Miami would love to ease Chad Henne into a starting role in the near future. That's not a knock on Chad Pennington, who was razor-sharp up until the AFC Wild Card. Fact is, Pennington is 33 years old and Henne has picked up the system quickly. He's no John Beck or Cleo Lemon for certain.
Trent Edwards, when healthy, has shown enough to keep the Bills from biting on quarterbacks in the draft. The team was 7-5 with him under center last season. For now, though, Pennington gets the nod. Without any big-name receivers to work with, he threw for 3,653 yards, 19 touchdowns and only seven picks. Not to mention, one painful flogging of Buffalo's defense in week eight. Against a hobbled Terrence McGee, Pennington shredded the Bills' ‘D' for 314 yards on 22-of-30 passing.
He has one more turnover-proof season in the tank.
The Edge: Miami
The Bills' brass freaked out for a while there. With Marshawn Lynch's suspension status unknown, the team held a flurry of visits — finally settling on Dominic Rhodes. And after re-signing the versatile Fred Jackson, Buffalo is loaded at running back.
All three are starting material. All three possess different skills. Lynch's ruggedness, Jackson's silky smooth speed and Rhodes' ability to pick and choose holes with a jolt should blend nicely. Give the front office credit. Instead of jumping the gun on DeShaun Foster or Kevin Jones, they landed Rhodes and signed Jackson at an affordable four-year, $7.5 million deal. Applauses all the way around.
Miami isn't in bad shape, either. Ronnie Brown (916 yards, 10 TD) recovered much better than expected from a knee injury in 2007. All reports out of Dolphin Camp indicate that Brown had a fantastic offseason, too. The Miami Herald reported that the Dolphins would like to lock up Brown to a multi-year before he hits the market in 2010. Behind him is the eccentric Ricky Williams. Be sure to check out this Recent New York Times piece that attempts to get inside the brain of this bizarre man. Regardless of Williams' travails of the past, he enjoyed a small sense of redemption last year in Miami's quirky wildcat offense, rushing for 659 yards and four touchdowns.
You have to love Miami's unique rushing attack. It bombards you from all angles like a flurry of Manny Pacquiao jabs. Who knows what wrinkles the Fins added over the offseason with new toy, Pat White.
Still, give me Buffalo's depth here. With Jackson finally getting his chance to shine as the No. 1 back, Lynch hungry for personal vindication and the underrated Rhodes behind him, the Bills are stacked. Thanks to Terrell Owens' presence, Buffalo is bound to encounter plenty of light boxes this season.
A pick-your-poision offense in Buffalo? Bill-eve it. Jackson, Lynch and Rhodes could form the best trio of backs in the AFC.
The Edge: Buffalo
Just because Miami lacks the star power doesn't mean their stable of receivers is hurting. Ted Ginn Jr. — probably still hearing those boos from draft day — took a quiet step forward his sophomore year. He isn't a precise route runner, but speed kills. As Ginn Jr. matures, he should emerge into a consistent 1,000-yard receiver. Behind him, Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess and tight end Anthony Fasano aren't flashy. But all fit well together for Pennington's short-range game. Pennington trusts them.
Chad Pennington ripped the Bills' defense for 300 yards in one of two wins against Buffalo last season.
The T.O. signing makes this a no-brainer. Owens lit up the Dolphins up for 19.4 yards per catch in a game two years ago and could feast on a young Miami's secondary again.
Outside of Jerry Rice, Lee Evans is the best No. 2 wideout Owens has ever had absorbing attention on the other side of field. Barring blowups, a big ‘if' indeed, this duo could terrorize cornerbacks this fall. Josh Reed is a slot receiver by nature. Roscoe Parrish remains lightning in a bottle. And Steve Johnson and James Hardy surely will benefit as reserves — two or three years away from truly contributing.
Miami's savvy group of receivers doesn't get enough credit. Miami relies on a precise, calculated passing attack that's difficult to stop. But if T.O. behaves, Buffalo's receivers are on a whole different level.
The Edge: Buffalo
OK, it's more complicated than that. But considering Miami's scary pass-rushing tandem of Joey Porter and Jason Taylor, the Bills could be in trouble. Walker is saying the right things at camp. He's itching to silence his doubters. He's playing with a proud chip on his shoulder, no doubt.
But at his plus-sized weight, Porter could have a field day. As we had on the BFR recently, Walker at LT is easily the team's biggest concern this year. Other than that, the Bills' line appears substantially upgraded. Geoff Hangartner, Eric Wood and Andy Levitre are plugs in the middle. Smart investments.
But in one year, Long proved to be the franchise player the Dolphins expected. He's quick enough to race ahead of Brown on the edge and kept Pennington off his back last season.
The Edge: Dolphins
Stay tuned for a look at the defensive side of the ball in Part II tomorrow.
Tyler Dunne is the Publisher of BuffaloFootballReport.com and also writes for the Buffalo News, Olean Times Herald and the Packer Report. Contact him at email@example.com.