The Bills started a week before anybody. Chemistry, timing and execution should not be problems. But here we are — four games in — and Buffalo's first-team offense is in minicamp form.
The same, numbing problems marred the offense again in Pittsburgh.
A first team supposedly oozing with playmakers still hasn't reached the end zone. Three-and-outs topped off with game-killing turnovers is becoming the routine. Trent Edwards' hide-the-women-and-children pick six symbolized a preseason to forget. Buffalo's starters have played a total of 78 plays in 16 series this preseason, mustering nine punts, three interceptions, one fumble and one field goal.
True, Buffalo was facing the league's best defense last night. Not many offenses can move the ball against Pittsburgh's piranhas. And true, Terrell Owens' return will, yes will, drastically change this offense. But fans wanted to see a step in the right direction, reason to believe that this no-huddle offense has improved through five weeks of training camp.
Instead, the hurry-up offense (and T.O.'s sad reality show) continue to boast the entertainment value of a WNBA game. With only one more preseason game left, it's hard to believe Buffalo will suddenly hit a groove. So how can the Bills salvage this, how can they jumpstart an offense that looks as lame as it did last December?
Here are some changes coaches should consider:
1. Promote Steve Johnson. He may be Buffalo's most physical receiver outside of Owens. With a handful of catches last night, Johnson continued to provide snapshots of upside. He's maturing as a route runner and isn't afraid to go across the middle. Against the Detroit Lions next weekend, Johnson deserves a larger role within the offense — a trial run as a regular contributor. He's younger and stronger than Josh Reed. Maybe Johnson is the long-term weapon in the slot. Buffalo needs someone who can move the chains. When plays break down, Edwards doesn't have a safety valve.
2. Let'r rip. The cruel nicknames continue to define Edwards' young career. Trentative. Captain Checkdown. But it doesn't have to be this way. Rather than "taking what the defense gives me," Edwards needs to uncork some deep balls. The Bills have one of the best deep threats in the game in Lee Evans. When Owens returns, the offense needs to gamble. If nothing else, to keep defenses honest. Edwards added muscle over the offseason and has displayed a rifle arm at times during camp. Time to use it.
3. Controlled chaos. I'm not ready to write off the no-huddle offense yet. The Bills have the ammunition to pull this off. A tweak here and there could do wonders. Use misdirection running plays. Use the tight ends. Buffalo held the ball for only eight minutes in the first half. The Bills need to package a series of plays together in no-huddle possessions that lead to sustained drives. Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Dominic Rhodes and the tight ends need to be staples of the hurry-up. Edwards has appeared lost and confused trying to find open receivers. By utilizing the running game and the middle of the field, the Bills can get this no-huddle on track.
And adding No. 81 into the mix sure will help. The Bills were smart to keep Owens out of the Steelers game. No use risking further injury. But they need the loudmouth, popcorn-loving receiver fast. Right now, the microwave isn't even turned on.
Tyler Dunne is the Publisher of BuffaloFootballReport.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.