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 Year 3 under head coach Chan Gailey and veteran player report day at St. John Fisher fast approaching, here is the latest daily installment as we closely examine some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 24th and Sept. 9th.
The Bills began the 2011 season hitting on all cylinders offensively, but struggled down the stretch. This year, they are aiming to build upon that early success and maintain it for a full 16 game regular season schedule. Buffalo showcased some of their offensive firepower during that time period, and they were able to establish their most important offensive pieces moving forward. Heading into this year it begs the question, who is the most indispensable player on offense?
Ryan FitzpatrickBuffalo continued to make headlines this offseason when they added quarterback Vince Young. Young will compete for the number two quarterback position and serve as an insurance policy behind Fitzpatrick. If he were to fill-in, the offense would have to be altered to better fit Young's skill set, which is drastically different from Fitzpatrick's quick release style and expertise in pre-snap adjustments.
This offense will heavily rely on Fitzpatrick's quick reads and audibles at the line of scrimmage. While Fitzpatrick was inconsistent during the second half last year, the Bills are confident he can return to his early season form.
"I've got no reservations about Ryan. He had some bad games. The thing we know for sure is that we've seen him do it," said General Manager Buddy Nix. "He's got a gun slinger mentality. I think you've got to rein that in a little bit and make good judgments, but if we put good people around him we can get to the dance with Ryan."
Stevie JohnsonStevie Johnson battled through a nagging groin injury last year and still managed to become the first receiver in team history to have back to back 1,000 yard receiving seasons. His unique skill set and playmaking ability has earned him the role as Buffalo's number one wide receiver.
A game changing athlete like Johnson is truly irreplaceable because there is simply not another player like him on the roster. The youth and inexperience behind him at the wide receiver position makes Johnson even more valuable to this offense.
Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick understands Johnson's importance and is excited to have his number one receiver healthy and back out on to the field.
"Great to see him out there," said Fitzpatrick. "He is a special player and he is obviously a guy that we need out there."
Fred JacksonLast year, Fred Jackson proved to the entire NFL that he is an all-around dynamic running back. He is an emotional leader and a sparkplug for this team on the football field. On the other hand, when he went down last season, the offense did not miss a beat in the run game because C.J. Spiller was able to pick up where Jackson left off.
While Jackson could very well be a league MVP candidate in 2012, there is still a first-round talent behind him on the depth chart. Jackson is still a very important asset to this football team and nobody understands that more than his backup.
"Like I tell people all the time, you don't find too many guys to take you under their wing once you get here, especially when somebody gets drafted at your position," said Spiller. "We're both competitive. We go out there and compete. We push each other. But at the end of the day he's like a big brother to me."
Scott ChandlerOne reason the Bills offense made strides last season was because of the production they got out of the tight end position. Scott Chandler was claimed off of waivers by the Bills in 2010 and made a significant impact in his first full year with the team in 2011. When Chandler sprained his ankle last year and was out, the passing game felt his absence. There wasn't a proven receiving tight end threat behind him, which caused problems for the offense.
Chan Gailey believes that Chandler can not only duplicate his numbers from last year, but improve upon them.
"I don't see any reason he shouldn't have a better year this year than he had last year," said Gailey. "He and Fitz (Ryan Fitzpatrick) have a great feel for each other at this point in time. He's made some plays down the field. He's a big target. I see nothing but more positive things happening for him in the future."
Dorin Dickerson could help the situation if he makes the roster, but he is classified as an H-back. Therefore, Chandler remains the only proven pass-catching tight end on the roster.
Every one of these players factor largely into the Bills offensive plans heading into the 2012-13 season. They are all critical pieces to the overall puzzle, but the quarterback is looked upon to manage the entire offense. Therefore, it would be difficult for any NFL team to say that their most indispensable player on offense is anyone but their quarterback and the Bills appear to be no different.