2010 NFL Team Preview: Buffalo Bills

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Between now and the September 9th season kick-off, Hank Koebler, IV will be previewing all the NFL teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, division): 6-10, 2-4
Division finish: 4th AFC East
Offensive rank (Points, Total Yards, Passing Yards, Rushing Yards): 28th, 30th, 30th, 16th
Defensive rank (Points, Total Yards, Passing Yards, Rushing Yards): 16th, 19th, 2nd, 30th

2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing: Fred Jackson, 1,062 yards, 2 TD
Passing: Ryan Fitzpatrick, 1,422 yards, 9 TD, 10 INT; Trent Edwards, 1,169 yards, 6 TD, 7 INT
Receiving: Terrell Owens, 829 yards, 5 TD; Lee Evans, 612 yards, 7 TD
Tackles: Paul Posluszny, 111 total tackles; George Wilson, 103 total tackles
Sacks: Aaron Schobel, 10.0 sacks
Interceptions: Jairus Byrd, 9 interceptions

2010 Season Outlook

(* denotes division game)

Key Matchups

September 26 at New England: The Bills’ defensive backfield is supposed to see a huge improvement this year, and this early game against the Patriots, a pass-first team who can’t run the ball very well, will be a good test of whether that is true or not. C.J. Spiller may have a breakout game and run wild all over the Patriots, as their linebacking corps is lacking in speed. While an upset is pretty unlikely, the Bills may be able to make this game a close one.

October 31 at Kansas City: Current Bills coach Chan Gailey was last seen in the NFL as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, but he was fired before the start of the 2009 season. He’ll throw everything that his new-look 3-4 defense has to offer at Matt Cassell, who is oblivious to the pass rush and will likely take a lot of sacks if the Bills’ front three can clog a lot of gaps. Meanwhile, the linebacking corps will have to contend with the speedy Jamaal Charles.

Key Losses

Terrell Owens, WR

Key Returning Players

Leodis McKelvin, CB; Jairus Byrd, FS; Lee Evans, WR; Fred Jackson, RB; Leodis McKelvin, CB; Aaron Maybin, OLB

Key Draft Picks

C.J. Spiller, RB; Torrell Troup, NT; Arthur Moats, DE/LB; Danny Batten, DE/LB

Key Free Agent Signings

Andra Davis, ILB; Cornell Green, OT; Dwan Edwards, DE

Key Acquisitions via Trade

Reggie Wells, OG; Ernie Sims, LB

Offensive Overview

There is very little talent around the board on the offensive side of the ball, and the Bills are physically outmatched by nearly every defense they play. Left tackle Demetrius Bell is coming back from a 2009 season-ending injury, but even with him in the lineup, left tackle is a major weakness. Left guard Andy Levitre was a rookie last year and made strides in his technique last year, but he still doesn't have good strength. Center Geoff Hangartner is able to pull to the outside on running plays, but he struggles against big defensive tackles. In a division that forces him to block Kris Jenkins and Vince WIlfork bi-annually, this simply isn’t acceptable. Right guard Eric Wood had a gruesome compound fracture in his let last year, and if he is back to full strength, he is an asset in the run game, though he is not great against the pass-rush. Former Raider Cornell Green was brought in to anchor the right tackle position, and he has been merrily decent this offseason.

Quarterback wasn't an area of strength to begin with, but the quality of the offensive line will exacerbate the quarterbacks' weaknesses. Current starter Trent Edwards can pass the football very well when given adequate protection, but he had some concussion issues in 2008 and since then has picked up the bad habit of dropping too far backwards in the pocket when faced with pressure, instead of stepping up and getting rid of the ball quickly. Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick can scramble better than Edwards and buy himself a little more time, but he can't make a lot of the throws that Edwards can. Of course, with the receiving corps that Buffalo has, no quarterback is going to excel. Lee Evans is an absolute star, but defenses are able to take him out of the game because none of the Bills' other receivers or tight ends can beat even single man coverage. Lee Evans, the Bills' number two receiver behind Lee Evans, signed with San Diego in the offseason, so the passing offense should remain just as stagnant as it was last year.

The one thing this offense does have is a great duo at running back. Fred Jackson is a good runner whose speed allows him to perform well even though the Bills' offensive line isn't very good. However, Jackson still has enough strength that. He can shake the occasional tackle, too, which means he can run the ball up the middle from time to time as well. Rookie running back C.J. Spiller legitimizes the entire Buffalo offense. Spiller, like Tennessee's Chris Johnson, is not only dangerous because of his speed, but because he changes direction so smoothly, he doesn't make a lot of jerky movements, and as a result he glides across the field effortlessly making defenders miss. Because of Spiller's big-play abilities, defenses have to key in on him and take some pressure off of the passing game. As a result, Spiller's presence occasionally opens up opportunities for Evans. Because of Spiller, Jackson and Evans will be able to make more plays than they usually have room to make. With Spiller in the lineup, the Bills' offense won't be great, but at least it won't be a complete embarrassment anymore. However, if Spiller suffers an injury, the offense will completely collapse.

Defensive Overview

Several new faces will be the key to the Bills' transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 this year. In the second round of this year's draft, Buffalo selected Torrell Troup to be their franchise nose tackle, but he is coming from a 4-3 defensive system in college, so he will take some time to adjust before he is ready to supplant starter Kyle Williams, who is smaller than Troup but compensates for that with how quickly he attacks Defensive end Dwan Edwards came to the Bills from Baltimore, and although he can get pushed off of the ball at times, but he makes up for this with his ability to quickly get to the ball-carrier. At the other end position will be last year's defensive tackle Marcus Stroud, who played rather sluggishly last year.

The Bills signed Andra Davis, who had 67 solo tackles, as a free agent from the Denver Broncos to stabilize the linebacking corps. Kawika Mitchell's knee injury ended his 2009 season prematurely and the additions of Davis and Reggie Torbor suggest that the Bills don't expect Mitchell to regain pre-injury form. Mitchell's replacement Paul Posluszny played with good technique, but he doesn't have the speed to cover as much ground as a 4-3 middle linebacker has to. He's better-suited to sharing that space with another inside linebacker in a 3-4 system. Arthur Moats and Danny Batten are 4-3 defensive ends who will be converted to outside linebackers, which is especially important since Aaron Schobel demanded to be released. Aaron Maybin put on 15 pounds this offseason, but he still isn't solid enough in his fundamentals to be a consistent starter.

The defensive backfield is an area of strength on this team. Cornerback Terrence McGee is a good tackler with great instincts for the ball, and he is a playmaker in the secondary. Drayton Florence and Leodis McKelvin are competing for the second cornerback position, but regardless of who starts, the Bills will field a great corner tandem, and will be very good in nickel packages. Strong safety Donte Whitner is great in run-support, but inconsistent in pass coverage. Free safety Jairus Byrd picked off a league-leading nine passes last season, and will likely emerge as one of the top safeties in the league as he enters his second pro season.

Special Teams Overview

Despite being ranked a less-than-impressive 20th in average kickoff distance, the Bills were an excellent 9th in average yards allowed per kickoff return. Ranked 5th in average punt distance, the Bills' punt coverage team was ranked 11th in average yards allowed per punt return. The special teams unit may see a bit of a drop-off in performance now that special teams coach Bobby April has departed to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Roscoe Parrish only averaged 5.5 yards per punt return. The Bills have a multitude of options to increase their productivity in the punt return game, including C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, and Leodis McKelvin. There's certainly enough speed on this roster to improve the Bills' field position after punts. In the kickoff return game, Fred Jackson was good but not great, averaging 24.7 yards per return.

Placekicker Rian Lindell was 21 of 21 within the 40-yard line, 6 out of 9 from between 40-49, 1 of 3 outside of 50-yard line. Over the course of his career, Lindell has only converted 62.6% of field goal attempts beyond the 50-yard line. In all fairness, though, the windy conditions of Buffalo, New York, make it difficult for any kicker to make field goals from afar.

Head Coach: Chan Gailey

Gailey, a former quarterback at the University of Florida, has coached at the college level, in the NFL, and even in the World League of American Football. He has a winning record (18-16, including playoffs) as an NFL head coach, and he won first place in the NFC East in his first year as a head coach. Additionally, in both years he was the Cowboys' head coach, Gailey's team went to the playoffs. The Bills are hoping that his decision to switch to a new 3-4 defense pays off as a vital cornerstone of their rebuilding effort.

Top 2011 Free Agents

Trent Edwards, QB; Marcus Stroud, DE; Paul Posluszny, ILB; Drayton Florence, CB

Season Prediction

4th AFC East

C.J. Spiller may single-handedly bring this team a couple of wins this season, but that won't be anywhere near enough to propel the Bills forward in the divisional race. They've got another year or two of solid rebuilding until they're true contenders for a playoff spot. - Hank Koebler, IV

Hank is a sports journalist attending the University of Missouri's school of journalism.


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