As the Buffalo Bills began checking into training camp Friday in Pittsford, a common theme came up among everyone involved.
The Bills aren't picked to do much in 2013 to end their 13-year playoff drought. Realistically, with either a journeyman or rookie starting at quarterback and only one proven wide receiver, much won't happen unless something magically clicks.
The fact something still could click is what players are focusing on.
"I think it will be pretty interesting," defensive end Mario Williams said of the new coaching staff and to-be-determined signal-caller. "We have a lot of new key pieces to the puzzle. We need to be out here and be together and away from everything else. We just have to focus and get after it."
One of the could-be signal-callers, rookie EJ Manuel, said he's thankful for the shot he has against veteran Kevin Kolb:
"I think it’s a huge opportunity. Being that I was drafted by the Bills, obviously I want to come out and make everybody happy, all the people in the front office and stuff like that. I think the biggest thing is continuing to get better every day … I think I’ve made a lot of progress as far as in the playbook and stuff like that."
One of his opening day targets could be Marquise Goodwin, whom the Bills drafted in the third round. Goodwin is one of three rookies, along with Robert Woods and Da'Rick Rogers, who has a realistic shot of earning a receiving job this season.
Despite the Bills' lack of veterans at receiver, Goodwin said he's not taking anything about his first training camp for granted:
"This is the dream. It’s every kid’s dream growing up to be an NFL player. We have a wonderful opportunity in front of us, and we want to make the most of it and get better every day."
The leader of the receiving corps, Stevie Johnson, recognizes the turnover and the chaos it can cause. But, as a seventh-round draft pick who ended up the team's top receiver, Johnson knows it can also be a great opportunity for the youngsters:
"I’m considered a veteran now. I can’t really think too much about who we don’t have. I got to ride with who we have here at camp. My position is just as important as the next guy. As important as the undrafted guy on the Buffalo Bills. As far as positions and competition, everybody is eating. Everybody is hungry to be on that field … It doesn’t matter who it is, if you’re first round, seventh or undrafted. You come in here, fight and get the right team on that field."
Buffalo may lack in big-name talent, but the opportunity to make noise does exist this season. The New England Patriots will be without their top two tight ends and their No. 1 receiver from last season, while the New York Jets' quarterback situation makes the term "disastrous" seem incredibly tame. So, if Buffalo can get things together, the chance to exorcize some demons is at hand.
Johnson knows this and has set the bar appropriately high, regardless of what anyone else might think:
"It’s very realistic (to make the playoffs). I feel like we have the team to make that move and I believe in that. Why not now? Why not us? We’re going to make it happen. We just have to finish, finish in the games. We had a few games where if we were to finish out much stronger than we did, that gap would be much easier to get to as far as playoffs. We just have to finish."
The Bills will be in meetings Saturday afternoon. Their first practice is a Sunday night session at St. John Fisher College.