 2008-'09 season on September 7, when the Seahawks land at the Ralph, Buffalo will be a much better team. However, there are a few areas that need to be looked at for improvement. But, if they turn out well, Buffalo will soon be contending for the AFC East Division Crown with The New England Cheatri...er Patriots.
Here is a look at the team by position:
I am eager to see how Trent Edwards plays. Trent was able to get the job after JP was knocked out of a game in week two against the Patriots. Edwards first drive of that game gave Buffalo fans a glimpse of the future. Head coach Dick Jauron said the following of his quarterback:
"I think he has stepped in and handled himself well. He has taken command of the huddle and was poised in the huddle and that's all you can expect. He came into a hostile environment against a pretty good defense to say the least. I think he handled himself well and I think he is ready."
Trent really is the person that determines if Buffalo gets to the playoffs. I am expecting big things from him, and I really am eager to see if he is mature enough to lead this team to the promised land.
I'll keep it short and sweet with this one. JAMES HARDY. JAMES HARDY. JAMES HARDY. They drafted him. If he uses his size (6'6"), watch out. If he is slow, and does not take use of his freak athletic ability, prepare for struggles.
This position is questionable. I like Robert Royal, just not as a number one guy. I hope Derek Schouman and Derek Fine are okay, Courtney Anderson is questionable, but 6'6" is not bad. I think if they do not stretch the field, or get the TE involved early in the season, their passing game will be rough. Although it automatically gets help with the addition of Hardy, he can only do so much, so the TE play is crucial.
I think it is safe to say that last year was a forgettable year for the defensive line, especially against the run. Another year of growing for John McCargo and Kyle Williams helps, and the signing of Kawika Mitchell is great, but I think the trade in the offseason for Marcus Stroud is the factor.
If he does well, and stays healthy, this team can jump from the dead last against the run last year to a top 10 run defense. But again, it all depends on, IMO, Marcus Stroud. Just like Trent Edwards is the deciding factor on the offensive side of the ball, Marcus Stroud is the factor on defense for Buffalo. His season will determine wins and losses for this Buffalo team.
This unit, when focused, could be something else. Jabari Greer was great, Terrence was great, but the problem was the lack of size. Will James is a good signing, not only because he is a savvy veteran, but let's face it, this team stinks with size at CB, so a six-foot, 200 lbs. player is always welcomed. I think he will play a crucial role in the nickel.
Leodis McKelvin really needs to play smart. I was watching the draft coverage again the other day, and Mike Mayock, who I think is a lot better than Mel Kiper or Todd Mcshay, said time in and time out that he has poor ball skills. So, I think Leodis will be a successful CB if he plays the man instead of the ball this year.
I am not looking for him to get four to five interceptions, I see Terrence doing that, but not him, at least not in his rookie year.
I think if Leodis can play a physical style of defense, then this team is set. I think this unit, of all the ones I have mentioned, has the most potential. They seem oh-so-close to taking that next step. But, if Buffalo wants to contain Chris Chambers, Randy Moss, Braylon Edwards, or Larry Fitzgerald, they will have to not play so soft against these guys.
Overall, the Bills improved greatly. For once in the last 10 years, this team has a sense of direction and a great staff. Their head coach, Dick Jauron, is the right man for this team and all of his players respect him. This team, with some luck, more importantly execution, can make a lot of noise in the AFC and not just this year, but for many years to come.