NFL 2006 Preview: The Buffalo Bills

Quarterback- The question for the Buffalo Bills since the retirement of Jim Kelly in the 1990s has been what to do at the quarterback position. Last year, former coach Mike Mularkey did his successor Dick Jauron, and Bills fans, no favors by splitting time between veteran Kelly Holcomb and young quarterback J.P. Losman. While Jauron brought in Craig Nall to add another arm to the mix, the contest in 2006 will be between Holcomb and Losman. While Losman is a great talent who needs to adjust himself to the NFL game, look for Jauron to go with Holcomb early on for steady leadership. Losman will be a good backup and quarterback of the future for the Bills, though they thought the same thing about Rob Johnson when they chose him over Doug Flutie a few years back. Holcomb is an adequate quarterback, but none of their options in 2006 are going to assuage the Bills’ fans concerns over the future of the quarterback position.
2006 NFL Grade: C-

Running Back/ Full Back- Running Willis McGahee is going to have an outstanding season for the Buffalo Bills in 2006, getting above 1500 yards as the Bills rapidly turn to their running game to make plays. Backup Shaud Williams is a good reserve option for the Bills and can eat up some yardage in an emergency. Fullbacks Joe Burns and Damien Shelton are solid blockers and will help the offensive line make plays for McGahee.
2006 NFL Grade: B+

Wide Receiver/ Tight End- The Bills are loaded at the receiver position, with starters Lee Evans, Peerless Price and Josh Reed providing playmaking options in the pass game. Reserve receivers Sam Aiken and Roscoe Parrish give the Bills the option to shift in receivers in various packages to keep the defense guessing. However, the problem may be getting enough balls to these receivers while maintaining their run/pass balance in 2006. As well, the tight end position is unresolved, with their best option journeyman tight end Robert Royal.
2006 NFL Grade: B

Offensive Line- The Buffalo offensive line in 2006 will be good enough to give Willis McGahee holes to make plays through, though teams will start to tee off on McGahee when the pass game falters. The starting line of Mike Gandy, Duke Preston, Melvin Fowler, Chris Villareal, and Jason Peters will do a fine job for whomever is at quarterback but holding onto the ball too long and run blitzes against McGahee will make their job tough.
2006 NFL Grade: If a pass game accidentally gets started, a B+, but if the run game is all they have, their performance will be a C+.

Defensive Line- The Buffalo Bills defensive line is very talented heading into 2006, with defensive ends Aaron Schobel, Chris Kelsay, and Ryan Denney making for a good end rotation for Dick Jauron this season. As well, the defensive line of Larry Tripplett and Tim Anderson will be able to stuff the run up the middle and allow the ends and linebackers the opportunity to make more plays in 2006.
2006 NFL Grade: B+

Linebacker- The Bills’ linebacker corps is one of the best in the league, with Takeo Spikes, London Fletcher, and Jeff Posey all capable of making plays in the run game, pass rushing and in coverage. However, all have had injury problems and one of the three will likely be lost for the season in 2006 due to injury. However, if Spikes stays healthy he will be a key to how good the Bills’ defense will be in 2006.
2006 NFL Grade: B

Defensive Back- The Bills’ defensive backfield will have a solid year this year, but the offensive woes in 2006 will overshadow their effort. Corners Terrence McGee and Nate Clements are solid defensive backs and Clements especially will have a good year in 2006 if he can get even a bit of pass rush and help in the defensive backfield. Safety Troy Vincent is getting old and while his wisdom will help out a young defensive team in 2006 but is losing his athletic ability and will not be able to keep up with younger, faster receivers. Vincent’s fellow safety Matt Bowen is a grinder and hard working but his talent is negligible.
2006 NFL Grade: B-

Kicker/Punter- Kicker Rian Lindell was panned by former coach Mike Holmgren as too erratic to be an NFL kicker but Lindell had a decent 2005 season and will provide steady leadership for the Bills on special teams. Punter Brian Moorman has had a few outstanding seasons as a punter and will continue, having a Pro Bowl type year in 2006 and giving the Bills defense a chance to pin teams in the shadow of their goal posts.
2006 NFL Grade: B

2006 NFL Projection- The Bills are not good enough to beat out even the most average teams in the AFC East, the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, and will sink to the bottom of the division with a 4-12 or 5-11 season in 2006.

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