The Buffalo Bills showed a lot of promise on offense last year and because of that progression the team was able to focus their efforts on defense in the 2011 draft. Still, the Bills ranked 25th in total offense and 28th in points per game (17.7). The continued evolution of the Bills’ offense under Chan Gailey is going to be one of the more important and fun questions to watch develop this season. Let’s take a look at the three most important pieces to that progress:3. The Right Tackle position: I’m going a different direction to start here by not singling out one player, but instead, a position. Whoever ends up being the starting right tackle for the Buffalo Bills this year is going to have a huge part in their success. When I look around the entire offense there really aren’t that many positions that leave you completely worried. The skill positions are actually very strong and even though Fitzpatrick’s performance is a big part of the equation, we basically saw last season what the team should expect to get out of him. The right tackle position is a total question mark amongst an offensive line that I’m becoming more and more comfortable with.
Would you like to see a stronger Demetrius Bell or upgrade at that position? Absolutely. Would you like the right guard position solidified moving into the season? Who wouldn’t? The point is that Bell showed some significant signs of progress in 2010 and with increased weight training, he should make another leap in the 2011 season. The Bills need to try and solidify the right tackle position in a big way from both a passing and ground attack position. As Bell continues to improve, teams will study tape and develop games plans to attack the right side. If Chris Hairston, Erik Pears, or Mansfield Wrotto can become at least an adequate right tackle the Bills will have a relatively balanced offensive lineup.
A balanced lineup doesn’t mean they are explosive or that there is not room for potential upgrades. What it does mean is if you can minimize your glaring weaknesses, it makes it more difficult for opposing teams to game plan. That in turn should allow Ryan Fitzpatrick to have more versatility when handling the offense and thus improve his play. If the Bills can have this offensive line group improve on last year’s performance and continue to grow, it will play a huge role in this team’s success in 2011.
2. Eric Wood: The same case as above could be made for Eric Wood. As Buffalo Rumbling’s points out, the offensive line’s identity starts and ends with the center. Wood has dealt with some injury issues since entering the league in 2009. Last season, Wood made the switch to his more natural center position and it is widely assumed he’ll have those duties for the entire 2011 season. In a division with 3-4 defenses, the center position plays an integral part to an offense’s success. Facing opponents like Vince Wilfork, it is primarily the center’s obligation to try and handle that match-up. If the center is unable to win that battle and a guard is called upon to double team the nose tackle, it plays immediately into the defensive coordinator’s hands.
Wood had his struggles during the 2010 season against Jacksonville and Baltimore, but also excelled at times in those games and throughout the season. A full offseason and film study at the center position, should allow Wood to continue to improve and at just 25, he definitely still has room to grow. Whether or not Wood can progress into a stud center remains to be seen, but his development at the position over the next 3-4 years is going to be crucial for the Bills development and that starts in 2011.
1. Ryan Fitzpatrick: The most popular answer to this question is going to be Ryan Fitzpatrick. After a 3,000 yard, 23 TD season in 14 starts, fans are eager to see how Fitzpatrick handles the play calling responsibilities for a full year. Fitzpatrick’s play was a catalyst for the team’s improved play in the second half of the season and will remain the driving force behind their offensive success in 2011.
The NFL is a quarterback’s league and having quality play come from the game’s most important position is one of the main driving forces for success. Ryan Fitzpatrick is and will continue to remain the most important offensive player for the Bills in the 2011 season. Can he improve upon his 58% completion percentage? Can he minimize the untimely interception (See: Baltimore game)? Can he continue to spread the ball around effectively and utilize all the weapons the Bills have? If Fitzpatrick is able to do these things throughout the entire 2011 season the Bills are going to be in a much better position to succeed. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s success will dictate the level of success the Bills have as a whole.
Who do you think the most important player on the Bills offense?