After a 6-10 finish and another year added to their miserable playoff drought, not many people around the league are expecting the Buffalo Bills to compete for a playoff spot.
However, the attitude at One Bills Drive suggests otherwise.
The Bills are coming into their second year under Doug Marrone and his coaching staff, and they have plenty to be excited about. After drafting Sammy Watkins and acquiring receiver Mike Williams in the offseason, the Bills are deeper at the wide receiver position than they have been since the early 90s. Buffalo's defense was great last season, and they expect to get a repeat performance from their unit, despite losing Kiko Alonso for the season. The excitement surrounding the Bills is real, and Fred Jackson reiterated that when he spoke with the media yesterday.
"We have huge expectations," Jackson said. "We’ve done a lot of things, this is our second year with the coaching staff. Our defense did some tremendous things last year and we expect them to play just as well as they did last year. On offense we have to make great strides. We’re excited about what EJ [Manuel] is doing for us right now. He has his second year under him and with the key pieces that we’ve added on offense, we like our chances to go out and do some things. So expectations are high. We’re built to win right now and not down the road and that’s what we’re looking forward to."
The big question is whether Manuel can progress enough to make Buffalo a real contender. He has plenty of weapons surrounding him, with Watkins, Williams, Robert Woods, CJ Spiller and Jackson. Buffalo's overall offensive depth is quite impressive. Still, the quarterback position is the most important position in football.
Manuel began the preseason with a tough outing in the Hall of Fame game, completing just two passes. He looked much better Saturday against the Carolina Panthers, but still struggled to get his team into the endzone. In fact, Buffalo's starting unit has failed to score a touchdown in its first two preseason games.
Manuel will be criticized with every decision he makes. Whether he tucks the ball and runs, or goes to a check-down, every move will be scrutinized. Jackson's attitude about Buffalo being in the position to win now is accurate, but will only be achieved if Manuel can deliver. There is plenty of pressure on the second-year quarterback, and all of Buffalo will be watching to see how he handles it.
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