Preseason Lowdown : Buffalo Bills

Preseason Lowdown : Buffalo Bills

football, preseason, buffalo

What’s the story? 

I was at Bills camp last Friday. And while selling “4-Consecutive Super Bowl Appearances!” posters from the 90’s doesn’t necessarily imply swagger…the Bills just might get their groove on this year. (Try not to remember that I said that last year, too.) It helps that their division is in shambles (receiver-less Patriots, rebuilding Dolphins, and…the Jets) but it also helps that there is sincere enthusiasm surrounding the team this year due in large part to new faces and a new approach.

Leader and commander:

The main new face with the new approach? Rookie NFL head coach Doug Marrone, previously of Syracuse University. I have yet to talk to anyone who doesn’t love this hire. Coach Marrone seems confident and deeply invested in his team – so much so that he’s been the one snapping the ball to his quarterbacks at training camp.

New kid on the block:

Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, taken as the first quarterback in this year’s NFL draft, looks like he might beat out veteran Kevin Kolb (who is also new to Buffalo – he was in Arizona last season and Philadelphia the season before that). I can personally attest to the fact that he is not unlike Goliath in size and stature.

Last year was…

…typical for the Bills: a 6-10 season with early glimmers of promise that fizzled fast.

Survey says…

…this year might not be much different. According to the preseason power rankings, the Bills are hanging out near the bottom of the pack with only two other teams to serve as a buffer from true rock bottom. But even though 30th sounds bleak, keep in mind that this could be the start of good things in Buffalo regardless of this year’s record.

News and Notes : 8.15.12

League News Limerick:

Chad Johnson is a Dophin no more.

Cedric Benson is a Packer for sure.

Andrew Luck lives up to all the folklore.

Replacement Refs make jaws drop to the floor.

In other news, last week I visited all of the New York training camps.


camp, training camp, football, bills


football, news, giants


football, news, jets, training camp

I could have stayed at these camps for days just sitting and watching. The Bills were the best in overall ambience – St. John Fisher is a great location and the new stadium looks amazing. The Giants win for having the longest walk to the practice field and for having the most enthusiastic fans. (They are the defending champs, after all.) The Jets might win the all-around: great location (SUNY Cortland), convenient parking, close on-field proximity to the players, fast-paced practice, and lots of enthusiastic onlookers.

All in all: my favorite type of camping. Loved it.

(And for the most entertaining article you’ll read about training camp this season, click here.)

Divisional Breakdown : AFC East Teams

Today we’re traveling to the AFC East! Here’s the deal with the teams in that division:

The Buffalo Bills

History: Buffalo had a long list of teams with other minor football organizations prior to establishing the Bills with the AFL in 1960. O.J. Simpson was a star running back for the Bills in the 70’s. The Bills are also famous for going to the Super Bowl FOUR TIMES IN A ROW in the 90’s but never winning. That decline has carried over into the present era.

Current Players to Know: Ryan Fitzpatrick is a Harvard-educated quarterback. He was nothing to write home about until last season when he led the Bills on an excellent winning streak early in the season. He did not perform quite as well for the rest of the season. Mario Williams is a star defensive end who signed with Buffalo over the summer (he used to play for the Houston Texans). Fred Jackson is a running back who was having a great season last year before he was injured in Week 11.

Head Coach: Chan Gailey

2011 Regular Season Record: 6-10

What to Watch For in 2012: I don’t want to jinx it because I would love to see Buffalo succeed…but the Bills really could be good this year! While they lack depth in some areas they added a lot of talent in the off-season. Ryan Fitzpatrick received a big contract extension in the middle of last season but didn’t really live up to it, so he might perform on the basis of having something to prove this year. And always keep an eye on wide receiver Stevie Johnson, as he’s prone to drama and can usually be counted on for good press conference material.

The Miami Dolphins

History: Florida’s first professional football team was actually named the “Miami Seahawks,” a team that played for the AAFC. That team only lasted one season. Twenty years later, the AFL established a new team in Miami, and a fan vote decided that the team would be named the Dolphins. The ’72 Dolphins are famous for having the only undefeated season in NFL history (and for fervently clinging to that identity). Legendary QB Dan Marino established his legacy in Miami in the 80’s and 90’s.

Current Players to Know: The quarterback situation is still up in the air. It looks like Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill might beat out veteran David Garrard and incumbent Matt Moore for the starting job. Former New Orleans Saint Reggie Bush can always be counted on for a reliable performance at running back. Centers don’t always get a lot of love, but Mike Pouncey is one of the best.

Head Coach: Joe Philbin (former Packers Offensive Coordinator…we miss you, Coach!)

2011 Regular Season Record: 6-10

What to Watch For in 2012: Oh…Miami! They’ve really been unable to recover since the Dan Marino era ended…in 1999. This season is already off to a tumultuous start for the Dolphins, who have chosen to appear on the HBO series “Hard Knocks.” A team that is already unstable is now under the microscope, and they just garnered even more media coverage with the Chad Johnson debacle over the weekend. Maybe it’ll be a great season, but I think it might be an uphill battle, especially with Buffalo looking better than they have in the recent past.

The New England Patriots

History: The Boston Patriots were established in 1959 and became the New England Patriots soon after the merger in 1970. They had one Super Bowl appearance in the 80’s and one in the 90’s but started dominating the league in the 2000’s. The team has flourished under the leadership of respected owner Robert Kraft and iconic hoodie-wearing coach Bill Belichick, not to mention the notable contributions of their star quarterback, Tom Brady. The Patriots are kind of the Yankees of the NFL – you either love them or you hate them.

Current Players to Know: Tom Brady, of course. Rob Gronkowski burst onto the scene last year as one of the league’s most valuable tight ends. Aaron Hernandez, the other half of a deadly tight end set, is poised to have another great season. (It should also be noted that New England is way ahead of the game as it pertains to the evolution of the tight end position. Which should come as no surprise with living legend Bill Belichick as the head coach.)

Head Coach: Bill Belichick

2011 Regular Season Record: 13-3

What to Watch For in 2012: The Patriots are coming off of a Super Bowl loss to the Giants – the second in 4 years. While the Patriots always have a great regular season, they haven’t won a Super Bowl since they won back to back in the 2004 and 2005 seasons. It’s hard to say that a team which consistently makes the playoffs is hungry for a successful season, but with the recent losses to the Giants they’ll definitely be fired up.

The New York Jets

History: The Jets began in the same fashion they represent today: with a bold statement. They were originally named the Titans because, as per then-owner Harry Wismer, “The Titans are bigger and stronger than the Giants.” They were renamed the Jets after being rescued from bankruptcy in 1962. Joe Namath, famed Jets quarterback, led the team to their only Super Bowl victory in 1969.

Current Players to Know: Mark Sanchez is the Jets’ oft-debated starting quarterback, and Tim Tebow, who led the Denver Broncos to a playoff victory last season, is the league’s most famous backup quarterback. Darelle Revis is one of the league’s best cornerbacks. (And this is completely unsolicited, but after going to the Jets training camp last week I think Stephen Hill, rookie wide receiver, could potentially have a notable season.)

Head Coach: Rex Ryan

2011 Regular Season Record: 8-8

What to Watch For in 2012: The Sanchez-Tebow marriage. There is no controversy, per-se, as Mark Sanchez is the undisputed starter…but so was Kyle Orton in Denver last season, and that season ended with Orton being shipped off to Kansas City and Tebow leading the Broncos to a playoff victory against the Steelers. While it doesn’t appear likely that Tebow will replace Sanchez as QB1, the Jets have a great opportunity to use the unconventional backup in a variety of ways – especially in running situations, since Tebow is basically a human mountain and can run over professional linebackers like they are Pop Warner players. In a perfect world this two-quarterback system would work flawlessly, but in the Jets world, everything is complicated, especially as it pertains to locker room dynamics.

Gone Campin’ : NFL Training Camp

I woke up this morning with butterflies in my stomach and giggles escaping with uncontrollable glee. And not because I greet each morning with a smile and a song, ala Snow White. I greet most mornings with decidedly un-Disney-esque sentiments. But this morning was different. Because this morning…Packers training camp begins.


Training camp is the pre-pre-season. It’s basically a really long audition for teams to figure out who makes the 53 man roster. It’s also the ultimate boot camp to get players back into football shape.

Because training camp marks the beginning of the football season and comes at the end of a 6 month football drought, it probably gets more hype than necessary. But really, enthusiasm is warranted after 6 months of racing, X games, and golf on Sunday afternoons. (My apologies to all of those sports and their fans…I just can’t handle it.)

Here’s what you need to know about the big training camp stories this season:


Peyton Manning beginning his reign with the Denver Broncos is the biggest focus point of training camp this year. You may have seen Peyton Manning on any number of commercials for automobiles and/or sneakers and/or Oreos. He was the franchise quarterback* for the Indianapolis Colts for the past 14 years and is one the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. However, after sitting last year out to due injury, the Colts decided to move on with a spring chicken: Stanford’s stand-out prospect and first overall draft pick Andrew Luck. Because transitional quarterback moves can create controversies (like the 49ers Montana to Young transition and the Packers Favre to Rodgers transition), Peyton decided to leave the Colts and pursue greener pastures. He found them in Denver. All eyes will be on how he plays post-injury (he had a year-long rehab from neck surgery) and how he fits with a new organization. (Additional trivia: You may also know Peyton’s brother, Eli Manning, who is the quarterback for the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.)


Peyton’s arrival in Denver displaced their starting quarterback, Tim Tebow. You may know Tim Tebow because you don’t live under a rock. Homeboy is everywhere, and he’ll be a huge story of training camp because, well, he’s a huge story no matter where he goes, on the field or off.

After Peyton decided to come to Denver Tim was traded to the New York Jets, a media-happy team on their quiet days. The Jets are known for being big talkers and attracting lots of media attention for their unconventional antics, so adding Tebow, who already draws plenty of media attention for completely opposite reasons (parents: if your kids need a role model, look no further!), might cause both the New York and national media outlets to explode. From a football standpoint, it will be interesting to see how the Jets use Tebow, who is currently slated to be the teams back-up quarterback. The Jets are talking about using him in a variety of quarterback and non-quarterback ways, but again, it’s the Jets. And the Jets talk. A lot.


New Orleans. Oh, New Orleans. You’ve probably heard something about the Saints this off-season, whether it’s regarding the bounty program or the Drew Brees contract negotiations. The drama that unfolded over the past 6 months is what multi-million dollar movies are made of, but in short: the NFL uncovered a substantial “bounty” program run by the organization in which players were paid extra to take out other players on the field. The Saints deny the existence of this system and say they had a “pay for performance” program like many teams do. But in the end their head coach, Sean Payton, was suspended for a year as a result, along with numerous other player and coach suspensions.

The good news is that after months of negotiations the Saints finally reached a deal with franchise quarterback* Drew Brees so he will be back in New Orleans for the foreseeable future. Their training camp story is interesting because they’ve basically been decimated during the off-season with suspensions and bad news. They will also be without their interim head coach for the first 6 weeks of the regular season due to the bounty suspensions, so everyone will be waiting to see how they pull it all together in spite of their circumstances.


Training camp wouldn’t be training camp without a good holdout story. This season it’s Maurice Jones-Drew, who is “holding out” (not attending any team activities, including training camp) to try and get a better contract. The tricky part is that the Jaguars owner has already said that they expect Jones-Drew, the league’s premiere running back, to honor the last two years of his contract, and will not give him a long term deal. What happens next is a long, expensive stand-still to see who blinks first.


Namely: Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and Robert Griffin III in Washington. Both will garner lots of debate. They are two of the most highly esteemed quarterbacks to enter the league in the past several years (or…ever), which is why they were picked first and second in this year’s NFL draft, respectively. Too much will be made of their training camp experience because, after all, it’s just camp. But it will be a big story nonetheless, especially for Andrew Luck, who is replacing aforementioned legend Peyton Manning.


Here’s a little hometown love for Buffalo! They did WORK over the off-season, bringing in much-needed big name free agents. The biggest of which is Mario Williams, who chose to sign with Buffalo after leaving the Houston Texans. He plays defensive end, a key position on any team, but his addition to the Bills makes them about 1,000,000 times better. If they can pull it together on offense they could be legit this season.

To get the full effect of training camp, take a look at this video. And lest you think training camp is all work and no play, see Brett Keisel.

*a “franchise quarterback” is a team’s star player, the quarterback who they believe will lead their team for the foreseeable future