By Ch2 Sports Director Ed Kilgore
You wouldn't know it by listening to local radio talk shows or by reading Letters to the Editor in the Buffalo News, but I sense a majority of Bills fans are quietly optimistic about the 2010 season after a 2-2 pre season. Backing up this hunch, is the fact the home opener against the hated Miami Dolphins is sold out, and season ticket sales have again gone well despite a 10-year playoff drought.
Don't the fans around here listen to what the national "experts" are saying and writing? According to 98 per cent of them, there is no reason to even show up at the Ralph, because the only thing the Bills will contend for in 2010 is the #1 overall draft pick next April.
ESPN.com's recent NFL season preview had the Bills finishing 2-14, and I have yet to hear a single NFL observer predict so much as a .500 season for the Bills, much less a playoff appearance.
Based on what the rest of the AFC East looks like, its easy to see why there is almost no optimism, or even interest, in the Bills outlook for this coming season.
Ever the optimist, I do actually see some reasons for Bills fans to expect this year's team under new head coach Chan Gailey will not only win a few games, but maybe even become a tough out for the Patriots, Jets and Dolphins.
Before he's even coached his first regular season game, Gailey strikes me as a huge improvement over the outgoing Dick Jauron, whose great intellect was overshadowed by a conservative, low-key approach that was reflected in his team's play and ultimately in its lack of confidence.
No single player reflects that more than quarterback Trent Edwards, who was only even money to even be on the roster after last year's dysfunctional season. Edwards, who is more than salvageable in my opinion, was literally shell shocked by the amazing bungling of the offensive philosophy by the defensive minded Jauron.
We all know the details of how Edwards played for four different offensive coordinators in three seasons, including a change just before the season opener a year ago, but its hard to imagine just how negatively that effected his confidence, and ultimately, his performance.
While we know its only pre season, and everything is vanilla, Edwards looked like a player who has regained his confidence, and even a bit of his early swagger under Gailey's offensive play-calling. It all starts with the quarterback, and it remains to be seen if the Bills pass on qb's in the draft will pay off, but I'm thinking right now I'd much rather see the Bills offense with C.J. Spiller and Edwards than Tim Tebow or Colt McCoy or Jimmy Clausen learning how to become an NFL qb.
The Bills also passed up some quality - or so we read - left tackles early in the draft, but Demetrius Bell looked good coming off knee surgery in the pre season, and the big question for him is whether or not he can stay healthy. That's the same question for Edwards, whose durability has always concerned me more than his ability. I'm still not sure about Cornell Green at right tackle, but its reasonable to expect he'll be a huge improvement over the total mess and revolving door they had there a year ago.
The switch to the 3-4 defense has not looked good at all in pre season, and that is a bigger concern right now than the offense, oddly enough. We DO know the Bills secondary is talented and will come up with turnovers if the front seven can get some pressure and do a better job against the run, but again, that's the big "if" right now.
Will Aaron Maybin be the force the Jauron staff hoped when they reached for him in the first round? Sorry, but I'm just not sold on that happening - hope I'm wrong.
Still, there is something about this team I like, and like a lot. With the addition of Spiller, the offense does have a chance to make some big plays, although Lee Evans still doesn't have the quality guy on the other side the Bills had hoped James Hardy would be.
Gailey's team will be physical, and the special teams will again be solid.
Season openers are always tough to predict, but why NOT the Bills in the opener against the Dolphins? This Bills team is more than capable of doing that in front of a revved up home crowd, and so here goes: Bills 24, Dolphins 20.
If that happens, it starts to get interesting.