ESPN.com’s Tim Graham put together a good piece looking at the Buffalo Bills offense, which is primarily fueled by players who were overlooked coming into the league.
“This is testament of who we are as a group,” wide receiver David Nelson told Graham. “We all believe in each other. We all push each other. We all compete with each other. We know we’re against the odds. We’re a bunch of guys nobody gave a chance to.”
The unit isn’t good on paper — only four teams scored fewer points than the Bills in 2010 — but the front office seems to think there’s something there. The team used its first four draft picks on defensive players and didn’t draft a quarterback to challenge Ryan Fitzpatrick in training camp.
Nelson wasn’t drafted, nor were fellow receivers Donald Jones and Naaman Roosevelt. Top wideout Stevie Johnson was passed on 223 times in the 2008 draft. Harvard grad Fitzpatrick was a seventh-round selection back in 2005.
As Graham points out, C.J. Spiller and Lee Evans are the only first-round picks who play significant roles in Buffalo’s offense. But Spiller has been a disappointment since being drafted ninth overall last year, and will likely start 2011 as Fred Jackson’s backup.
Jackson went undrafted in 2003.
The running game wasn’t really the problem last year; the passing game was what dragged the offense down. The Bills ranked 24th through the air, finishing with the fourth-most interceptions in the league. They were rated in the bottom 10 in pretty much every passing category.
But for whatever reason — maybe because a group of former nobodies has come to embrace that shared image — the guys didn’t want to see the Bills draft a pivot to challenge Fitzpatrick.
“We’ve been talking about it as a receiver group for a while,” Nelson told Graham. “We were hoping that they would stay away from quarterbacks in the draft because we have all the confidence in the world in Fitz and what he can do. We like the direction we’re headed in with him.”
For the first time, Fitzpatrick and Jackson will enter a season as starters. And Nelson and Co. will likely have a stronger sense of confidence, regardless of what happens if/when the Bills have a chance to add veteran contributors via free agency.
“We did some good things on offense last year,” Jackson said. “We feel like if we could get back on the field healthy and get another crack at this thing, we’ll continue to have some success.”
“Continue” to have some success, or “begin” to have some success? Either way, I wouldn’t be completely shocked. Maybe it’s a symptom of the Lockout Fever I’ve been suffering from for 10 weeks, but I seemed to have lost my penchant for constant criticism of the Buffalo Bills.
For the time being.