Jauron pleased with off-season progress

In an off-season that has been filled with uncertainty over the team's long-term future in western New York and off-the-field legal issues surrounding some of their younger players, the Buffalo Bills, led by head coach Dick Jauron, continue to work towards ending the longest playoff drought in franchise history.

With most Buffalo Bills headlines being grabbed by the team's newly-formed relationship with Toronto and off-the-field legal issues, it's easy to forget there's a team in Orchard Park gearing up for its first playoff run in nine seasons.

So while many continue to wonder what the team's future in western New York looks like, or just when exactly running back Marshawn Lynch is going to come clean about his alleged hit-and-run, the strides made by the Bills this off-season have mostly flown under the radar.

With a few quality free agent acquisitions, what appears to be the front office's third solid draft in a row and last season's inspiring play not soon forgotten, it's shaping up to be Buffalo's most exciting off-season on-field-wise since 2003. And that year there was plenty for Bills fans to be giddy about, with QB Drew Bledsoe coming off a Pro-Bowl season, his first as a Bill, and the team making a splash in the free agent market with the additions of Takeo Spikes, Lawyer Milloy and Sam Adams.

One thing is certain: this season, expectations are high at One Bills Drive. And despite the legal troubles of WR James Hardy and RB Marshawn Lynch, despite the looming uncertainty of the team's future in Buffalo, head coach Dick Jauron and the Bills are moving forward and looking ahead to 2008.

Jauron echoed as much at the conclusion of Buffalo's OTAs earlier this week.

"I'm a big believer that you better believe you can win," the third-year head coach said. "You better believe it, or you have no chance. And I believe our guys have faith in their ability … they worked very hard.

"I do think we have done the right things with our draft and free agency. But it's not going to make a difference if we don't do it right on the field. But we feel good about the work we have done, we feel good about the guys we have added and obviously the guys we have kept. So we're anxious to get started and we're certainly excited about the season."

One of the major forces behind a potential Bills turnaround is the team's depth. It's something Jauron's teams haven't had a whole lot of the last few seasons. Last year, Buffalo was so short in the secondary (due primarily to injuries) that it was forced to start little-used Jim Leonhard at free safety and converted wide receiver George Wilson at strong safety for a period of time.

It had the same problem at wide out, linebacker and the offensive line. There was little to no answer at any of those positions when a starter went down with an injury. Suddenly guys like linebacker John DiGiorgio and linemen Matt Murphy and Duke Preston were given huge roles, and after that, there was nobody. One more player on the IR and they would have started picking fans out of the crowd to suit up.

This year, that problem seems to have been addressed.

"Certainly we are deeper," Jauron admitted. "If you look at corners for example, we went into the off-season with very limited depth, but through free agency and the draft, we have addressed it with players that we really like. But three of the four that we added are very young, they're rookie players, but we believe in their ability.

"We're a nice mixture in other spots, we're young. We got back some of our injured players that will regain starting spots. We have a lot of depth on both sides of the ball and our question marks will be answered during camp."

The Bills recently wrapped up a three-day mini-camp confident in the way the offense adjusted to the new play sets and impressed with how the rookies, especially at WR, have performed at the new level.

"I certainly feel good about it and I know they do," Jauron said. "We got a lot of work done. Obviously, our offense is new and a lot of our terminology is the same but different use of certain plays and addition of a lot of new stuff, so we need a lot of work and I think we got it done. I feel really good about it."

The Bills will get the next five weeks off before reporting for training camp at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, N.Y. at the end of July.

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