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(Counting down to Opening Day at The Ralph, I’m going to highlight four critical questions facing the Bills as we head into the 2007 season. This is the fourth of four articles, focusing on our team youth and inexperience.)
I’ve got to stop looking at our roster.
When I scanned down the vitals for our team, I saw a bunch of short guys. Fast, definitely. But still short. And when I focused on the “experience” column, I saw something that I knew, but when I really thought about it, it was staggering.
Of the 53 players on the Bills’ active roster, only nine – NINE – players have more than 5 years experience in the NFL. Nine? Wow. Most of those guys are obviously starters, but two of them are our kickers, two more are substitutes, and one – Anthony Thomas – will likely not be a starter for long.
The youth movement definitely continues at One Bills Drive with more and more veterans being let go. This offseason the most well known were Takeo Spikes, London Fletcher, and Nate Clements. The season before it included Sam Adams, Lawyer Milloy and Troy Vincent. Add to that list Kelly Holcomb, Craig Nall, Mike Schneck, and a few others. Old guys, watch out. Marv is swinging his axe.
Last season we did OK with our rookies. Two rookies started at safety. Terrance Pennington came in at right guard and did very well, helping to turn around a putrid offensive line. Keith Ellison also did a great job as a starting linebacker. Even Kyle Williams deserves some props. Rookies all performing very well.
Now those guys are second year players, and Marshawn Lynch and Paul Posluszny and Dwayne Wright are hoping to get in on the action. John McCargo is hoping he stays healthy this year. Even JP Losman is really only in his second year as a starter. Everywhere you look there are guys with 5 years or less in the NFL.
I think we have seen that just going out and signing all the finest free agent veterans really does not work. (Ahem… Redskins, anyone?) but what of the lockeroom – and on-field – leadership? How much of a role does veteran experience play in a team’s overall performance?
There is a verse in the Bible that I am reminded of. “Do not let them look down on you because of your youth.” I am really hoping that we won’t be disappointed by this very inexperienced team this year. Truthfully, I am of the opinion that while veteran experience is helpful, it is not necessary. A rookie needs to play smart, but he can be a superior player to a 7 or 8-year veteran. What remains to be seen is whether or not we have those talented though inexperienced players.
What I think we will see this year is the Buffalo Bills growing up. Starting with JP Losman. And Lee Evans. We’ll see them become a regular, dominant offensive force. We’ll see JP take charge of this team. It’s already begun.
The national media stops at the roster. Where I began, they stop looking. They see the severe lack of experience and just write off our Bills. They certainly could be right. But I have sneaking suspicion that they will be eating their words as they tout this “Cinderella team from Buffalo” in 2007. This team has some great young talent.
This season, let’s drop the “young”, and just keep it “great”.