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Online Bills Lines & Predictions - Buffalo Future Odds - Free NFL Betting Previews

2006 Buffalo Bills Season Preview

2006 Bills NFL News - August 21st, 2006
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Marv Levy and Dick Jauron are two men with decades of NFL experience between them.

Though to hear most folks in league circles talk, you would think the new Buffalo Bills

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braintrust is little more than a bunch of rookies.

Levy was once the deified former Bills coach, until, that is, he took over the team's general manager post at the age of 80 (The anti-Theo Epstein, if you will). Now, folks in western New York are wondering if Levy has lost his touch. Levy's surprise hiring, which came on the heels of the excising of former GM Tom Donohoe, caused head coach Mike Mularkey to quit after just two seasons on the job. Enter Jauron and his 36-49 career record as a head coach, and Bills fans suddenly had two major reasons to doubt the organization's direction.

Then came the personnel moves, or lack thereof.

Star wideout Eric Moulds was allowed to escape to the Houston Texans in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick, and former Pro Bowl receiver Peerless Price, who has never been successful in a lineup that didn't include Moulds, was brought in to help take his place.

Levy and Jauron trimmed some fat from the offensive line, most notably in the form of underachieving tackle Mike Williams, but did essentially nothing to upgrade the unit via the draft or free agency.

Though the deepest area of the team was perceived by most to be the secondary, the Bills used three of their first four draft picks on a corner and two safeties. At No. 8 overall, they reached for strong safety Donte Whitner, who many had projected as a late first-round pick, then traded two picks in order to move up and take defensive tackle John McCargo, who had received mixed reviews from scouts.

The quarterback situation, a mess for the bulk of 2005, was made no clearer when Levy brought back Kelly Holcomb to challenge J.P. Losman, added an unknown in former Brett Favre backup Craig Nall to the equation, then declared the QB competition open, but not before placing Holcomb conspicuously at the top of the depth chart. Huh?

If it is indeed true that with experience comes wisdom, then Levy, Jauron, and the Bills are about to make all of those that are predicting another woeful season in Buffalo look mighty foolish.

Or, in other words, exactly the same way many Bills fans think Levy and Jauron look at this very moment.

Below we take a capsule look at the 2006 edition of the Buffalo Bills, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:

2005 RECORD: 5-11 (3rd, AFC East)

LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 1999, lost to Tennessee, 22-16, in AFC Wild Card Game

COACH (RECORD): Dick Jauron (first season with Bills, 36-49 overall)



OFFENSIVE STAR: Willis McGahee, RB (1247 rushing yards, 5 TD, 28 receptions)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Aaron Schobel, DE (71 tackles, 12 sacks, 1 INT)

OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 20th rushing, 29th passing, 24th scoring

DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 31st rushing, 19th passing, 24th scoring

FIVE KEY GAMES: N.Y. Jets (9/24), Minnesota (10/1), New England (10/22), Miami (12/7), at N.Y. Jets (12/10)

KEY ADDITIONS: QB Craig Nall (from Packers), RB Anthony Thomas (from Saints), WR Peerless Price (from Cowboys), WR Andre' Davis (from Patriots), TE Robert Royal (from Redskins), C Melvin Fowler (from Vikings), G Tutan Reyes (from Panthers), OL Aaron Gibson (from Bears), DT Larry Tripplett (from Colts), DT John McCargo (1st Round, North Carolina State), LB Courtney Watson (from Saints), CB Kiwaukee Thomas (from Dolphins), CB Ashton Youboty (3rd Round, Ohio State), S Matt Bowen (from Redskins), S Donte Whitner (1st Round, Ohio State), P Chris Mohr (from Redskins)

KEY DEPARTURES: WR Eric Moulds (to Texans), TE Mark Campbell (released), TE Tim Euhus (to Saints), C Trey Teague (to Jets), G Bennie Anderson (released), T Mike Williams (released), DT Ron Edwards (to Chiefs), DT Justin Bannan (to Ravens), DT Sam Adams (released), LB Jeff Posey (released), S Lawyer Milloy (released)

QB: Much was made of the quarterback depth chart Jauron revealed prior to training camp, which listed Kelly Holcomb (1509 passing yards, 10 TD, 8 INT) at the top, followed by J.P. Losman (1340 passing yards, 8 TD, 8 INT) and former Packer backup Craig Nall. Jauron insisted that he was still holding an open competition for the job, though it would have been just as easy to not reveal a depth chart at all, leading to speculation that the 33-year-old Holcomb will in fact be the guy. Really, it would behoove the organization if Losman, the third-year-pro and former first-round pick, would emerge with a strong preseason, though his 64.9 passer rating and 1-7 record as a starter last season suggests that is unlikely to occur. Nall has just 33 career pass attempts, was set back by a hamstring injury early in training camp, and would seem to be a long shot for top duties.

RB: The top playmaker on the Bills offense projects to once again be Willis McGahee (1247 rushing yards, 5 TD, 28 receptions), who figures to be under a great deal of pressure given the state of the passing game and offensive line. McGahee felt the strain in the second half of last season, when he managed just one 100-yard game, scored a single touchdown, and averaged 3.3 yards per rush. Vying for backup duties behind McGahee will be holdover Shaud Williams (161 rushing yards, 17 receptions) and newcomer Anthony Thomas. Thomas was a two-time 1,000-yard rusher with the Bears but has totaled just 92 combined yards with the Cowboys and Saints over the past two seasons. Fullback Daimon Shelton (13 receptions, 1 TD), an 11-game starter in '05, is back to pave the way for the rushers.

WR/TE: Gone is longtime top Bills wideout Eric Moulds (81 receptions, 4 TD), who whined his way off the roster after 10 years in Buffalo. The team currently lacks a receiver of Moulds' caliber, though there is hope that third-year pro Lee Evans (48 receptions, 7 TD), second-year man Roscoe Parrish (15 receptions, 1 TD), or veteran prodigal son Peerless Price (6 receptions with Cowboys) might step up and assume that role. Evans is the incumbent No. 2 receiver, Parrish is a 2005 second-round pick who failed to get untracked as a rookie after injuring his wrist in training camp, and Price, a former 1,000- yard receiver in Buffalo, is back after three less-than-stellar seasons with the Falcons and Cowboys. Also in the mix are veteran backup Josh Reed (32 receptions, 2 TD) and second-round pick-turned-journeyman Andre' Davis (9 receptions, 1 TD with Patriots), along with underwhelming holdovers Sam Aiken (4 receptions) and Jonathan Smith (5 receptions, 1 TD). Davis, Aiken, and Smith figure to battle for fifth receiver and return duties. At tight end, the team needs 2005 third-round pick Kevin Everett, who lost all of his rookie year to a torn ACL, to become a pass-catching threat while Robert Royal (18 receptions, 1 TD with the Redskins) helps in the blocking game.

OL: Though the quarterback and receiving situations are troubling, the most concerning area of the team for Jauron and offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild might be the offensive line. While departed former starters in center Trey Teague, guard Bennie Anderson, and tackle Mike Williams were all hit-or-miss, the trio did possess some experience, which is now in precious little supply up front. Center Melvin Fowler (from Vikings) is on his third team in two years, and is projected to start along with left guard Tutan Reyes (from Panthers), who opened 16 games last year but is mediocre at best. At left tackle, the inconsistent Mike Gandy will have to hold up for another year, and his counterpart on the right side, Jason Peters, is a converted tight end still very much in the developmental stage of his career. That leaves right guard Chris Villarrial, a very good player at his position but hardly an anchor, to lead the unit. Top backup candidates include right-side holdovers Duke Preston and Greg Jerman, fifth-round draft pick and tackle Brad Butler (Virginia), and former Bears first-rounder Aaron Gibson, who was out of football last season.

DL: The Bills have undergone a major transformation up front in the past two seasons, eschewing space-eating tackles Pat Williams and Sam Adams in the name of more athleticism. A three-man rotation of "little guys" will go to work on the interior: third-year pro Tim Anderson (42 tackles), former Colt Larry Tripplett (29 tackles, 4 sacks), and first-round draft pick John McCargo (N.C. State) won't command the same type of respect as their larger predecessors, but should frankly make more plays. Buffalo does not have a monster pass rusher in the mould of Dwight Freeney or Jason Taylor, but right end Aaron Schobel (71 tackles, 12 sacks, 1 INT) is around the football a lot, and the left-side platoon of Ryan Denney (45 tackles, 4 sacks) and Chris Kelsay (44 tackles, 2.5 sacks) is unspectacular but stable.

LB: Many Buffalo fans drew a straight line from the ruptured Achilles that ended linebacker Takeo Spikes' 2005 season in Week 3 to the Bills' eventual 5-11 season. Truthfully, Angelo Crowell (119 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 INT) played pretty well in Spikes' place, but couldn't totally compensate for the struggles of a d-line that served as the major reason for the team's dismal showing (31st in the league) against the run. Spikes is back and presumably healthy, and should have little trouble re-claiming his job on the weak side. In the middle, the newly-named London Fletcher-Baker (157 tackles, 4 INT, 1 sack) probably won't be challenged despite his advancing age (31), though 30- year-old strong side man Jeff Posey (61 tackles, 3 sacks) was moved aside to make room for Crowell in the starting lineup. Also in the equation for playing time is Courtney Watson (37 tackles, 1 sack with New Orleans), a 2004 second-round pick out of Notre Dame who started 14 games in two years with the Saints.

DB: Despite fielding a team on which the secondary was perceived to be a strength, the Bills did a whole lot of work trying to upgrade this unit in the offseason. Buffalo used three of its first four draft picks on strong safety Donte Whitner (No. 8 overall selection out of Ohio State), cornerback Ashton Youboty (3rd Round, Ohio State), and free safety Ko Simpson (4th Round, South Carolina). Only Whitner, who is tabbed to replace the departed Lawyer Milloy, projects as an immediate starter, though that status was placed in jeopardy by Whitner's extended holdout at the start of training camp. If he's not ready, free agent acquisition Matt Bowen (14 tackles with Redskins) will probably line up alongside veteran free safety Troy Vincent (66 tackles, 4 INT). Youboty, who is behind two excellent corners in Nate Clements (99 tackles, 2 INT) and Terrence McGee (72 tackles, 4 INT), will be the nickel back if all goes well. Also vying for backup jobs in the secondary are the likes of Rashad Baker (18 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT), Eric King (29 tackles) and Jabari Greer (35 tackles, 1 sack), all of whom played extensive minutes in 2005.

SPECIAL TEAMS: The Bills are in fine shape here, as punter Brian Moorman (45.7 avg.) and kicker Rian Lindell (29-35 FG) are two of the best in the business, as is kickoff returner Terrence McGee (30.2 avg., 1 TD). Roscoe Parrish (13.3 avg.) showed some explosiveness on punt returns last season, and should continue in that role. Mike Schneck is back for his second year as the team's long-snapper. Jauron did a very smart thing by keeping well-respected special teams coach Bobby April on his staff upon taking the head job.

PROGNOSIS: Though the AFC East is believed by many to be the conference's weakest division, that hardly makes the Bills' prospects for ascending the ladder seem great. There is little to recommend the offense, with the possible exception of McGahee, who himself careened to a halt in the second half of 2005. The quarterback situation is unstable, the offensive line patchwork, and the departure of Moulds leaves a void at the primary receiver position. The defense figures to be better provided Spikes returns at a high level, but the front four is unlikely to scare many opponents. If Super Bowl champions were built solely on special teams and the secondary, you could start etching the Bills' name on the Lombardi Trophy right now. Since that is not nor has it ever been the case, it is probably more realistic to pencil Buffalo in for 5 to 7 wins and a third-place finish in the division.

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