As spring turns to summer in Western NY hope springs eternal for fans of The Buffalo Bills. We say to ourselves the schedule seems easier, the off-season seemed a little better, and the coaching stability has to eventually result in a more consistent performance. But unfortunately we’ve been here before, only to have the Bills wilt and eventually crumble as fall turns to winter just like the foliage in New York. Unfortunately the fall season has been a symbol of the Bills’ fall from contention year after year.
This year does seem a little different, with even many in the national media picking the Bills as their “dark horse”. But there is still an elephant in the room that we all seem to want to pretend is not there, and that’s the QB situation. I like many think Trent Edwards is the real deal. I like many thought J.P. Losman was the real deal last year, which is exactly why the situation at QB is still a huge concern. The fact is we just don’t know, as only time will tell.
It is for this reason that the destiny of the Bills could be decided by their revamped defense this season. Last year offenses rolled through this defense like it was a tollbooth on I-90 and they had an EZ-Pass. In the Bills defense there were an unusual amount of injuries, but regardless improvements needed to be made. The front office obviously agreed because they spent a great deal of their time and resources on the defensive side of the ball in the off-season. Because this unit will play such an important role now is as good a time as any to see what The Bills really have with this unit.
Defensive Line: Assuming he can stay healthy Marcus Stroud should make a significant impact in the center of the line, and some feel the under rated and versatile Spencer Johnson could be equally effective. Add them to a solid Kyle Williams and emerging John McCargo and the Bills look as strong on the line as they have since the Pat Williams era. Chris Ellis could be a sleeper edge rusher and is one to watch as training camp progresses. In a league where imitation is common many teams will attempt to follow the Giants lead and attack with the defensive line in waves. Based on the results the Giants had against the Patriots let’s pray the Bills have the players along the front line to carry out the same strategy.
Linebackers: With the signing of Kawika Mitchell and return of Paul Pozluzny to join Angelo Crowell the linebackers should be stronger as well, with DiGiorgio and Ellison returning to more suitable roles as back-ups. With the experience these young players gained last year due to injuries the Bills should be more than comfortable with their depth at the position.
Secondary: In the secondary the Bills look much stronger with the surprise emergence of Jabari Greer, the free agent signing of Will James, the drafting of Leodis McKelvin and Reggie Corner, and the return of Ko Simpson from injury. Donte Whitner and Terrance McGee should return as starters at their respective positions while Ashton Youbouty has gone from potential starter last year to a potential roster casualty, which is a testament to the improved depth at the position. It would be a surprise if George Wilson did not find a way to make the team, as his transition from wide receiver to starting safety was nothing short of miraculous. It’s just one example of the Bills perseverance through injuries.
If this defense can stay healthy, especially Marcus Stroud, this has the makings of being a much-improved defensive unit. Compared to what he worked with last year Perry Fewell has to be thrilled with what he sees on paper. But what we see on paper does not always transfer to the playing field. With an offense that still has many young contributors it’s likely the burden of success will rest on the defense, especially earlier in the season while the offense gels. If this defense is up to the task there just might be playoff football in Western NY.