My how things have changed for the Buffalo Bills over the last year. As the Bills open training camp 2013, they will do so with a new person in the following jobs: President, General Manager, Head Coach and starting quarterback. The Bills have gone from Ralph Wilson, Buddy Nix, Chan Gailey and Ryan Fitzpatrick to Russ Brandon, Doug Whaley, Doug Marrone and Kevin Kolb or EJ Manuel.
Unfortunately, the Bills are facing the same old questions that have been asked numerous times over the last 13 years which is why all of those people are in their new jobs.
Can the Bills management team make more correct personnel decisions than incorrect ones? Do they have the right head coach? Did they finally find the franchise quarterback they've been searching for since Jim Kelly retired? Can they end up with a winning record? Will this be the year the Bills end the longest active playoff drought in the National Football League?
Let training camp and the process of answering those questions begin.
It is a camp filled with questions due to the turnover in the aforementioned posts as well as numerous changes to a roster that produced a 6-10 record in 2012. Approximately one third of the players who wore a Bills uniform last season, are no longer here.
So what are some of the questions for the 2013 Bills to answer.
How will Doug Marrone do in his first NFL head coaching job? With a new head coach, training camp is always interesting because you begin to learn about his personalty and how he will run the team. We'll see how involved Marrone is at practice and whether he stands back and lets his coordinators run their respective units and the various coaches coach or if he is more of a hands on boss. We'll find out whether or not he is a yeller and screamer if/when things don't go well during camp workouts. We've already learned of one difference between Marrone and his recent predecessors. The Bills will run a full scrimmage with live tackling on August 5th, something that wasn't done by Gailey or Dick Jauron in the St. John Fisher setting.
How will the Bills look on offense and defense? Training camp practices will allow us to begin to get a feel for an offense now under the direction of first time NFL coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and the Mike Pettine led defense.
It appears the Bills will be utilizing the no huddle on offense in an effort to push the tempo and force opposing defenses to react to what they're doing in a very short period of time. But how often will they go no huddle? What kind of creativity will we see? How many times will the ball be in the hands of CJ Spiller who is coming off an explosive 2012 season when he was under utilized? Are there any receivers besides Stevie Johnson who can catch the ball on a regular basis?
Of course, the biggest question with the offense will be who is in charge? The competition between Kolb and Manuel is the single biggest story line of this camp and will draw the most scrutiny on a daily basis. Does the new head coach lean to the veteran player who might be more comfortable putting a new offense in place and help ease the transition for all of those young receivers? Or does Manuel show enough to convince Marrone the new era of Bills football means its time for the "M+M" show?
Will starting tight end Scott Chandler be healthy enough for opening day? Who will be the successor to Andy Levitre? Who wins the battle at right tackle? These are other questions on the offensive side of the ball.
I'm very interested to see the defense at work this pre-season since it has been an historically bad unit the last two seasons. Was it all just coaching? Is there good enough talent on defense that was being held back by George Edwards and Dave Wannstedt? Can Pettine take a Bills defense that was ranked in the bottom five and get them to the middle of the pack? Or even top 10 where his Jets defenses were?
We heard the words aggressive and attack used by defensive players many times over the course of the off season workouts and now we can finally see what Pettine has in store in terms of blitz packages and schemes to confuse opposing quarterbacks.
How will Mario Williams look in year two? Can Marcell Dareus have the break through year we were hoping/expecting in 2012? Who will make up the starting linebacking corps? Can Stephon Gilmore be the Bills version of Revis Island? Will Jairus Byrd ever show up?
Special teams has its own set of questions as well with a heated competition expected for both the punting and place kicking jobs. Shawn Powell will attempt to hold off Brian Stahovich for the punting job while rookie Dustin Hopkins will look to unseat the longest tenured Bill, Rian Lindell. It appears Leodis Mckelvin has the inside track on the punt return job but there's a battle for the kick return responsibilities. Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and TJ Graham, all of whom excelled at that in college, are in the mix.
Plenty of story lines should make for a very interesting Bills training camp. We'll be providing extensive coverage on WGR Sportsradio 550 and at WGR550.com.