|David Duprey/AP Photo|
|The keys to the Bills' offense now rest in the hands of second-year quarterback Trent Edwards.|
2007 season recap
Not quite playoff ready: The Bills started off slow in 2007, losing their first three games by a combined score of 79-24. Replacing an injured J.P. Losman, rookie QB Trent Edwards won his first start in Week 4 vs. the Jets and the Bills proceeded to win four of their next five. In the thick of the AFC playoff race, Buffalo ultimately failed to find any consistency, switching back and forth between Losman and Edwards, who started the team's final five games. The 30 points scored in the team's final three games ultimately sealed Buffalo's fate as they finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season.
Key camp questions:
Can Marshawn Lynch produce as an every-down back?
After a fine rookie season in which he averaged 4.0 yards per carry, rushed for 1,115 yards and seven touchdowns in 13 games, we know what Lynch is capable of on the ground. But heading into his second season, the Bills will ask even more of Lynch, especially as a pass catcher. Lynch caught 18 passes for 184 yards last season, but failed to reach the endzone once as a receiver. Offensive coordinator Turk Schonert explains, "We held (Lynch) back and Anthony Thomas handled more of the third-down role in the beginning of the season because we didn't want to throw too much at (Lynch)." With a year under his belt and Thomas gone to free agency, expect the Bills to use training camp to work more with Lynch on third down situations and develop him into more of a receiver out of the backfield.
Can the defense improve?
As poor as the Bills' run defense was (ranked 25th), the team's pass defense was even less effective (ranked 29th). With the addition of DT Marcus Stroud, LB Kawika Mitchell and the return of LB Paul Posluszny from a broken arm, the front seven has reason to be optimistic, but will need to develop chemistry. The secondary, on the other hand, is returning most of the same faces and Bills coaches are hoping to incorporate 11th overall pick Leodis McKelvin right away. Expect to see McKelvin -- the first DB taken in the draft -- get plenty of reps with the first team during camp.
Will new offensive coordinator Turk Schonert solve the team's struggling offense?
Under former offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild, the Bills passing attack relied on five-step drops and longer passing patterns, one of the reasons NFL.com's Vic Carucci believes the Bills offense struggled while transitioning from J.P. Losman to rookie quarterback Trent Edwards last season. Carucci writes, "Under Schonert, the offense will move at a much faster tempo, something he learned and liked while playing quarterback for Sam Wyche in Cincinnati."
Key position battle
Right Cornerback: The Bills are hoping McKelvin, a 5-11, 190 pound corner out of Troy, can make an immediate impact in what is a young defensive backfield. There will be stiff competition for the right CB position where both Ashton Youboty and Jabari Greer return with starting experience from last season, but there is a precedent for a rookie DB starting in Buffalo. Safety Donte Whitner -- the eighth overall pick by the Bills in 2006 -- emerged as a starter in his rookie season and is currently hosting McKelvin in his home as the rookie gets acclimated to life in the NFL.
WR James Hardy: The Bills gambled on draft weekend, waiting until the second round to draft a wide receiver, but they believe they came away winners with Indiana's Hardy. The 6-6 Hardy has the potential to be a real red zone threat and can take some of the pressure off of No. 1 receiver Lee Evans and slot receiver Roscoe Parrish, who has proven to be more effective as a punt returner than a receiver in three years with Buffalo.
Player on the spot
QB Trent Edwards: Edwards started nine games last season and recorded 1,630 passing yards, seven touchdowns and eight interceptions in a roller coaster rookie season. The Bills think they have a winner in the QB out of Stanford and a closer look at the numbers would suggest just that. The Bills notched a 5-4 record and averaged 17.5 points in the games Edwards started, compared to just 13.4 points per game and a 2-5 record in those that Losman started. Nevertheless, the Bills will expect a lot more consistency and leadership out of Edwards heading into his second training camp.
RB Marshawn Lynch: Lynch has all the skills and abilities, not to mention a favorable schedule, to be a viable breakout candidate this season. He’ll be the centerpiece of Buffalo’s offense and is almost certain to come off the board in the first or second round in all drafts.