Maybe it's a bit too early for a Silence of the Lambs reference. No. No, it's never too early for a Silence of the Lambs reference.
In anticipation of the epic Saints-Bills preseason battle, I traded a few questions with Brian G, who runs the fine SB Nation Buffalo Bills blog Buffalo Rumblings. Brian does a great job over there: he's so big at this point, he's even getting interviews with current members of the Bills team. Many thanks to Brian, for taking the time to answer my questions. My answers to his questions will be up soon; be sure to check those out on his site, and to remind Bills fans of the halcyon days of NFC dominance while you're there. (My questions are in bold.)
When J.P. Losman finished his career at Tulane, the consensus seemed to be that he was a guy with immense physical gifts and a larger ego, one that prevented him from achieving his full potential. What are your impressions of him? Has he grown as a teammate/leader since the Bills drafted him? What caused his success last season?
My impression of J.P. now is a guy with immense physical gifts and a larger ego. The difference now from when he was at college is that his ego isn't distracted by a college lifestyle - it's focused and determined to prove to his doubters that he belongs. He's still having his share of struggles during camp, but he's been dead on with his deep ball as usual and he's a lot more comfortable in his leadership role with the team. That comfort level is a stark contrast to the nerve-racking play he gave the team during his first two seasons. He's primed to not only be a top-ten quarterback in the league, but the leader of this franchise for quite some time.
As for last season, the secret to his success was just playing time. People tend to forget that in his first season as the starting QB he was benched and ended up playing in only eight games. Last season was his first where he played all 16 games, and the experience helped. Getting all those snaps - plus a little winning streak - gave Losman the confidence to really come into his own in the second half of the season.
How will the Bills succeed without stars like Willis McGahee, Nate Clements, Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher-Baker?
They'll succeed because of what they've gained, rather than what they've lost. McGahee and his plodding, one-dimensional crybaby style are out, replaced by Marshawn Lynch - a thick, shifty runner that happens to be incredibly adept at catching the ball out of the backfield. Spikes was at the crux of a terrible run defense last season (I've never seen a player miss so many tackles), and Fletcher's production overshadowed his general ineptitude against the run - he made all of his tackles downfield rather than in the backfield. I promise you that Paul Posluszny and Keith Ellison will (eventually) be upgrades.
The Clements loss hurts, but our coaching staff loves free agent signee Jason Webster. This Bills defense doesn't rely on great coverage; it's a defense predicated on getting pressure from its front four and causing turnovers. Very "bend but don't break". We have playmakers on defense, but we'll miss (to an extent) the lock-down comfort of having Clements on a team's top wideout. But it's a loss that can be overcome.
The money saved on all these vets went into an offensive line that has looked devastating thus far in camp. Our left side of Jason Peters and Derrick Dockery has looked dominant, and right tackle Langston Walker has performed very well on top of that. If fellow free agent signee Jason Whittle can lock down the right guard spot (which seems likely at this point), our line will be athletic, huge and veteran-laden. It will make our offense hum.
What three not-so-prominent Bills players will you be keeping an eye on in this contest?
- CB Ashton Youboty - He may be sort of prominent, but he's buried on the depth chart. This is the kid that many thought the Bills would use to replace Nate Clements, yet he's probably not getting much playing time. The Saints seem to have some pretty good athletes at wideout, so I'd love to see how Youboty fares against a team that throws the ball as well as New Orleans. Even if it is Jamie Martin he's facing.
- RB Fred Jackson - The Bills are thinking about keeping four running backs on their roster; Marshawn Lynch, Anthony Thomas and Dwayne Wright are locks for the top three spots. Fred Jackson, who hails from tiny Coe College (alma mater of Marv Levy himself), has played very well in camp and seems to have a beat on the fourth spot. I've always enjoyed watching this kid play, so while his name on this list may bore Saints fans to tears, I promise you he'll make a play or two in this game. He's very quick.
- WR Donovan Morgan - A lot of "experts" like to talk about the Bills' lack of a red zone threat at receiver; this guy could be it. He's kicked around a few practice squads in his time at the league, but he's making some pretty athletic grabs in Bills camp. I'm curious to see how he performs both offensively and on special teams - if he can hold his own in both departments, he may find himself with a surprise roster spot at the beginning of September.
After reading Brian G's answers, I'm pretty psyched to see this matchup. Even though neither team's starters are going to play very much, the Bills have the type of offense that can give the Saints fits during the regular season. That is, their strength, their offensive line, can counteract the strength of the Saints' defense, the defensive line. And their receiving corps is capable of beating the Saints' secondary. Like I said, it'll be a good test.
I'll be back tomorrow to post a gameday thread, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on the interview, on the game, on having two games within five days, or on whatever else.