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I know it’s early to be talking specifics about this year’s Bills. We haven’t really seen them play yet. We’ve seen a mini camp highlight or two, and heard lots of great in-depth reports from Chris Brown, but it’s not close to the real deal yet. (You know, sometimes it seems like even pre-season is not the “real deal”… you never know what’s going to happen until they get out there, put the pads on and bang heads!)
That said, I am feeling more excited than recent years about our offense! I can’t wait to see them in (real) action! I’ve come up with at least five reasons to be optimistic about the 2007 Buffalo Bills offense.
1. New Offensive Line
A lot of folks want to bash the moves the Bills made this off-season. I have heard many complaints that either the Bills overpaid, or just got average guys, or both. In fact, heard it yesterday on ESPN’s NFL Live. But if Bills fans will remember … after Dick Jauron and co. switched up the entire O-line last season at the bye week, our line steadily – and vastly? – improved. Allowing WAY fewer sacks, giving JP time to hit the deep ball, even opening holes for the running game.
The addition of a big tackle, Langston Walker, and a big – and the Bills staff feels, talented – left guard in Derrick Dockery, we’ve certainly solidified an already improving, and I’d say a decent line. So now (according to the depth chart here at BuffaloBills.com) we have from left to right, Jason Peters, Derrick Dockery, Melvin Fowler, Duke Preston, and Langston Walker. And for depth we have Terrance Pennington, who did a great job at RT last year as a rookie, and the new guy Jason Whittle, who is apparently a “utility” player (able to play many different positions.)
Add to those guys some players we got last year who will likely be improved this season, Brad Butler and Aaron Merz, and the line seems pretty strong to me. Granted it’s unproven, and I believe that’s where the “experts” see our line as a weakness. Of the five starters listed above, Walker and Fowler have the most NFL experience at 6 years. So it’s definitely a young line.
But it’s a beefy line. Look at these stats!
- LT – Jason Peters: 6’4″ 340lbs
- LG – Derrick Dockery: 6’6″ 330lbs
- C – Melvin Fowler: 6’3″ 310lbs
- RG – Duke Preston: 6’5″ 326lbs
- RT – Langston Walker: 6’8″ 366lbs
Holy cow! That’s a lot of beef!!! And throw in Terrance Pennington off the bench at 6’7″ 331 lbs just for more pummeling.
With supposedly one of the best OL coaches in the league, a strong finish to last season (constant improvement) and a few solid additions to the line, I think this is one great reason for offensive optimism this coming season.
2. New, More Open Scheme
From a few Chris Brown reports from OBD, as well as a confirming report on NFL Live yesterday, all signs point to a wide open, perhaps even no-huddle, very “Rams-like” offense from one of their former coaches. Fairchild seems very happy with the acquisition of Marshawn Lynch, who seems to fit the mold of Marshall Faulk very well. Very shifty, great moves, and even better… great hands out of the backfield.
We saw the offense open up a bit (I think in conjunction with the improved O-line) last season. Losman to Evans was a fun combination. But let’s not discount the other receivers so quickly. Price and Reed made some clutch catches last season. (Remember that play where Reed caught one fairly deep down the middle and just blasted through three Dolphin defenders into the endzone!??) And Roscoe Parrish is obviously explosive when we can get him the ball. Add to that a decent core of TEs (the coaches seem very happy with these guys…) and we’ve got a good amount of weaponry at Losman’s disposal.
3. Consistency From Last Season
Now I know I just finished saying that the #2 reason for optimism is our new offensive scheme, but one thing I keep hearing the players say (and it makes complete sense to me) is that a big reason to be optimistic is that most everything is the same.
If you’ll recall, Bills fans, we have not seen much of that in the past several years. From revolving free agent players, to revolving coordinators, coaches, and even the GM… the Bills have seen MORE than their share of “turn over”. But this upcoming season the only real difference is at RB, where it seems to me we’ve made an improvement.
The offensive system is familiar. “The players know what to expect,” said Coach Jauron, “and they know what we expect from them.” All of the coaches are returning. Most of the players have been here now through last year’s transition. There is a great level of consistency, and I think, a great sense of team. (Maybe even akin to the Buffalo Sabres, who have done very well with a young, unproven cohesive team.)
As the system has become more familiar, the players can just do what they do. And probably that has opened up the full throttle offense as well. This is a very good reason for optimism, in my opinion!
4. Marshawn Lynch vs Willis McGahee
As I mentioned above, I do believe we have made an improvement at the RB position. I really have nothing against Willis. I don’t recall ever publicly bashing him here or anywhere. I definitely thought he had great potential, and as I said in my last article, when you wear the uniform, you’re a Buffalo Bill. Period. So I cheered for Willis, as for everyone else.
That said, I am so glad he’s gone, and we seem to have a kid in here who is ready to work hard to help the Buffalo Bills.
The one detractor (in my opinion) for Willis was that (even if it’s not true) it seemed that he was always taking plays off. Always. I don’t remember a game where I thought, “Wow, Willis played a complete game that time!” Maybe in 2004, when he made his debut? All I know is that he was certainly characterized by a less-than-100% effort. At least by all appearances.
Bring in Marshawn Lynch. Compared already to Marshall Faulk (and I’ll throw in Thurman Thomas?) he is a bit of a different runner. And, he’s a great pass catcher. AND… he’s at mini camp! 🙂 Coach Fairchild said on that NFL Live piece that it helps so much having Lynch here, able to fit into the passing scheme more. From what I’ve seen of Lynch, he definitely seems committed to being the best he can be for the team. That’s a big improvement.
With the improved offensive line, involvement in the passing game, and a confident QB… I’d say Lynch could bring perhaps a significant improvement over the running game from last year. I think he only needs to average 3.9 yards/carry to top last year’s production from Willis. 🙂
5. J.P. Losman
I left this one for last, but maybe it’s the most important one. Flashback with me to 2005. In the off-season, Drew Bledsoe is let go, and JP Losman is named the starter. Just like that. Never played… he’s just the starter. They bring in Kelly Holcomb for back up, and “competition”. Losman starts and wins his first game… against Houston. Then the wheels fall off. Mularkey’s job is in trouble, so he benches Losman… playing with his head.
Skip ahead to 2006. This new year brings an entirely new front office and coaching staff. Losman and Holcomb and Nall compete for the starting job. (At least, he wasn’t just handed the job.) Losman wins the job, and starts every game. He was shaky at the beginning, but not horrible. Then, after the bye… kept steadily improving.
By the end of last year (minus a poor showing in the finale in Baltimore) Losman had become an entirely different QB. He finished the season with the 11th best QB rating in the NFL at 84.9. Perhaps it was that game in Houston where he not only hit those TWO 83 yard bombs to Evans… but came from behind to win it in the waning seconds of the game on a pass to Peerless Price? Perhaps it was just growing comfortable with the system, or himself as an NFL QB. Whatever it was, it started working. Losman began believing in himself (as did the rest of the Bills, and Bills fans) and now he has that momentum coming into this season.
He ended the year a bit miffed at not making the playoffs. One detractor from Losman’s play to end the year was how he quit after the Tennessee game. He was not mentally/emotionally in the game in Baltimore. But right after that game was over, he was ready for 2007. He took a little time off, but has been hard at work this off-season, prepping for the upcoming football year.
Another great thing about JP is that he is a team guy. His teammates seem to love him, and he loves them right back. He engages everyone, and seems from my vantage point to be a willing and capable leader. Isn’t that what we want from our QB?
I believe one of the best reasons for optimism regarding the 2007 rendition of the Buffalo Bills offense is J.P. Losman. He’s entering his 4th season – second as a full-time starter. There’s consistency from last year, but a more open approach. A new weapon in Marshawn Lynch. And carry-over confidence from a steady improvement through the end of last season.
Look out NFL defenses… here come the Bills!