Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bills fans need to believe that this is a transition year once more

Buffalo’s catchy marketing slogan tells us that “Bills Fans Billeive.’’

In what, I ask?

They still, despite a decade-long playoff drought, obviously believe in supporting their football team, as evidenced by robust ticket sales that will ensure at least four sell-outs.

But I don’t know if even the most diehard of Bills fans believes the team will be significantly better than last year’s 6-10 club, especially given the significant off-season roster strides made by AFC East Division rivals – the Jets, Patriots and Dolphins. The playoffs seem out of the question, and even a third-place finish probably is out of reach.

I believe pragmatic Bills fans recognize this as a transition season, one, in which, hopefully, a solid foundation for the future finally will be laid – a foundation made of concrete not pie crust.

The new GM/coach combo of Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey bring a wealth of successful football experience to the mix. They have played roles in building winners in a number of places. But there is no quick fix for all that ails the Bills. There are questions at just about every position – with running back, defensive back, punter and kicker being the obvious exceptions.

So, as the team opens its 51st training camp today at St. John Fisher College, fans will be carrying many hopes. Among them:

* That a legitimate quarterback emerges from the tried-but-untrue trio of Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm;

* that the conversion to a 3-4 alignment shores up a run defense that ranked near the bottom of the NFL a year ago;

* that Demetrius Bell’s technique and durability at left tackle catches up with his athleticism and potential, and that the young offensive line gels;

* that a legitimate second receiver emerges to take pressure off No. 1 target Lee Evans;

* that C.J. Spiller develops into the home run threat he was at Clemson University;

* that the Bills second-all-time leading sacker, Aaron Schobel, returns to the team with the same passion he’s always had for the game;

* that young starters Jairus Byrd, Eric Wood and Andy Levitre avoid sophomore slumps;

* that Gailey changes the culture of a team that often seemed way too comfortable, despite its mediocre records in recent years.

It highly unlikely that all of these scenarios will pan out, but if they somehow did, Bills fans would have reasons to become true Billievers.

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