This time last year, there was a lot of hype surrounding the Buffalo Bills. The team had just pulled out all the stops to sign Mario Williams to a massive contract, while fans and analysts alike were discussing the possibility of the Bills finally ending their NFL-leading playoff drought. In hindsight, those lofty expectations were extremely misguided, and not just because the Bills finished last season with a typical 6-10 record.
One addition to an embarrassingly bad D-line does not make a good team. That’s especially true if that team’s defensive coordinator is Dave Wannstedt, whose flacid, vanilla play-calling was as much responsible for costing the Bills a playoff berth as anything. It also doesn’t help if that team’s quarterback is the consistently inconsistent Ryan Fitzpatrick, who, despite his loveable nerdiness and epic facial hair, is clearly not a playoff-caliber quarterback.
There is much less hype surrounding the Buffalo Bills 12 months later, who have a brand new coaching staff and a largely new roster. However, there are many more tangible reasons to believe that this team will be successful than there were a year ago.
For one thing, there is Mike Pettine, the new defensive coordinator and former DC of the New York Jets. Pettine is the coach responsible for turning Darrelle Revis into an all-pro talent, and the Jets D’ into a perennial top-10 defense. If the results so far this preseason are any indication, then the Bills are headed very much in that same direction. Buffalo’s defense this year is arguably stocked with more all-around talent than Pettine ever had in New York, and he has been getting the best out of his personnel. Through their first two preseason games, the Bills’ new-look defense has simply been dominant, forcing turnovers and consistently pressuring the opposing quarterback.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bills have found two proven winners in head coach Doug Marrone and rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. Marrone, who is responsible for turning around a woeful Syracuse football program, has preached accountability and competitiveness to his players from day one. Manuel, who led the Florida State Seminoles to a 25-6 record as a starter, has looked calm, confident and capable in his limited preseason action thus far.
Granted two preseason games is a very small sample size, but Marrone and Manuel are undefeated in their respective NFL careers. Preseason games may not count, but they do matter, and the 2013 Buffalo Bills are sending a message. This team will be dangerous.