Sunday, August 30, 2009

O Canada: Buffalo Bills Season Preview

2008 Record: 7-9

Dick Jauron is on the hot seat. Taking a risk like bringing in TO could pay divedends. Or it could get him fired. We're betting on the latter. We're also betting on the Bills moving to Toronto within the next 5 years. They already have an agreement to play a few regular season and preseason games there. And Toronto is a much bigger market than Buffalo.

Trent Edwards is a decent quarterback, but Buffalo will have two rookies, Andy Levitre (G-Oregon St) and Eric Wood (C-Louisville), starting on the interior of the O-line. Remember what happened 2 years ago to the Steelers with the Sean Mahan experiment? Add to that the fact that Marshawn Lynch is suspended for the first 4 weeks of the season and Fred Jackson has been battling hand injuries in camp...all the pressure is going right for Edwards.

That being said, he has the weapons in the passing game to make plays. TO is productive, albeit a locker room destroyer. Lee Evans is a solid deep threat that can stretch the field, but he doesn't find the end zone often for the type of yards he puts up. Evans was one of 22 receivers to break 1000 yards last season, yet amongst that group he had the fewest receptions (63) and tied for the fewest touchdowns (3).

Buffalo had some injury problems last season, including to quarterback Trent Edwards. Edwards was at the helm for their stellar 5-1 start, but finished the season with a 7-7 record as the Bills offense tanked down the stretch with a 2-8 mark. The Bills have installed a no-huddle offense that they plan to use to "keep defenses on their toes." I'm not sure if the coaching staff came up with this brilliant plan while watching Oklahoma last year, but this isn't college football. It might work for the first few drives of the game, but once defense have a chance to react and gameplan for it, the effects will likely be a wash. For a team that averaged barely over 30 minutes per game in time of possession last season, it's odd to think that they want to try to move their offense up and down the field faster. Although, Buffalo was 21st in the league in 1st downs last season, so maybe the expression should be "on and off the field faster." We saw a lot of them "moving on and off the field faster" against the Steelers last night.

Buffalo's offense was not good by any stretch last season. They were 22nd in Passing offense, 14th in Rushing offense, and 25th in Total offense. In addition to not moving the ball, they also didn't score, finishing 23rd in scoring offense. The one thing they did do well was to give the ball to the other team, finishing the season with 30 turnovers, the 9th highest mark in the league. Putting all of these stats together, you can see why Dick Jauron was desperate for some offensive production, but we're of the opinion they would have done better to augment James Hardy's growth in the offense, rather than shut him out by bringing in TO. In a season shortened by a torn ACL, Hardy (6'5" 220 in his second year out of Indiana) had 9 catches for 87 yards and 2 scores, good for the 2nd most receiving TDs on the team.

Buffalo's run defense improved dramatically last season with the acquisition of DT Marcus Stroud from Jacksonville. The Bills drafted Aaron Maybin (DE-Penn State) to improve their pass rush, which was 4th-worst in the league last year with only 24 sacks. Aaron Schobel, who had over 6 sacks in each of his first 7 seasons in the league, is coming off an injury-shortened year where he only recorded 1 sack. Buffalo's linebacking corps is solid, with leading tackler and all around stud Paul Posluszny in the middle. After his injury-shortened rookie year, Poz showed why he should have been a first round draft pick, leading the team in tackles and putting himself on the track to a future Pro Bowl appearance. ROLB Kawika Mitchell who led the team in sacks last year with 4, and LOLB Keith Ellison, both of whom were in the top 4 on the team in tackles, return to their positions.

Buffalo has a decent secondary, and they finished 13th in the league in pass defense last season. Last year's first round pick Leodis McKelvin is battling for a starting spot with Ashton Youboty. Terrence McGee, who led the team with 3 INTs and was 3rd on the team in tackles, returns to his #1 corner position. Last years starting safeties, Ko Simpson and Donte Whitner (who combined for 0 INTs), also return. The Bills secondary only gave up over 300 yards passing 3 times last season (Miami 306, Kansas City 303, Denver 351). However, their run defense was bludgeoned for over 100 yards 9 times, including in 7 of the last 8 games where the Bills posted a 2-6 record.

Ian's Prediction: 4-12

I just don't see this happening. All of Buffalo's early season victories last year came against teams that won 5 or less games (Seattle, St. Louis, Oakland, Jacksonville). Their only "good" victories were against a stumbling San Diego team and Denver in the midst of their epic December collapse. Which team will show up in 2009? The team that beat San Diego or the team that lost to Cleveland? The no-huddle is going to get smoked out of the water the first time they try to audible on the road in a noisy stadium. This team is headed for disaster and Dick Jauron may be unemployed before the Bills bye week in Week 9. Let's not forget, the city of Buffalo is also doing all they can in the hopes that this team doesn't jump ship and move across the border to Canada.

John's Prediction:

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