I am already chomping at the bit to get to next week's Bills-Raiders game. I saw enough positives to get excited about this matchup and enough negatives to be worried. We'll have plenty of info on this matchup headed this way in the coming days, but let's start things off with some tidbits from one of their own.
Brian Galliford of Buffalo Rumblings was kind enough to engage me in a little question and answer session. Check out what he had to share after the jump....
1) How do you feel about the Bills' offensive line? Who are the weak links, and who are their leaders? As a group, are they better in run blocking or pass protection?
As long as those five guys stay healthy and develop some sort of consistency, Chan Gailey can work with them. Even if they're consistently bad, Gailey and Ryan Fitzpatrick are smart enough in tweaking protection schemes to give themselves time in the passing game. They're more of a move and seal run-blocking unit than a power-based drive-blocking unit, but they can be effective running the ball that way. They're weak at tackle in pass protection, so you'll see a lot of backs and tight ends chipping and the like. The leader of the group is unquestionably center Eric Wood, a 2009 first-round pick who is not perfect as a player, but whose mean streak has pervaded the group's playing mentality. This line isn't overly talented, but they're physical and come to play.
2) What is the main thing a team needs to take away from the Bills to be successful?
The football. That answer seems sort of easy, but it's the truth: the Bills had a tendency to turn the ball over in bunches last season, particularly over the last four games, and I'm still not convinced they're good enough to overcome those issues if they find themselves in that situation. Ryan Fitzpatrick will still make poor throws and bad decisions from time to time, and takes chances with the ball many quarterbacks don't. He's a bit boom-or-bust in that fashion, but if the Raiders play well up front, they'll have a very strong chance of winning the turnover battle.
3) Do the Bills like to spread the field by lining up in three or four wide receiver sets?
The answer to that question is an emphatic yes. No team ran more empty sets in 2010 than the Bills, and that trend continued this past week in Kansas City, when the team's fourth receiver, David Nelson
, played on 42.1 percent of offensive snaps before the team pulled its starters near the beginning of the fourth quarter. You'll see them trot out that personnel package, but they'll also use a more traditional package (2 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB, 1 FB) and line them up in an empty set as well. Chan Gailey likes spreading defenses out, and that's not a trend we expect to break any time soon.
4) The Bills were awful against the run in 2010, yet they had no problem shutting down the Chiefs explosive rushing attack. Was this a function of the game getting out of hand early, or are the Bills really that improved in their run D?
For now, I'm chalking up their improvement to the circumstances of that specific game. Jamaal Charles
and Dexter McCluster
were still able to rip off a few 10- and 20-yard runs despite the score, but there's little doubt that the team is much tougher against the run than they were a year ago. They're already better against the run, and perhaps significantly so; even a middle-of-the-pack finish in that department will make them a much more competitive football team.
5) How does Marcell Dareus look early? Is this beast of a man living up to the hype, and should the Raiders expect him to be a disruptive force in this game?
He's looked OK. It's helped that he's lining up next to Kyle Williams, one of the league's best and most underrated defensive tackles. Between those two players, the Bills have the potential to field one of the best defensive line tandems in the NFL. Dareus did have one dumb offside penalty in Kansas City that yielded the Chiefs a first down, and he didn't have a huge statistical impact, but he played a lot - more than any other Bills defensive lineman, in fact - and played very physical, assignment-sound football. He's not really an impact player yet, but that's coming.