Thursday, August 10, 2006

2006 Season Preview: #29 Buffalo Bills

Wow, this team got bad in a hurry. The Buffalo Bills are proof of how an unsettled quarterback situation can put you in a big-time hole in the NFL.

What happened last year: The Bills came out on opening day in 2005 sporting the old school OJ uniforms and summarily kicked the shit out of the Houston Texans. Bills fans had to have a good feeling considering that they were coming off a season in which they won eight of their last ten games. However, the Week 1 victory would be the high point of the season for Buffalo. The Bills won only four more games in 2005. While the sputtering offense that ranked 28th in the league was not a surprise, the real shocker was that the defense, which ranked 2nd in the NFL in 2004, ended the season as the fourth worst in 2005, mainly due to the fact that the Bills allowed 137.8 rushing yards per game. The Bills were unable to find an answer at the quarterback position in 2005, with second-year player J.P. Losman starting the first four games, free agent acquisition Kelly Holcomb starting the next four, Losman starting the next five, and Holcomb starting the final three. Between the two of them, the Bills had only four 200+ yard passing performances, including a single 300+ yard game. Running back Willis McGahee failed to meet the high expectations that he had created with his performance late in the 2004 season. McGahee ran for 1247 yards, but had only five touchdowns, and with no significant contribution coming from his backup, he was unable to carry the impotent Buffalo offense. Lee Evans, a second-year receiver from Wisconsin, emerged as the number one target of the Bills' two-headed monster of a quarterback. The substandard outcome for the 2005 version of the Bills promised wholesale change within the Bills' organization.

What has changed: What better way is there to signal a fresh start for your franshise than bringing back an 81-year-old former head coach as general manager and vice president of football operations? Marv Levy, most notorious for going 0-4 in the Super Bowl as head coach of the Bills from 1986 to 1997, returned to football in January, although he did not assume coaching responsibilities, as many suspected he would. Head coach Mike Mularkey read the writing on the wall and resigned a week after Levy's appointment. Replacing Mularkey is former Bears coach and Yale alumnus Dick Jauron. On the personnel front, the Bills focused their attention on rebuilding their defense. Defensive tackle Sam Adams was cut as a casualty of the salary cap mess in early March, as was safety Lawyer Milloy. The main free agent pick-up for the Bills on defense was DT Larry Tripplett from Indianapolis. The Bills stockpiled defensive bodies in the draft by taking strong safety Donte Whitner from Ohio State, DT John McCargo from NC State, CB Ashton Youboty from Ohio State, FS Ko Simpson from South Carolina, and Kyle Williams, a DT from LSU. On offense, the Bills added C Melvin Fowler and OG Tutan Reyes to upgrade the offensive line. Peerless Price is also returning to the Bills to try to recapture his glory years. Finally, the Bills bought a ticket for the A-Train, Anthony Thomas, in order to give the Bills a competent counterpart to Willis McGahee.

What will happen this season: The Bills won't be good. They have serious issues with their quarterback play, and that alone is enough to sink a team in the NFL. The defense is a work in progress, although it will benefit with the return of Takeo Spikes to middle linebacker. Buffalo will be neck and neck with the Jets all season for last place in the AFC East. When all is said and done, the Bills will definitely be picking in the top ten in the draft next April, with a decent chance that they will be in the top five. The Bills fans, however, have no other choice than to sit back and watch their team suck because, after all, there isn't shit to do in Buffalo. Luckily, most residents of Buffalo are just happy to have an NFL team.


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