Bills' Jauron upbeat ahead of pressure-filled fourth season

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- In his reserved, understated manner, Dick Jauron maintains there isn't any more pressure on him entering this season than there has been in the past.

And yet, the Buffalo Bills coach can offer no easy answer in discussing the reservations team owner Ralph Wilson expressed even as he announced his decision to retain Jauron at the end of last year. Wilson didn't exactly offer a glowing endorsement for a coach coming off his third consecutive 7-9 finish.

"Does it affect you? I think you'd be lying if you said, 'No,"' Jauron said. "Can you let it affect you? If you let it affect you and control you, then it's not a very good thing. You just live with it like everybody lives with things."

Jauron added: "I've been lucky. I love what I do, and I love being here. So hopefully, we can do what we need to get it done."

Though unable to offer any assurances that the Bills might finally emerge as contenders this year, Jauron was decidedly upbeat as the team closed its 18-practice spring minicamp this week. The Bills are now off until training camp opens on July 25.

"It's really exciting when you look at the team and look at it develop over time and looking forward to this year," Jauron said. "Hopefully, we're a better football team."

That's what Wilson -- and a legion of playoff-starved fans -- are counting on for a team that's been mediocre at best for this entire decade, not only during Jauron's three-year tenure. The Bills haven't made the playoffs for nine years, a stretch in which they've only once enjoyed a winning record (9-7 in 2004).

Lack of talent, questionable draft picks combined with playing in the highly competitive AFC East have contributed to their struggles. Another problem has been a lack of continuity at head coach, which is one of the reasons Wilson elected to not make a change.

Jauron becomes Buffalo's first head coach to make it to a fourth season since Hall-of-Famer Marv Levy's 11-plus year tenure that ended with his retirement in 1997. Wade Phillips lasted three years before he was fired following the 2000 season; Gregg Williams wasn't rehired after three years; while Mike Mularkey resigned following the 2005 campaign.

Last season's finish was a disappointment, especially after the Bills got off to a 5-1 start. Wilson's frustrations were particularly evident in announcing Jauron would remain coach.

While saying there were many positives to build on, Wilson specifically noted that he shared "fans' dissatisfaction with our offensive game management," and added the team will not be complacent in addressing several concerns.

The Bills have delivered to a certain degree this offseason, particularly in bolstering what's been a lackluster offense by landing receiver Terrell Owens in free agency and completely overhauling its offensive line.

Jauron and offensive coordinator Turk Schonert have followed up by adding a no-huddle wrinkle to the Trent Edwards-run offense in a bid to spur production and keep opposing defenses honest. The offense spent much of the past month of practice primarily working on the hurry-up attack.

Receiver Lee Evans is encouraged by what he's seen.

"This is one of the better teams I've been on since I've been here," said Evans, who is entering his sixth season. "We've got a chance. Now it's just about putting it on the field. I think that's the most exciting part about it."

The defense remains unsettled with numerous starting jobs -- outside linebacker, cornerback and safety -- to be determined in training camp.

"I'm optimistic," defensive tackle Marcus Stroud said. "I feel like this team has a lot of potential. We're an up-and-coming team."

That remains to be seen, something Jauron will acknowledge.

"We're certainly in no position to overlook anybody," Jauron said. "We've made a lot of progress, but we certainly have a long way to go."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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