It hasn't been a million years since the Bills were in the playoffs. It only seems that way.
The Bills haven't visited the postseason since the end of the last millennium. And in 2010, the club's record drought could extend to 11 years.
Quarterback, offensive line and wide receiver are major question marks, and the move to a 3-4 defense means changes are needed on that side of the ball as well.
Owner Ralph Wilson hopes new G.M. Buddy Nix and coach Chan Gailey will alter the team's fortunes. Nix, a longtime college scout, never has held the G.M. job before but has a strong reputation as an astute talent evaluator. Hiring Gailey—the Bills' fifth coach since 2000—didn't excite fans, who wanted a bigger name. But Nix says Gailey's past success at the pro and college levels is what the Bills need.
So two good ol' boys from the South are in charge of reviving a fallen franchise in the North.
Offense: Gailey believes in a balanced attack with multiple personnel groupings and pre-snap motion to create matchup advantages. First-year coordinator Curtis Modkins will be involved in mapping out the game plan, but Gailey will call the plays.
Gailey promises an open competition for the starting quarterback job, but Trent Edwards will get every chance to win it despite faltering last season. He needs to regain his confidence and show teammates he can be an effective leader. If he falters again, he could be replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick, whose on-field instincts make up for his lack of physical tools.
First-round pick C.J. Spiller (5-10, 196) is not equipped for 25 carries a game, but Gailey will figure out ways to get him touches out of the backfield, as a receiver and on kickoff returns.
Defense: The Bills have joined the wave of teams moving to a 3-4 scheme. New coordinator George Edwards knows the scheme well, having coached linebackers in Miami for five years. Edwards wants to play an aggressive, attacking style with multiple blitz packages designed to disrupt offenses. He also will use some 4-3 looks, particularly on passing downs.
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The move to the 3-4 will take some adjustment because most of the team's linemen are better suited to play in a 4-3 scheme. The Bills did sign an experienced 3-4 end in Dwan Edwards, who plays the run well. Former tackles Marcus Stroud and Spencer Johnson join Edwards at end, giving the team a solid rotation. Kyle Williams (6-1, 305) is quick and will battle to the whistle but might lack the bulk and strength to be effective at nose tackle.
Aaron Maybin, OLB. Maybin didn't have a sack as an underachieving rookie end last year. But the move to outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme could unleash his potential as a dynamic pass rusher.
"I think the system's perfect for me. I really think it just gives you the opportunity to throw so many different things at the offense, and it opens up a lot of avenues for some plays to be made." — Maybin
"Gailey was a solid choice as head coach. His hire wasn't well received up there, but he has had a lot of success as a coach in this league. With the way that team has struggled on offense, they needed someone who is strong in that area. He is very good at taking the talent he has to work with and getting the most out of it. ...
"It will be interesting to see what he can do with Edwards. I thought he was going to be a terrific quarterback, but he has regressed the past two years. If Gailey can't get the best out of Edwards, it's not there to get. ...
"Their offensive line has been a mess. Everyone knows it starts up front, so until they address that they will have problems. I like some of their pieces on defense, especially in the secondary. Going to a 3-4 is not easy when you have a bunch of guys drafted to play a 4-3. Those players will have to be coached up to make that transition."
The Bills face a difficult task in climbing out of the AFC East cellar. They could improve a lot but still remain in fourth place because their division rivals are all strong playoff contenders. Gailey's offensive reputation suggests the Bills should be able to move the ball and score more in '10, but a lot of that will be determined by who's at quarterback.
QB: Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick
FB: Corey McIntyre
RB: C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch
LT: Demetrius Bell, Ed Wang
LG: Andy Levitre, Kyle Calloway
C: Geoff Hangartner, Christian Gaddis
RG: Eric Wood, Kirk Chambers
RT: Cornell Green, Kirk Chambers
TE: Shawn Nelson, Derek Schouman
WR: James Hardy, Steve Johnson
WR: Lee Evans, Roscoe Parrish
LE: Marcus Stroud, Spencer Johnson
NT: Kyle Williams, Torell Troupe
RE: Dwan Edwards, Alex Carrington
OLB: Aaron Maybin, Chris Ellis
ILB: Andra Davis, Kawika Mitchell
ILB: Paul Posluszny, Keith Ellison
OLB: Chris Kelsay, Danny Batten
CB: Terrence McGee, Drayton Florence
CB: Leodis McKelvin, Reggie Corner
SS: Donte Whitner, Bryan Scott
FS: Jairus Byrd, George Wilson
K: Rian Lindell
P: Brian Moorman
KR: C.J. Spiller, Leodis McKelvin
PR: Roscoe Parrish, C.J. Spiller
LS: Garrison Sanborn
PFT: Jets RB Mike Goodson was charged with five gun and drug counts Friday morning, after New Jersey State Police found the car he was riding in parked in the middle of Route 80 in Denville, N.J.
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