Every summer leading up to training camp Buffalobills.com asks 25 of the most pressing questions facing the team as they make their final preparations for the upcoming regular season. With a new regime and practices at St. John Fisher fast approaching, here is the latest installment as we closely examine some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 28th and Sept. 12th
The lack of success of Buffalo's offense the past seven years is obvious. Only once in that span have they ranked better than 23rd in the league in points per game (2004). Not surprisingly, it was also the only time in the last seven seasons that they had a winning record (9-7) and one of the reasons why was because they averaged more than 21 points per game (24.7).
Twenty-one points per game might seem like an arbitrary benchmark to determine NFL success, but not when one looks at the league's playoff participants in 2009. Last season eight of the top nine scoring teams in the league made the playoffs, and 10 of the top 13. All 10 of those playoff clubs averaged more than 21 points per game. Even the Jets armed with the NFL's top defense averaged 21.8 points per outing to rank 17th in the league. That timely offense helped to vault them to the AFC Championship game.
Though the adage goes that you can never have enough points, for a Bills team looking to rebuild its offensive punch, eclipsing the 21 points per game plateau is a figure worth shooting for if they want to post more wins than losses in 2010.
The Bills believe they've got a head coach that can lead the team and expertly design offenses to fit the talent on his roster. Head coach Chan Gailey's resume needs no introduction. Granted Gailey has run offenses with ultra-talented quarterbacks like Troy Aikman as the head coach in Dallas (1998-99) and John Elway as offensive coordinator in Denver (1989-90), but he also orchestrated productive offenses with signal callers like Mike Tomczak, Jay Fiedler and a 25-year old first-year starter in Kordell Stewart.
"The one thing we're always tried to do is put people in position to be successful," said Gailey. "We don't have a name for our offense. We're not East this, West this, North this, South this, we're not going to have a name for it. We're going to do whatever it takes to move the football, score touchdowns and if it has to adjust because we have players that are better suited for one thing than another, then we're going to do that. I think that's the responsibility. Every player is not going to be suited for every offense. So you have to suit things to those people."
In the four years as a coordinator when his offenses lacked a proven triggerman, his teams averaged 21.5, 23.3, 20.2 and 21.5 points per game leading one to believe that Gailey is more than capable of duplicating those figures in Buffalo. His teams also went to playoffs all four of those seasons. Scoring points and reaching the postseason is naturally where the Bills would like to be as well.
"He's an offensive tough-minded coach who wants to run the football and throw the football and run a balanced attack," said Trent Edwards. "You want to score points as an offense and a quarterback and that's kind of what we're trying to do. You look at his track record, yes he scores points and do we need to do that more here? Obviously we do and I think that's why we brought him in."
Gailey's proven track record quickly got Buffalo's offensive roster on board and the more the players were around him during meetings in the spring, the more they believed things will be different when they've got the ball this season.
"Just his confidence in his offense is going to make you confident that he knows what he's doing that he's going to get guys in the right situation and take advantage of their skill sets," said Fred Jackson. "I'm excited just like everybody else and enthused about his enthusiasm in his offense. The sooner we can get it under our belt, the sooner we can go out and make plays. Like everybody here I'm excited about it."
Gailey's approach seeks out mismatches and takes advantage of them. With an influx of new game breaking talent headlined by C.J. Spiller to go along with explosive players like Lee Evans, Fred Jackson and Roscoe Parrish, the Bills sideline boss should make good use of some of the skill position tools he'll have at his disposal.
His play calling acumen has also proven him more than capable of setting opponents up, which can lead to big plays even when top shelf talent is not abundant.
"I've never been around a guy that's very conscientious of what offensive plays set up other plays," said Edwards. "He'll do a lot of motion and shifting trying to disguise on certain plays so it doesn't look like the same play to the defense. He understands certain formations we run are a lot of the same plays and some coordinators get pretty basic and pretty predictable. And I feel like Chan isn't going to be that predictable. You're kind of keeping the defense off balance and that's nice as a quarterback to have."
Buffalo's schedule will be far from a cake walk in 2010. Half of their 16 game slate will be against top 10 defenses in points per game allowed (Balt, Cin, GB, Minn, Jets and Patriots twice). But if the Bills' defense can duplicate their takeaway success of last season and special teams with some ultra-talented returners can provide short fields, there's a chance Buffalo's offense could have more production than it has seen in some time.