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. This year we want your opinion on what the most likely answers to these questions will be. After reading each daily installment as the Bills get set for Year 1 under head coach Doug Marrone, go to the Bills daily fan poll leading up to report day at training camp and vote. You could be eligible to win tickets to night practice. Here is the latest daily installment as we closely examine some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 28th and the Sept. 8th home opener.
A new Team President, a new General Manager, a new head coach with a new staff and whoever it winds up being, a new quarterback. Though Russ Brandon and Doug Whaley were promoted from within, the winds of change are blowing at One Bills Drive as there will be new schemes on offense and defense, a host of turnover at the wide receiver position and new faces at safety.
All of those new elements will require time to come together and function smoothly. So how quickly can all the new parts mesh?
Coming out of the spring practices Buffalo's new staff under Marrone was generally pleased with the progress that was made. What was important for Marrone was getting the men on his roster up to speed on the expectations in practice.
"We reached our goal as far as teaching the players what our tempo is," said Marrone. "They've responded in a professional way, which is greatly appreciated by myself and the staff. We're excited. That's how it should be. We know we have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but it's also hard work that we're looking forward to."
Perhaps even more important was building a trust between the staff and the players, to convince the players that the coaches have the best interest of the players in mind, while also doing what's necessary to build the team into a winner.
"Really building a relationship and making sure that we're all part of one team was important," Marrone said. "That there wasn't any separation. I think we were able to do that."
Aside from developing some chemistry between players and coaches, the on field chemistry carries even more weight. Absorbing and executing playbook assignments is where there have to noticeable strides as training camp wears on.
"I think both sides of the ball are grasping the playbook well. The point now is it's very difficult to go out there when you don't have a lot of DNA," Marrone said. "Sometimes you have a play and it's a great play against a certain defense just like you will in a game. We're just trying to make sure that our players are comfortable with the system, what we're running and what we're doing. I wouldn't say either side is further along than the other."
Coming out of the spring minicamp Marrone felt the communication in the secondary had made strides. Buffalo's sideline boss would like to see similar chemistry between his quarterbacks and wide receivers.
"We've been building it," said Stevie Johnson. "The way we're running our offense right now it's so fast and we're subbing in and out so quick I think it's probably going to take a little bit longer to get this chemistry down, but by the middle of training camp or the end of training camp we'll be good."
"There's a foundation of what we want to teach," said offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. "A foundation of our plays and what we want to be. There's always a progression and you have to stick to that and see how they develop within that and what they do good. I think that's how you evolve later on. You want to start with a base foundation and see what they excel at."
On the defensive side of the ball grasping a varied front system with a bounty of different looks can prove challenging.
"Our inventory, we've put in a lot. We've added," said Pettine. "We've tweaked some things and changed some things that kind of existed in the system before to take advantage of what we do. I think as a coaching staff we're very optimistic with how well this group learns. We've been able to handle a lot and what proves it a lot is the up tempo. When an offense goes no huddle you don't have those 15 or 20 seconds between plays to process it and recall, 'What's my job, what are my main coaching points here?' You've got to know it and the guys have really taken that to heart. I'm very pleased with where we are mentally heading into camp."
Pettine could have an important transition to see through to its completion in Aaron Williams, a player moving from cornerback to safety. The defensive coordinator labeled Williams ahead of schedule in the spring. Another is Kiko Alonso, who showed he was a playmaker without pads on. Pettine is no doubt hoping that continues.
"We're pleased with where we are from an installation standpoint," Pettine said. "We've already laid out the install for training camp, and we're going to get that pushed out to the guys so they can get a head start. But we're excited about where we are package-wise.
"We want to take that next step in learning, and I use the phrase graduate level a lot. I think that's where we're headed, guys understand the basics now, but they need to learn the subtleties of the defense and take it to that next step. The more we can get out of the way through training camp that our guys can lock in as habit, the better off we'll be."
In the end the synergy on the field will come down to the players. Buffalo's staff can put them in position to succeed, but the execution is on the players in uniform. Despite the speed and variance that both the offensive and defensive schemes possess, Johnson is remains confident that come the season opener on Sept. 8th they'll be a cohesive unit.
"I would say because the coaching has been fine here," said Johnson. "From the entire offensive meetings with Hackett and then the individual meetings with (receivers) coach (Ike) Hilliard it's been great. We've all been a unit. But as far as being on the field that has to be worked out by the players. To give a time, I would say mid-camp, somewhere around the first preseason game to the second I believe we'll be pretty much on point, maybe the third. But I think we'll be alright."