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4 Buffalo BILLS

Sept. 06, 2010
Sept. 06, 2010

Table of Contents
Sept. 6, 2010

GOLF PLUS
LEADING OFF
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
NFL PREVIEW
Departments

4 Buffalo BILLS

A mostly anonymous team is looking to sneak up on people. Not likely

DOES THIS have anything to do with the Ocho and Terrell?" Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bills' leading passer in 2009, asked when told early in training camp that a reporter wanted to talk to him. No, it didn't ... at least, not entirely. But Fitzpatrick's assumption that the questions would be about two of his former teammates—Terrell Owens joined fellow receiver Chad Ochocinco's Bengals in July—and none of his current ones was understandable. After a one-season experiment with T.O., who took with him his reality show, his breakfast cereal and most of the flashbulbs that lit up evening practices a summer ago, Buffalo was left with a deficit of star power in a division loaded with it. Forget the Dolphins' No-Name Defense of the '70s. The Bills are the No-Name Team of '10. "We kind of fit the mold of a Buffalo team: blue-collar, hardworking," says Fitzpatrick. "We don't have a lot of big-name guys."

This is an article from the Sept. 6, 2010 issue

The Bills' most prominent player, in fact, might turn out to be a guy who has yet to see a regular-season snap: running back C.J. Spiller, the ninth pick out of Clemson, who announced his arrival with a stunning 31-yard touchdown run in his second exhibition game, during which he left three Colts—including two 2009 Pro Bowlers, defensive end Robert Mathis and safety Antoine Bethea—grasping at air. Spiller joins an already deep backfield corps, which includes 1,000-yard rushers Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. The rookie's presence will occasion a new philosophy for coach Chan Gailey, who liked to rely on single workhorse backs in his previous stops, notably as offensive coordinator at Kansas City. "I gotta change," says Gailey, 58. "With three guys, if it turns out to be three guys, we've got to find a way to use all of them."

The other unit that boasts something approaching star quality is the secondary. The Bills trailed only the Jets in pass defense last season, even though their starters missed a combined 26 games to injury. Wide receiver Steve Johnson—the favorite to fill the void opposite Lee Evans left by Owens's departure—has done his part to get at least one of them, NFL interceptions leader Jairus Byrd (tied, with nine), some recognition. In the off-season Johnson produced a rap to honor the second-year free safety out of Oregon called Byrd Flyin High, which samples a Juelz Santana/Lil Wayne track ("Picked off by the Duck like Byrd, man/Fly guy Jairus, flyin' like birds, man").

At most other spots on the field the Bills' talent seems to match their celebrity. Of particular concern is an offensive line that allowed 103 quarterback hits last season, second most in the league, and added only journeyman right tackle Cornell Green. Among quarterbacks who made more than 30 dropbacks, only the clueless former Raider JaMarcus Russell was sacked on a higher percentage than Trent Edwards (11.2%), who should again open the season as the starter. The line was the major contributor to Edwards's regression (his QB rating dropped from 85.4 to 73.8), his injury (he suffered a concussion on Oct. 18) and his benching in favor of Fitzpatrick in Week 11. The offense in general was futile—ranked 30th in the league—and Owens never clicked. His average of 3.4 catches was his worst since his rookie year of 1996. Unless Buffalo's low-profile linemen unexpectedly improve, it's hard to see the offense becoming more productive.

Edwards was derisively nicknamed Captain Checkdown by Bills fans last season for his inability to get the ball downfield, an unfair tag given the shakiness of his line. Now he's trying to recapture some forward momentum in Gailey's offense. "I'm a glass-half-full type guy," says Edwards, who's entering his fourth season. "It's difficult sometimes to go through the ups and downs, the bumps and bruises, and come back out still confident."

The Bills are doing their best to approach the year with optimism, and they view their anonymity as a strength. "When you're big-name people, there tends to be a lot of division, egos involved," says Byrd. "We're all about chemistry." But there seems little reason to think the Bills' chemistry will produce a positive reaction in a stacked AFC East. Gailey dismisses the common perception that the Bills will be laggards, pointing to the division's last two surprise playoff teams. "Two years ago they weren't talking about the Dolphins," he says. "Last year they weren't talking about the Jets. So, that's my reaction." He's right in one regard: No one is talking about his Bills.

PROJECTED STARTERS

WITH 2009 STATS

COACH CHAN GAILEY

OFFENSE

2009 RANK: 30

QB TRENT EDWARDS

G 8

ATT 183

COMP 110

PCT 60.1

YARDS 1,169

TD 6

INT 7

RATING 73.8

RB C.J. SPILLER (R)

G 14

ATT 216

YARDS 1,212

AVG 5.6

REC 36

YARDS 503

AVG 14.0

TTD 16

FB COREY MCINTYRE

G 15

ATT 5

YARDS 34

AVG 6.8

REC 7

YARDS 55

AVG 7.9

TTD 0

WR LEE EVANS

G 16

REC 44

YARDS 612

TTD 7

WR STEVE JOHNSON

G 5

REC 2

YARDS 10

TTD 0

TE JONATHAN STUPAR

G 14

REC 6

YARDS 40

TTD 0

LT DEMETRIUS BELL

G 8

HT 6'5"

WT 307

LG ANDY LEVITRE

G 16

HT 6'2"

WT 305

C GEOFF HANGARTNER

G 16

HT 6'5"

WT 301

RG ERIC WOOD

G 10

HT 6'4"

WT 315

RT CORNELL GREEN

G 12

HT 6'6"

WT 315

DEFENSE

2009 Rank: 19

DE MARCUS STROUD

G 15

TACKLES 56

SACKS 2

INT 0

NT KYLE WILLIAMS

G 14

TACKLES 66

SACKS 4

INT 0

DE DWAN EDWARDS

G 16

TACKLES 47

SACKS 1

INT 0

LB CHRIS KELSAY

G 16

TACKLES 62

SACKS 5

INT 0

LB ANDRA DAVIS

G 16

TACKLES 90

SACKS 3½

INT 0

LB PAUL POSLUSZNY

G 12

TACKLES 111

SACKS 1

INT 3

LB REGGIE TORBOR

G 16

TACKLES 37

SACKS 1

INT 1

CB TERRENCE MCGEE

G 11

TACKLES 48

SACKS 0

INT 1

FS JAIRUS BYRD

G 14

TACKLES 45

SACKS 0

INT 9

SS DONTE WHITNER

G 10

TACKLES 57

SACKS 0

INT 2

CB DRAYTON FLORENCE

G 14

TACKLES 60

SACKS 0

INT 1

SPECIAL TEAMS

P BRIAN MOORMAN

PUNTS 90

AVG 46.6

NET 40.2

K RIAN LINDELL

FG 28--33

XP 24--24

POINTS 108

PR ROSCOE PARRISH

RET 24

AVG 5.5

TD 0

KR LEODIS MCKELVIN

RET 5

AVG 24.2

TD 0

New acquisition

(R) Rookie: College stats

TTD: Total touchdowns

2010 SCHEDULE

2009 Record: 6--10

September

12 Miami

19 at Green Bay

26 at New England

October

3 N.Y. Jets

10 Jacksonville

17 BYE

24 at Baltimore

31 at Kansas City

November

7 Chicago*

14 Detroit

21 at Cincinnati

28 Pittsburgh

December

5 at Minnesota

12 Cleveland

19 at Miami

26 New England

January

2 at N.Y. Jets

*in Toronto

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL Rank: T16

Opponents' 2009 winning percentage: .500

Games against 2009 playoff teams: 8

ANALYSIS

Buffalonians won't have to worry about staying up late. The Bills are one of two teams (along with the Browns) whose games are all at 1 p.m. Eastern time on Sundays. That should tell you how dimly the networks view Buffalo's prospects. There are no West Coast trips, but the out-of-division road schedule—including Green Bay, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Minnesota—is daunting.

SPOTLIGHT

Aaron Maybin, Linebacker

THE BILLS had a pair of first-round draft picks in 2009, and things got testy between those two players during the second practice this year. Maybin, selected 11th out of Penn State, shoved a running back to the ground well after the end of a play in an 11-on-11 drill, sparking a scrum. As tempers flared, right guard Eric Wood (taken 28th out of Louisville) shouted at Maybin, "Give back some of that money you ain't f-----' earned!"

It was typical training camp trash talk, but the outburst also rang true. Wood signed a five-year, $12.3 million contract early in last summer's camp, then started the first 10 games before Jaguars tackle Montavious Stanley turned two of Wood's leg bones into four. Maybin held out until late August, then signed a five-year, $25 million deal. After that, more or less he did nothing. No starts, no sacks, no interceptions and just 11 solo tackles.

Under new defensive coordinator George Edwards the Bills will employ a base 3--4 defense for the first time in nine years, and they've shifted the 6' 4", 250-pound Maybin from undersized defensive end to weakside linebacker, where he'll be expected to fill the pass-rushing void left by Aaron Schobel, Buffalo's sacks leader for eight of the last nine seasons. "I love it, really," says Maybin of the move. "I think it's a better fit for me. This type of defense lets me get in space and use my athleticism, my quickness, my speed and my explosiveness."

In other words Maybin's now in prime position to earn his money.

PHOTOKELLEN MICAH/ICON SMIRARA AVIS Byrd, who tied for the INT lead last year, is one of Buffalo's few notable names.PHOTOCOURTESY OF BUFFALO BILLS