The Bills will begin their on field preparations for the 2009 season on Monday as their organized team activities (OTAs) get underway next week with a three-day session that runs through Wednesday. But there are a lot of questions as the 2009 roster begins to take shape with respect to roles. Buffalobills.com tries to look ahead and get closer to some possible answers.
The offseason might be most important for this unit. With the possibility of five new players at all five positions, they'll need every snap they can get this offseason if they're to hit the ground running in September.
Expected to man the left tackle spot is Langston Walker as the veteran has played on that side of the line for more than a season in his career. Walker demonstrated he could capably flip over to the left side from right tackle when he did it for the first and parts of the second game in 2008.
Left guard is more of an up in the air position. Typically at the outset of OTAs the veteran players get the benefit of the doubt and are plugged in with the starting unit. That means that Kirk Chambers could be at left guard or veteran pickup Seth McKinney. Other possibilities include Demetrius Bell and rookie Andy Levitre.
At center free agent signee Geoff Hangartner is expected to step in to replace the departed free agents from a year ago.
Right guard is likely to be manned by first-round pick Eric Wood. The Louisville product spent almost all of his time at that position during the rookie minicamp, so it's anticipated that will continue throughout the spring.
At right tackle, former starting guard Brad Butler is the expected starter. Though he has no NFL starts in his career at tackle, he had better than 30 in college at the University of Virginia. Also in the mix at right tackle will be Bell and Chambers.
Receiver pecking order
Wide receiver might be the position of deepest talent on the roster, which is also going to lead to some difficult decisions come late August with respect to the final corps.
At the top of the depth chart will be Lee Evans and Terrell Owens. They're expected to be followed by Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish, James Hardy, Justin Jenkins and Steve Johnson.
Then players like C.J. Hawthorne, Felton Huggins and Mike Jefferson come next. It's a deep, deep group and some quality talent is not going to make the cut because of numbers.
Will T.O. show?
Terrell Owens said earlier this offseason that he does plan to attend some of the voluntary OTA sessions this spring, but which ones and when?
That's a question only Owens can answer, which he did on his Twitter account where he said he would be in town next week for OTAs. In all likelihood that means Owens will be on hand Monday.
It's clear that Owens recognizes the importance of developing timing and chemistry with Trent Edwards in the practice setting so when the bullets fly for real they're ready to make things happen.
What about Schobel?
Schobel typically makes it to a fair portion of the offseason workouts, but coming off a serious foot injury the question is will he be participating more?
The veteran pass rusher is obviously a proven player, but he's expressed more than once a greater motivation to excel coming off the injury, mainly to prove the doubters wrong. Whether that means he'll be on hand for more of the team workouts remains to be seen.
In all fairness there is fierce competition at every position, but some particular spots will have more than one quality option.
At running back, knowing Marshawn Lynch is out of the picture for the first three games, the competition to start in his place between Fred Jackson and Dominic Rhodes will be intense. Both have longed to be full-time starters and the opportunity this fall may be as close as either of them get.
At the free safety spot, veterans like George Wilson and Ko Simpson will be pushed by second-round pick Jairus Byrd. Byrd is a quick study which could remove what seems like a built-in advantage for Simpson and Wilson being familiar with the inner workings of the defensive scheme.
The role for starting tight end is a wide open field of young players with Derek Fine, Derek Schouman and Jonathan Stupar the returning players along with fourth-round pick Shawn Nelson and undrafted rookie Travis McCall.
Nickel corner is another role that looks as though it will be hotly contested. Veteran free agent Drayton Florence is a prime candidate as is Ashton Youboty, who held down the role last season before succumbing to injury. Second-year upstart Reggie Corner is also very much in the mix.
Expanded no huddle?
There has been more than one report this offseason citing "team sources" that the Bills will make greater use of the no huddle portion of their playbook in 2009. Discerning whether or not that is the case from the practice setting however, is too difficult.
Working on execution within a scheme in practice is a completely different animal than preparing for a particular opponent during the regular season and executing a game plan. So no matter how much no huddle might be witnessed on the practice field, it holds very little significance in determining if more no huddle will actually be used when the games count.