Sunday, September 4, 2011

Four Downs: Questions entering Bills season

(Photo: Ed Yourdon)
The last decade for the Buffalo Bills has been 10 years most fans would like to forget: six consecutive losing seasons, zero playoff appearances and a slew of big-name busts. The Bills are currently tied with the Lions for the longest playoff-appearance drought, and this year is shaping up to be another uphill battle.

Same Ol’ Bills?
The Bills were 1-3 this preseason, and coupled with losing wide receiver Lee Evans and their draft decision to stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick and pass on a number of young, talented quarterbacks, it may be a while before we see Buffalo contend with other AFC heavy-hitters such as the Jets and New England.

Fitz ready for an encore?
Fitzpatrick did show glimpses of brilliance last year, finishing the season with exactly 3,000 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and four wins in the last eight games after Buffalo's dreadful 0-8 start (though Trent Edwards started the first two games).

Will the pass protection improve?
The Bills' offensive line gave up 94 quarterback hits last season, which ranked fifth worse in the league. Buffalo didn’t really do anything in the offseason to remedy its protection woes, so we’ll see if the front guys have matured.

How about run blocking?
That may also be a problem for running back Fred Jackson, as he saw total-yards and yards-per-carry numbers drop from the previous year. Jackson has taken 72 percent of the carries for the Bills so far this preseason, but is still peeved about the growing role of backup C.J. Spiller, despite the guarantee that he will be the starter.