Editor’s Note: We’re very lucky here at Black&Teal to be part of Fansided, a wide-reaching network of blogs for every NFL team (as well as a huge selection of NBA, NHL, MLB, and other blogs as well). We’d be dumb not to take advantage of these resources, so welcome to our new feature: Enemy Intel. Each week, we’ll be checking in with the staff from the Fansided blog representing the Jaguars’ opponent for that the week.
This week, we’ll be talking with Brad Andrews, editor of BuffaLowDown.com, Fansided’s Bills Blog. A huge thanks to Brad for taking the time to update us on what’s going on in Buffalo this preseason.
Black&Teal: What’s going on with the Bills RB situation? Do you think Chan Gailey plans to do the committee approach all year or will he ultimately pick a starter? What is CJ Spiller’s projection for this year and the future?
BuffaLowDown: I think ultimately Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller will end up splitting work, with Jackson being the nominal starter but Spiller seeing a bunch of action. Jackson’s a proven commodity, but you have to see what you have in Spiller after using a top-ten draft pick to take him last year. Spiller should have a nice year. He’s looked pretty decent in the preseason thus far, hitting holes much more decisively than during his disapointing rookie season. The knock on Spiller is that he can’t pass protect well at all (while Jackson is supberb in that regard) so it will tough for him to play on passing downs if he can’t improve.
B&T: What do the Bills and their fans think of Ryan Fitzpatrick? Is he simply a stop-gap while the Bills execute a major overhaul of the team? Does he have long term potential or is he simply holding down the position until the Bills find a good match to their draft spot in the future?
BLD: Nearly every Bills fans likes Ryan Fitzpatrick…but we’re just not sure if he’s the franchise quarterback the franchise desperately needs. Fitz has every intangible you could possibly want and is the unquestioned leader in the huddle and the locker room. But he’s just not a terribly accurate thrower, and he has a tendency to let a few passes sail away from him per game, leading to interceptions. (Worse, this tends to happen at the worst possible times.) It comes down to this: if the Bills win this year, Fitz is the long-tern quarterback. If the Bills crash and burn, the Bills are taking a QB in the first round of the 2012 draft.
B&T: Is there any realistic chance of the Bills moving out of Buffalo – perhaps to Toronto? What objectives need to be met with the team or ticket sales to prevent this?
BLD: The Bills are in a weird situation – the team’s safe in Buffalo as long as owner Ralph Wilson is alive. Which is scary, since he’ll turn 93 in October. After Wilson passes, who knows? My hunch is that the team is safe for now because the league doesn’t want to abandon the giant Buffalo/Tornoto media market, but Toronto doesn’t yet have an NFL-quality stadium (even though the Bills play there once a year.) The Bills have had issues selling out games in recent years, but I really don’t know if that will be deciding factor for or against a move. It’s more the stadium situation – Ralph Wilson Stadium is old with few luxury boxes, and there’s no way in heck a new stadium gets built in Buffalo anytime soon.
B&T: How is Marcell Dareus (Buffalo’s 1st round draft pick this year) coming along? Are there any other draft picks or UDFA’s that could have a big role this year?
BLD: Dareus has looked fantastic so far. He’s so big and strong that he collapses the pocket on his own. He’s very stout against the run and also can get after the passer. He’s already a star. Sadly, the rest of Buffalo’s draft class has been pretty beat up by injury. Third-round LB Kelvin Sheppard, fourth-round OT Chris Hairston and seventh-round CB Justin Rogers have barely seen the field thus far. Sixth-round LB Chris White is also hurt. Even though he’s not technically a “rookie,” keep an eye out for LB Danny Batten, who missed his whole rookie season with injury. He had two sacks in the first preseason game and can really get after the quarterback.
B&T: What positions project to be the Bills biggest strengths this year? Biggest weaknesses?
BLD: The Bills are deep at running back and wide receiver (although that group is really struggling with injury right now), and should be able to spread the field effectively and get a lot of guys the ball. Chan Gailey is also a very clever play caller. Ideally, this offense will be a poor man’s version of the Saints. The defensive front seven could also be a strength if everyone stays healthy, including injury-prone LBs Shawne Merriman and Nick Barnett. In terms of weaknesses, the offensive line is a mess, especially at tackle. That might single-handedly sink this team. The secondary has struggled thus far as well, but there’s enough talent there to become an acceptable unit. The real concern is depth – the Bills don’t really have any at most positions. If the starters start going down, this season is going to ugly fast.
B&T: Former Jaguars Drayton Florence and Kirk Morrison are now on the Bills’ roster. Florence especially has flourished in Buffalo after a disappointing stint in Jacksonville – what do you believe has made the difference? What role will Morrison be playing?
BLD: I have no idea why Florence struggled so badly in Jacksonville, but the Bills got a steal when they picked him up. He’s been solid, quietly having a very good year in 2010. I feel for Jags fans, who have to be wondering why he stunk so badly during his time there.Morrison will probably start for Buffalo, because the Bills have nothing at inside linebacker outside of Nick Barnett. Rookies Kelvin Sheppard and Chris White are hurt, veteran Andra Davis can’t do anything against the pass, and second-year man Arthur Moats probably should be playing on the outside. Basically Morrison is the guy by default.
B&T: What do you expect the Bills coaches to be looking for in the preseason game? Are there any positional battles to watch?
BLD: The offensive line has to better in this game, or guys are going to lose their jobs. Already usual left guard Andy Levitre is getting reps at left tackle because starting left tackle Demetrius Bell has been pretty awful so far in preseason. Another place to watch is cornerback, where at least four guys (Florence, Leodis McKelvin, Terrence McGee, and Aaron Williams) are competing for starting spots.
B&T: What’s your prediction for the first half score?
BLD: I’ll say Jaguars 17-10. The Bills will be pretty careful on defense with their veterans, and there’s no depth behind them. The Jags will probably be able to move the ball pretty well.