Dolphins Bills Scouting Report: What You Need To Know For The Game

With Opening Day against the Buffalo Bills looming, we here at Dolphins Gab needed to find out, not only for ourselves, but for our readers what to expect, and what to look for come gameday.

Bills Gab writer Frank Minitti graciously sat down with Dolphins Gab’s own Brant Houghton and gave us his expert opinion on what to expect for the game.

BH: What is the outlook of the Bills from an insiders perspective like you, who covers the team on a daily basis?

FM:  The outlook of the 2010 for Buffalo sure doesn’t look very kind, especially in the national media.  And as I’m sure you know, once the court of public opinion renders you guilty, then that’s the way it is.  Media outlets such as ESPN.com and SI.com have unveiled their power rankings to start the season, and let me just save you the trouble right off the bat: scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page, and that’s where you’ll find the Bills.  From my perspective, it’s hard to see where this team has really improved to the point of contending for anything.  All 3 of their division counterparts are thinking playoffs, division titles and making a run at the Super Bowl.  They have all improved over the past few years while Buffalo annually regresses.  The Bills still have major problems at both tackle spots.  The quarterback situation remains an ongoing question mark while injuries continue to be a taxing problem.  Lee Evans doesn’t have much help at the wide receiver spot, the tight end position appears to be a lost cause again, and this season they’re reverting back to a 3-4 defense with mostly 4-3 personnel.  I think the watershed mark for the Bills in 2010 is maybe around the 4 or 5 win mark, but I won’t be completely floored if Buffalo winds up with a top 3 draft pick next April either.  It all spells rebuild this season for the Bills.

  BH: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Bills?
 FM: Strengths:  For the Bills’ strengths, I look at the areas: running back, interior offensive line and the secondary.  How they’ll manage to get all 3 backs invovled remains to be seen, but not many teams will be able to throw 3 backs at you like the Bills can with Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch and C.J. Spiller.  While their depth has already been tested in the preseason with injuries to Jackson and Lynch, Spiller finds himself at the top of the depth chart for now, but once Jackson and Lynch return to full strength and with the electrifying rookie in Spiller, the Bills could have one of the best backfields in the NFL.  The interior of the offensive line is solid with C Geoff Hangartner, and OG’s Andy Levitre and Eric Wood.  In 2009, due to the Bills’ massive injury troubles, Hangartner and Levitre were the only linemen to play in all 16 games.  As Wood makes his way back from suffering a nasty broken leg in Jacksonville last year, I expect the interior to improve upon last year and I think at season’s end Levitre and Wood (assuming he’s healthy) will unquestionably be the Bills’ 2 best offensive lineman.  Last season, the Bills finished with the league’s 2nd ranked pass defense and they’ll return everyone in 2010.  Buffalo finished with 28 interceptions in 2009.  Second-year man S Jairus Byrd looks improved on a terrific rookie season in which he collected nine interceptions.  They have great depth at cornerback and safety.  The secondary shouldn’t be a concern on the defensive side of the ball.
 
Weaknesses:  Buffalo balked at the idea of overhauling the offensive line, particularly at the tackle spots.  They led the NFL with 48 penalties and surrendered 46 sacks in 2009; that’s a really bad combination if you want to have success in this league.  The only tweaks they made were adding free agent tackle Cornell Green and they waited until the 5th round to select their first lineman in the 2010 draft, Ed Wang.  The Bills are banking on Demetrius Bell, who was injury plagued and a penalty machine in ’09, to elevate his play at left tackle.  Because of all their problems last season, the Bills started 3 QB’s in ’09 and the same situation could again play out in 2010.  Outside of Lee Evans, the Bills don’t have much else in the shape of a strong receiving corps, so I expect Evans will see more than his fair share of double teams and attention from opposing defenses.  The Bills’ defensive front seven worries me.  Last season they had 32 sacks and that was with Aaron Schobel as the leader in that category.  They’re hoping to get a lot more out of second-year man Aaron Maybin, who was completely invisible in 2009, but I’m not really sure that’s going to happen.  There’s no stud pass rusher in the bunch, like say a DeMarcus Ware or Jared Allen.  Right now they’ve got a collection of average, so-so guys who can’t get to the quarterback consistently.
 
BH: What does the current quarterback situation look like for the team?
 
FM:  The QB situation looks exactly the same as it did last season.  There was much talk this past offseason about the Bills and how they would be having an open quarterback competition, but it ended up exactly like I thought it would.  Trent Edwards is the best option out of a uninspiring trio, so he’ll be the opening day starter again on Sunday.  He, along with the offense as a whole, has looked much much better in the preseason actually putting some points up on the board.  But the preseason is dead and gone, and Sunday it begins for real.  Edwards won’t get glowing marks for what he’s done in the preseason (97.1 QB rating) if it doesn’t translate on the field during the season.  Ryan Fitzpatrick is second in command and Brian Brohm mans the 3rd string job.  Given the Bills’ ineptitude and injury history along the offensive line, along with Edwards’ history of up-and-down play, it’s a very real possibility we’ll see Fitzpatrick and Brohm before everything’s said and done in 2010.
 
BH: Who are the playmakers on both sides of the ball that we Fins fans should be worried about?
 
FM: It’s no secret who the Bills’ best playmakers are on offense.  It starts and ends with Lee Evans and C.J. Spiller.  They are the Bills’ 2 biggest home run threats.  Spiller is an explosive back who will help not only in the running back, but in receiving and the return game also.  Evans remains the best target in Buffalo, and he’ll return to the No.1 role after differing to Terrell Owens a year ago.  His play is largely tied to how well Edwards performs.  I’d throw Fred Jackson in the conversation as well.  He doesn’t excel in just one aspect of the game, he does a lot of good things in many areas.  He’s coming off a sesaon in which he had 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 return yards on special teams.  On defense, all eyes are on second year safety Jairus Byrd.  Byrd recorded nine interceptions as a rookie last year.  He came in last season as an unknown quantity but now a year later he’ll be getting a lot of attention when opposing offenses study game film leading up to Sunday.  While they haven’t looked in the preseason as in year’s past, the Bills can throw five guys at you in the return game on special teams.  They have Terrence McGee, Leodis McKelvin, a rejuvenated Roscoe Parrish, Spiller and Fred Jackson.  Dangerous, fast and all with playmaking ability to get into the endzone.
 
BH: What is your game prediction, and outlook on what the final score will be?
 
FM: Prediction:  Bills 23, Dolphins 21.  It’s hard to say this in Week 1, but for Buffalo this has must-win all over it.  Their first four games look like this: Miami, at Green Bay, at New England, New York Jets.  If they don’t get this one, 0-4 is almost definite with a pesky Jacksonville and a road trip to Baltimore waiting.  We know Miami is the better team and this is the type of game they need to win if they’re going to be taken seriously as a contender in the division and the AFC.  But opening on the road is never an easy task.  I think Trent Edwards does just enough and C.J. Spiller finds a way to bring some excitement in Buffalo in Week 1.
We would like to first off thank Frank for participating in this Q&A session with us. He gave us some good stuff on the Bills, and even though I disagree with his game prediction, I think everything else is right on.
I’ll give you my game prediction and views on what the Fins need to do to be successful a little later on tonight. Thanks again Frank!

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