As the 2011 Draft approaches, we're checking in on the Patriots' AFC East rivals to see what's going on behind enemy lines. Today we're talking to Matthew Stewart from Buffalo Wins.
1. What is the Bills' primary need in this draft? Who do you see them taking in the draft with that number three pick?
What isn't their primary need would probably be a shorter answer. All of the talk has been about a franchise quarterback, though their biggest needs are in the front seven defensively. Aaron Maybin has been referred to everything short of a bust by Chan Gailey now, and he might not even have a roster spot if we have a season this fall. Despite the defensive needs, the overwhelming majority of reports suggest that Nix and Gailey want Auburn QB Cam Newton at the three spot.
2. Each team is affected by the lockout in different ways. In what ways does that affect the Bills positively or negatively?
I think right now because of the limitations of player movement, its sort of worked to the Bills advantage. Buffalo has been a pretty conservative off-season team in recent years, and because the time table from which other teams have to work to build their clubs will be shortened, that will help Buffalo. It's also a thought that Nix doesn't like to trade much at the draft, and since trading players will not be allowed unless a deal is reached, that evens the playing field a bit as well.
3. What Bills made great strides in 2010 and will continue to make that development should we play a season next year?
Stevie Johnson was the breakout star for the Bills last year, and the entire Bills receiving corps behind Lee Evans -- Johnson, Nelson, Jones and even the injured Roscoe Parrish with a comeback year made some great strides. Kyle Williams also blossomed from a good DT to a potentially Pro Bowl caliber one. Demetrius Bell is still probably one of the worst starting LTs in the history of football, but he made enough strides last year to earn himself another shot at the job, and allow the team to focus its attention else where.
4. How can Chan Gailey improve his style of coaching in his second year with the Buffalo Bills?
Closing out games and improving the defense. A lot of people in Bills circles say the Buffalo has a great offensive coordinator, it just so happens to be their head coach. It was probably a mistake for Gailey to bring in a first-time DC in Greg Edwards last year, but Dave Wannstedt's addition to the defensive coaching staff should help quite a bit. For the last 11 weeks of the season or so Buffalo played 8 or 9 win caliber football but simply could not close out games. This is a team that was one play away from beating the Chiefs, Ravens, Steelers and Bears in a month's time.
5. Who will be the biggest free agent the Bills go after when the lockout ends?
Oh, wow, that's anyone's guess and it's almost like I can't give you an answer. Outside of the Terrell Owens deal a few years ago, Buffalo has not really done much "big" in free agency all the way back to Takeo Spikes. I don't think that this year will be any different as I feel like the organization thinks it can address a lot of its needs through the draft. I think that's wrong, but that is what they think. Nix has stated that they might go after a Safety to replace departing Donte Whitner, and the team brought in always-injured Bob Sanders for a visit a few weeks ago that didn't amount to anything. I think at this point it's wait-and-see in terms of "big" free agents.
6. What do you make of this new kickoff rule and where do you stand on the rookie wage scale/18 game schedule?
I think anything that increases the likelihoods of touchbacks in the NFL is a bad idea - we want to make the game *more* exciting, right? As far as the rookie wage scale, I feel like that will help the competitive balance of the game but is an unnecessary change at the time. Part of what I don't understand with the whole lockout situation is that virtually everyone is making lots of money, so why spoil a good thing? As for an 18-game schedule, I think it does one thing and that is it will eliminate potentially "fluke" playoff teams (*cough*Chiefs*cough*) from getting in, because of a bigger sample size. But you'll have a lot of teams that just have two more opportunities for their players to get hurt, with nothing to play for, that coming both from teams that have clinched and teams that are out of contention. Personally, I am satisfied with 16.