Big thanks to Brian G, our Bills blogger over at Buffalo Rumblings. Brian took the time to answer my rather uninformed Bills questions and give us sweet, sweet answers. Be sure to check out his site for my answers to his questions about the Falcons, as well. Away we go!
1. When I think J.P. Losman, I don't think Pro Bowl QB. Is this the year that Losman blossoms into an upper tier starting QB, or is he keeping his spot warm for Trent Edwards?
Brian G: You know, it's unfortunate that you don't think "Losman Pro Bowl", because when he does make that hallowed game in the next 2-3 years, you're going to blush. In all seriousness, this had better be the year Losman really blossoms, because Edwards has looked very promising as the third quarterback this summer. He's got a quick release, good pocket mobility and a great head on his shoulders.
But yes, as I am the eternal optimist, I believe this is the year that Losman proves all of his doubters wrong. I may be an incredibly open homer, but I don't think it's too much of a stretch - Losman had this team going on a 4-1 streak in the second half of last season and kept the team in playoff contention until Week 16. Mind you, he did all of this with the lack of any consistent running game (you've no idea how glad I am to see Willis McGahee in those ugly Ravens uniforms). This go-round, the team has improved talent along the offensive line, and Marshawn Lynch has shown a ton of ability as a receiver. All of the pieces are in place for Losman to put together a very good, "break-out" performance.
2. McGahee's gone now, and it looks like a possible committee between Marshawn Lynch, Anthony Thomas and Dwayne Wright. Is Lynch going to get the bulk of the carries and if so, what roles do the other two backs fill?
Brian G: That's an extremely difficult question to answer at this point, but I'll take a stab. First of all, I don't think it's three backs anymore, I think the team will keep four. As of this second, my guess is that the team will use Thomas on first downs and most second downs, with Lynch sprinkled in on third downs and in the slot as a receiver. Wright will see a few goal-line and short-yardage carries as soon as he takes care of some fumbling issues, and the little-known Fred Jackson (an alma mater of Coe College, where Marv Levy attended) could see some receiving/third-down duties if he ends up making the roster, as I suspect he will.
For now, it's the Thomas and Lynch show. Their skill sets match perfectly - Thomas is good for 3-4 yards per carry, he's a solid (if unspectacular) receiver and he's the best the team has at picking up the blitz. Lynch's receiving skills are something the team hasn't had since the days of Thurman Thomas, and he's being counted on to be the "playmaker" to Thomas's "steady veteran". If things develop the way they could, this two-pronged approach will continue with Wright when Thomas leaves the team in another year or two. This, in my opinion, is a much more satisfying position to be in than we had with McGahee.
3. I've been trashing Jason Webster for the better part of the year for being completely useless. How does he look for the Bills?
Brian G: "Completely useless" is harsh at this point, but he's been surprisingly good for the Bills. Alas, he's no Nate Clements. The coaching staff loves Webster, who is finally healthy and gives the team a veteran presence that they simply did not have until he was brought in. He's been making plays (while covering Lee Evans, no less) and has been a bit above-average in run support. He's very solid, but still unspectacular.
My guess is that Webster is a seat-warmer guy at this point. He'll be good while he has to be, but the obvious plan is to have Ashton Youboty take over his position as soon as he's ready to do so. Having Webster on board gives the team a little time to build depth in a very young and talented secondary; as long as people temper expectations a bit with Webster, my guess is that we'll be relatively happy with his play this season.
4. Just how boneheaded was the Darwin Walker team, and how do the Bills look at defensive tackle without him?
Brian G: Let's put it this way: had Walker actually ever donned a Bills uniform (and people had subsequently bought it), there'd be Walker jersey-burning parties going on right about now, just as there were McGahee jersey-burning parties this past March. But I think "boneheaded" is the wrong term for it - Walker played his cards perfectly to get what he wanted. "He wanted" being the operative words; therefore, rather than boneheaded, I'd choose "greedy" to describe Walker and his agent. Good riddance.
As for the current state of our defensive tackles, they look the same, because Walker was never really counted as part of that group. The talent is underwhelming, but they work hard and are athletic. There's talent to build on, but the group (especially second-year man John McCargo) need to come on quickly if this defense is going to gel fast enough to keep the Bills in early playoff contention. I'm not concerned - I like our top three guys (Larry Tripplett, Kyle Williams and McCargo) and think there's a lot of growth potential here. But yes, Walker would have been a welcome addition. Greedy ^@$%!*#.
5. What's your predicted record for the Bills this year?
Brian G: There are a lot of Bills fans who smell playoffs, but I think they're misled. The team is too young to make a serious run this season, but I think they're going to scare a lot of good teams, and beat a few of them as well. I expect a slow start while the O-Line gels, Losman continues to grow and the defense matures (not to mention the team plays a ridiculous schedule early in the season), but the pieces are in place for another mid-season run. I'll go with 8-8 as my "official" prediction for the Bills' final record in 2007.
Thanks again to Brian for taking the time to answer my question. Here's hoping we crush his pathetic Bills!