NFL Preview '11: Buffalo Bills
Over the last three seasons the Buffalo Bills have won only 17 games and their record has gotten progressively worse. But after being competitive in a number of games in 2010 are the Bills on the way up?
Despite finishing 28th in scoring offense the Bills had a few pleasant surprises in 2010. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 3,000 yards in 13 starts and his prime target was Steve Johnson. 2010 was a breakout year for Johnson has he tallied 10 TDs and 1,073 yards. Fred Jackson made his usual contributions in the backfield however one of the biggest disappointments in the entire NFL was CJ Spiller. The flashy rookie never got into a groove and recorded just 440 rushing & receiving yards with just one score. For the Bills to improve Fitzpatrick will need to be more consistent. In Week 7 Fitzpatrick torched Baltimore for 384 yards and 4 TDs but later in the year put up 251 yards, 0 TDs and 3 interceptions against New England. Spiller also needs to show why the Bills used a first round pick on him.
Buffalo enters 2011 with a new look defense and the question is will all the new faces lead to improvement? Gone are leading tacklers Paul Posluszny and Donte Whitner. The Bills also jettisoned 2009 1st round pick Aaron Maybin. In the offseason Buffalo focused on replenishing the defense. With their first round pick the Bills took massive defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to help shore up the league's worst run defense. Buffalo then used the next three picks on defensive players. Buffalo is also looking for contributions from veteran linebackers Nick Barnett and Shawne Merriman. Meanwhile the secondary continues to be a strong point led by safety Jairus Byrd.
As long as the Patriots and Jets rule the AFC East the Bills will not be a factor in the division race. But if Spiller has a breakout year and the defense jells Buffalo will take a big step toward respectability.