One of two things will happen this season with the Buffalo Bills. The team will either shock the world and take the next step toward being a playoff-contending franchise, or it will be one of the worst in the NFL and will compete for the first overall pick in the 2014 Draft.
There really is not middle ground when discussing this franchise.
After making EJ Manuel the first pick of their 2013 Draft and having already signed Kevin Kolb in free agency and having Tarvaris Jackson on the roster, there are many questions left unanswered, many of which have to do with the front office, the changes with Buddy Nix leaving the general manager position he held with the team and the hiring of Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone to serve as the leader of this franchise.
When you are in Buffalo and sign Mario Williams to a huge contract the previous season and have an explosive running game and a solid if not spectacular receiver on your roster, you tend to ask what is truly wrong with a franchise that was one of the most dominant clubs in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Does this team turn the corner or does it sink father into oblivion with Miami making moves to challenge New England and the Jets having to win to save Rex Ryan’s job?
All of those questions must be answered this season or more changes could be on the horizon. And that is not a good sign.
In terms of fantasy football, there are some good players to pick and use with your franchise. This team is not depleted of talent. Having said that, it makes you wonder why this talent has not been as successful as it should or could be.
Gone from the team is Ryan Fitzpatrick, a quarterback paid a lot of money to “manage” a game and not lose. Fitzpatrick was not successful at either. So, with changes in the team structure, enter Marrone, who brings his Syracuse offense to Buffalo, and shocked the world (again) with the drafting of EJ Manuel with the first pick in the team’s draft. Many of us, including me, expected Marrone to trade down even further in the draft and tab his own quarterback from Syracuse, Ryan Nassib. Looks like this team will live and die by this choice.
At quarterback, the team must decide the direction it wants to travel in camp and stick with it. Easier said than done when there are three passers on the team signed to do just that. Kolb may have the best arm, Manuel is the better runner and Jackson may be the most athletic. Like in Minnesota, where they took Joe Webb and made him a receiver, that in my opinion, should be an option for Jackson, but I am writing this story, not coaching the team.
Kolb’s injury history should be a concern for this team and the Bills must be ready to pull the trigger on making a change quickly should Kolb suffer anymore setbacks.
Manuel should sit on the bench and learn for a season, but his draft position (the fact he was the only first round selection) dictates he get a chance to win the job.
At running back, there are few teams who look this good going into training camp. Fred Jackson is one of the most underrated players (not just runners) in the league. He can run, catch and block and does so with a fullback-like mentality. The lead back shares time in the backfield with the flashy and faster CJ Spiller.
I saw Spiller play a lot of high school football in my area of the country. Spiller would start for over half the teams in the NFL and will take carries away from Jackson. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield and return kicks. Both are such vital cogs in this offense. The running game is certainly the most important part of the team’s game plan.
Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods, wide receivers, figure to be the two starters on the outside when the Bills begin 2013. Both receivers give whoever is behind center a scoring threat whenever they catch the ball. Johnson is a solid receiver who tends to get lost when talking about the great pass catchers in the league. He would be a solid No. 2 on other more talented franchises. Woods is a rookie who will asked to come in like Lee Evans did years ago and take an immediate role in the offense. If he can do that, this offense could be something the NFL wasn’t ready for.
Da’Rick Rogers, an undrafted free agent rookie from Tennessee Tech by way of Tennessee could also offer something in the passing game. He has good size and speed to split defenders across the middle.
Tight end is a position the Bills used to use in wide variety. Now, it is a toss up who will be out there. With no listing of a depth chart, who starts at the position is anyone’s guess. Mickey Shuler of Penn State may have a lead in the run for the position, maybe its Scott Chandler of Iowa. Either way, do not expect much from the position.
This is a team that had 40 total touchdowns last season and will look to more scoring from all angles on the field. The team had under 3,300 passing yards as a whole and just over 2,200 yards rushing --- all areas that need improvement this season.
The Patriots, Jets and Ravens are three of this teams first four games on the schedule. The Bills also play New England and Miami twice. The schedule is not easy and there will need to be some upsets for this team to get near .500 for the season.
Look for Da’Rick Rogers to be a player who could have a breakout season. While his off-field issues caused teams to shy away from him, there is no doubt about his talents.
Stevie Johnson could be the player who takes a step back in the offense. Playing with three potential quarterbacks this season could force a fade in numbers this year.
It isn’t a matter of Kevin Kolb should be the team’s MVP--- He needs to be. The team thought it hit big with Mario Williams last year to revamp the defense. Kolb was brought in to revitalize the offense.