With the Detroit Lions set to meet the Buffalo Bills in their final game of the preseason, I got together with Dennis Amo of BuffaLowDown for a Q&A.
Here are my questions followed by his answers.
1. What has been the general vibe from Bills training camp and through the first three preseason games?
The vibe has been both up and down. We have a top end rookie in Sammy Watkins that continually makes plays and brings the excitement to its highest point, but we have also had a lot of tempers flaring during training camp. There has been a lot of changes on the offensive line and it is no secret that the quarterback situation is being questioned heavily from all angles. It was even noticed to be getting heated between head coach Doug Marrone, Russ Brandon, and GM Doug Whaley on the side lines of a recent practice. There is a lot of tension in the Bills organization right now and most of the pressure is coming from the need to win and make the playoffs.
2. How is our old pal Jim Schwartz doing as the new defensive coordinator in Buffalo?
To be honest, from what I have seen during the first three preseason games and even in the Hall of Fame game, is the defense has tighten themselves down and are able to stop the run. The pass defense looks decent as well. Schwartz has implemented a system that is going to similar to Mike Pettine’s where there will be a lot of different looks and different packages facing off against the offense. This is good news because I don’t think that Bills fans could have handled another vanilla type defense that Dave Wannstedt brought us a couple of years back. Schwartz is putting people where they are going to be successful and instead of trying to build a defense around a scheme he is building the scheme around the defense. It will be a good year for the defense. Top 5 prediction by the end of the year.
3. Are the Bills going to find themselves looking for a quarterback again in the near future or do you have confidence EJ Manuel will turn out to be a long-term solution?
I sure hope not. The EJ Manuel situation is a tough one to decipher. He has only played in 10 games so far, not even a full season. The teaching and mentoring that he should have had last year, was only partial because there was not QB coach and it was only the OC, Nathaniel Hackett. QB coach was brought in, and Manuel is getting the time, but a lot of pressure is on him as well to succeed and carry this team. Not having a veteran QB to help teach him is also an issue that has not helped. The Bills just released Thad Lewis and brought in Jordan Palmer, not much of a difference in ability but Palmer knows the game and is able to teach it. I think Palmer will be more of a teacher/mentor to Manuel than a back-up. EJ has to get his confidence up and his accuracy on point for the Bills to be successful this year.
4. Beyond just staying healthy, what are you hoping to see from the Bills against the Lions?
The offensive line has been the biggest position battle that I have been paying attention to. The Bills just recently made some major changes to the O-Line last week, so I will be looking to see how well they are working together. They have 5 guys on the line that are all basically the size of tackles. If they can work together and open up some holes, it will be a tough season for any defense trying to stop the run. The biggest surprise for the O-Line is that Seantrel Henderson, 7th round pick, has out played all of the rookie lineman drafted by the Bills as well as some of the veterans as well. Great pick up for the Bills and was just recently moved to right tackle. Keep an eye on him.
5. What are your expectations for the Bills this season?
I would love to see them in the playoffs, but I am not sure that they are there yet. They are showing a lot of promise but things can change quickly with injuries as well. If the Bills don’t make the playoffs a winning season would be a huge improvement from years past. To build on this year and make the playoffs next would be a positive move for the Bills and I would be as happy as I would have been if they made the playoffs. They have to start somewhere and be committed to themselves and their direction. With this the Bills could be playoff contenders for multiple years in a row.
For more on the Bills, check out BuffaLowDown.