With the official start of the Buffalo Bills Offseason Team Activities starting today it’s finally time to dive back into football after our nearly month hiatus since the draft and UDFA process! This afternoon the Bills will officially begin their 2012 campaign, and much like Rome, a Super Bowl caliber team will not be built in just one day. That does not mean however that there aren’t some things to look for and listen to the coaches speak about during these OTA’s.
Who is the #2 WR opposite Steve Johnson?
While this question may seem like a silly one it may be the biggest of the offseason. With Stevie’s signature on a new five year deal it now becomes imperative that we identify a #2 WR on this team. You’ll recall last year we saw Donald Jones lined up outside with mixed results. When Jones went down with an injury, defenses came down from the deeper zones that Jones could threaten and made life tough on all our other WR’s and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Finding a target that can stretch the field and keep defenses honest will be huge. If you take a poll of Bills fans about who they hope can become this guy the answer you’ll often get is Marcus Easley. Easley who hasn’t played a down of football in the regular season in two years will be counted on this year to bounce back and be the same down the field target that he was his senior year at UConn. The other option fans will mention is new third round pick TJ Graham. Graham who has blazing speed is a bit shorter than ideal for the outside but if he can escape the jam and get separation there aren’t many players in the NFL who can run with him.
How does the newly realigned 43 defense look?
In a move back to the 43 this defense will have to undergo some rather big changes. Upfront we should be dominant and let me be one of the first to coin the phrase A-Bomb when referring to our defensive line. Why A-Bomb? Because Anderson plus Williams, Mario, and Dareus (WMD), makes an A-Bomb, get it? With a defense line intended to give opposing QB’s nightmares it will be interesting to see how the back seven shape up with new roles and assignments.
We can expect a chance from some man coverage schemes to almost exclusively zone coverage. This may conjure up fear of the dreaded Cover 2 days under Jauron but it’s important to note that the Cover 2 scheme is actually quite effective (ask the Giants) if you can apply enough pass rush. We have a number of CB’s who should benefit from the move back to zone coverage starting with Leodis McKelvin.
The middle part of this defense though is the biggest question mark, we think we’ll see Morrison-Sheppard-Barnett as the starting three. The Bills have made it clear that’s not set in stone and with the emphasis they have put on covering the athletic TE’s in this division don’t be shocked if they rotate heavily to some of their more capable coverage LB’s.
How do the rookies adjust?
We all heard about how dominant first round pick Stephon Gilmore was at rookie minicamp a few weeks back. He had a pick every day and was in shut down mode. It will be interesting seeing where Gilmore lines up starting this afternoon. Our best guess is in the nickel role. We know that Terrence McGee is out of OTA’s with rehab for his injuries so that means 2nd year CB Aaron Williams will likely slide into his starting spot opposite McKelvin. Gilmore should see plenty of reps in this OTA and look for the coaches to potentially ask the QB’s to pick on him and see how he reacts. We would also expect them to allow Stevie Johnson to take a few cracks at him both in 7 on 7’s and 1 on 1’s.
Gilmore may be our first round pick but he may not be the most important rookie in this class, that distinction will likely fall on OT Cordy Glenn. Glenn was brought in to man the left side of this offensive line and expect him to see plenty of reps there. He likely won’t start at LT when the OTA’s open this afternoon but this coaching staff will surely want to see him up against the likes of Mark Anderson and Mario Williams on more than a few occasions. Glenn will be tested early and often when going up against those two.
The Vince Young effect?
When the Bills signed Vince Young a few weeks ago everybody knew it was to compete with Tyler Thigpen for the backup job on this team and not to challenge Ryan Fitzpatrick. However don’t think that this coaching staff didn’t have Young’s prior starting experience in mind along with Fitzpatrick’s 2nd half collapse when it came to signing the enigmatic QB.
Young will first need to show that he’s in shape and can throw the ball as well as he always has been able to. We know he’s got the mobility Chan Gailey loves, but in this offense the ability to see the defense, understand what they are doing, know where your WR’s will be, and make the throw is imperative. With Fitzpatrick we have a QB who does a good job on the first three aspects, but at times struggles with the fourth. Young is almost the exact opposite.
If Young can come into OTA’s and show the ability to the throw the ball all over the field then it will be interesting to see how Fitzpatrick and Thigpen react. Will the presence of Young push the other two to be better, or will it push them to falter?
No matter what happens during these OTA’s one should not read too much into it. There are no pads on, no hitting. Everything is done under control and with minimal contact. The big thing is getting your scheme installed, you’re rookies up to speed, and starting to bang the rust off. In the end all you want is for your veterans to all show up, everybody to be in shape, and for there to be no injuries.