The 2013 NFL regular season is right around the corner. With that being said, it’s time to launch our team previews. FOXSports.com contributor Taylor Jones will answer important questions for every franchise.
2012 Record: 6-10. Missed the playoffs.
What must the team accomplish to consider the season a success?
The Buffalo Bills currently maintain the league’s longest standing playoff drought, having not qualified for the postseason since 1999. During those 13 seasons, Buffalo has won an average of just more than six games per season and only finished with a winning record once.
2013 will be Doug Marrone’s first season as an NFL head coach and only his fifth as a head coach at any level. During the last four seasons at Syracuse, Marrone finished with a hardly noticeable 25-25 record with just two bowl game appearances. For most coaches, that wouldn’t even warrant an opportunity in the NFL. Nonetheless, it will be Marrone’s job to turn the tables in Buffalo and if he can pull off an 8-8 record in his first year, that would be a major accomplishment.
What is the team’s biggest asset?
Fred Jackson missed six games last season due to a leg injury and that could have been the best thing about the Bills season. Why? Because it led to the breakout season of CJ Spiller, who up to that point, had yet to develop into the major impact player the Bills had hoped for when selecting him with the ninth overall pick in the 2010 draft. In 2012, Spiller rushed for an impressive 1,244 yards … but even better was his average per carry of six yards. Even with a healthy Fred Jackson, the Bills can’t afford not to feed the ball to Spiller with that type of explosive play potential. Spiller may not be a 20-carry a game bell cow, but he is the best difference maker on this roster and he deserves even more chances to do just that. Hopefully the injury he sustained in Buffalo’s third preseason game isn’t serious.
Which rookie stands the best chance to succeed?
EJ Manuel was the first quarterback selected, No. 16 overall, and the only one taken in the first round. It was obviously a down year for the position, but that doesn’t mean that Manuel can’t keep the trend of rookie quarterbacks playing at a high level. Last year it was Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin and Andrew Luck that each led their team into the playoffs. In 2011, it was Andy Dalton who led his team to the playoffs and Cam Newton who broke the all-time rookie passing record. Both of them went to the Pro Bowl as rookies. It seems like the debate regarding starting or sitting rookie quarterbacks has been put to rest, the blue print has been laid for early success.
But, in the past 40 seasons, the Bills have only started two rookie quarterbacks in a game: Todd Collins one time in 1995 and Trent Edwards in nine games in 2007. In those 10 games, the Bills have won half of them and that is about what can be expected from this year’s rookie quarterback. Given he is healthy enough to start. His success as a quarterback may look better in the box score than in the wins and losses column, but his style of play gives a team that lacks surrounding talent a chance to win games they otherwise stand no chance.
What is the team’s biggest addition/loss from the previous season?
The Bills finished sixth in the league in total rushing yards in 2012 in large part to its underrated offensive line. The Bills had lost two starting left tackles in back-to-back seasons to the Philadelphia Eagles and somehow plugged the gap with Cordy Glenn, who some considered to be nothing more than a guard in this league, let alone a starting left tackle. Heading into 2013, the Bills will once again have to fill a void left by losing their best offensive lineman. This time, it is Andy Levitre who signed with the Tennessee Titans in the offseason and is one of the best run-blocking guards on the entire free agent market. Levitre has started all 64 games of his four-year career and with his departure; the Bills are very thin at a position group that was never really deep to begin with.
What is the outlook for 2013?
Here’s the thing: I don’t think the Bills got markedly better this offseason, but neither did the Jets. And for what its worth, I’m not sure the Dolphins did either. The Patriots, even in a down year, are still the class of the division, but there is no reason the Bills can’t be the second-best. But there is just one playoff team coming from the AFC East and that is the Patriots. So if the Bills don’t make the playoffs, does it really matter whether they finish in second or fourth?