QuarterbackThe Dolphins find themselves in better shape at this position than they in a long, long time thanks to the presence of Chad Pennington, Chad Henne and rookie Pat White. For the Bills, everything is riding on the continued development of Trent Edwards, who started strongly in 2008 but then proceeded to struggle badly after an October visit to Miami. The Bills don't have much in the way of backups, with the other quarterbacks on the roster being Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Baker and former Dolphins third-stringer Gibran Hamdan.
For all the optimism about Edwards, the bottom line remains that he has yet to show he can be a quality starter in the NFL. That obviously isn't the case with Pennington. And the Dolphins have better-looking depth.
Big Edge: Dolphins
Running BackThe Dolphins have two established stars here with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, and some nice complementary pieces with Patrick Cobbs and fullback Lousaka Polite. Buffalo has some talent at this position as well, starting with Marshawn Lynch. The rest of the group includes solid backup Fred Jackson and promising 2008 rookie Xavier Omon. Corey McIntyre is the lone fullback on Buffalo's roster.
This is a tough one to call because Lynch might be the best of all the running backs between the teams, but the Bills can't match the 1-2 punch of Brown and Williams.
Slight Edge: Bills
Lee Evans should benefit greatly from the arrival of Terrell Owens.
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Wide ReceiverMuch has been made of the Dolphins' lack of a pure No. 1 receiver, but they do have a lot of numbers at the position thanks to the likes of Greg Camarillo, Ted Ginn Jr., Davone Bess, Patrick Turner, Brandon London and Brian Hartline. The Bills, of course, made big news in the offseason when they signed Terrell Owens. He should make a big impact on a wideout corps that for too long was Lee Evans and little else. Behind Evans and Owens are P.K. Sam, Felton Huggins, Justin Jenkins, Steve Johnson, Roscoe Parrish and Josh Reed, who is a solid No. 3 receiver.
The addition of Owens gives Buffalo a tremendous starting tandem and one of the best receiving corps in the AFC ... until he starts acting up, of course.
Major Edge: Bills
Tight EndThe Dolphins got great production from this position last season thanks to Anthony Fasano and David Martin, and they've added to the position with the additions of rookies John Nalbone and Jared Bronson, as well as the expected continued development of Joey Haynos. The Bills haven't gotten much production from this position in recent years, but they're hoping that will change with the addition of draft pick Shawn Nelson from Southern Miss. He heads what is a mediocre group -- Derek Schouman, Jonathan Stupar, Derek Fine and Travis McCall.
Fasano is the key here because he has the potential to become an All-Pro-caliber type of tight end. Nelson may have great potential, too, but he's still a rookie. So let's see him prove himself.
Clear Edge: Dolphins
Offensive LineThe Dolphins started building the strong foundation of an offensive line last year with the additions of Jake Long, Justin Smiley and Donald Thomas, and they made sure to keep it that way this offseason by re-signing tackle Vernon Carey and adding center Jake Grove to replace Samson Satele. The Bills overhauled their line in the offseason after finally getting tired of Jason Peters' headache-inducing contract situation. After trading Peters to Philadelphia, the Bills bounced back to add rookies Eric Wood and Andy Levitre in the first two rounds of the draft. They join a unit that also includes center Geoff Hangartner and Marvin Philip, as well as former Dolphin Seth McKinney, Langston Walker, Brandon Rodd, Nick Hennessey, Chris Denman and Brad Butler.
If Smiley and Thomas can make successful returns from their 2008 injuries, the Dolphins have the makings of a very, very good line. But depth is a major concern. Buffalo, though, has bigger concerns, such as finding a suitable replacement for Peters and hoping that Wood and Levitre can be respectable as rookies.
Clear Edge: Dolphins
Defensive LineThis is an area for the Dolphins where there will be a lot of attention focused because of the offseason release of veteran Vonnie Holliday and the presence of so many young players, such as Kendall Langford, Phillip Merling, Lionel Dotson, Rodrique Wright and Tony McDaniel. The Dolphins do have a solid veteran in nose tackle Jason Ferguson, although there's a question mark when it comes to his backup. Buffalo was looking to bolster its pass rush in the offseason and hoped to accomplish that by drafting Aaron Maybin in the first round, although he missed the start of training camp with his contract situation unresolved. The rest of the defensive ends mostly are undersized, starting with Aaron Schobel and Chris Kelsay. At defensive tackle, the Bills have two solid starters in Marcus Stroud and Kyle Williams, and they're hoping former No. 1 pick John McCargo can finally deliver.
This looks like a question mark for both teams, although the Dolphins appear to have the more solid group. The Dolphins need stout run defense the most from their defensive line and it appears they'll get it.
LinebackerThe Dolphins might not be this strong anywhere else on the roster, except perhaps for running back. All four starters are back from last year, and two-time CFL defensive MVP Cameron Wake and Jason Taylor were brought in for reinforcement as well. This is an area of concern for the Pats, who have seen age become an issue. Buffalo has some solid players at linebacker, starting with Kawika Mitchell and former second-round pick Paul Posluszny, but there's nobody there who looks like a difference-maker.
The additions of Wake and Taylor should answer the need for pass rushing that was the only question mark for the Dolphins at this position. Buffalo, meanwhile, needs several answers here.
Big Edge: Dolphins
Bills cornerback Terrence McGee is coming off a strong 2008 season.
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CornerbackThe Dolphins have revamped this group by bringing in free agent Eric Green and rookie draft picks Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. They join a unit that lost Andre' Goodman to free agency but returns starter Will Allen as well as backups Nathan Jones and Jason Allen. This could be the deepest position on the Buffalo roster after wide receiver. Terrence McGee and 2008 first-round pick Leodis McKelvin return as the starters and they ended last season on a high note. For depth, the Bills have Ashton Youboty, Reggie Corner and Drayton Florence.
On potential alone, the Dolphins could be very good here because both Davis and Smith look like they'll become quality NFL players. But it might take time. The Bills probably have more workable players and they also have more experience at this position.
Slight Edge: Bills
SafetyThe Dolphins made sure to re-sign Yeremiah Bell before he could become a free agent this offseason, and then they won in the trade-off of Gibril Wilson for Renaldo Hill. Fifth-round pick Chris Clemons also looked good enough in the offseason to suggest he'll become a contributor. The Bills didn't get a single interception from the safety position in 2008, although part of that was attributable to the lack of a pass rush. Bryan Scott has replaced former first-round pick Donte Whitner as the starting strong safety, but Whitner might be able to win the free safety job. The Bills are said to be high on second-round pick Jairus Byrd, a college cornerback who has made the position switch.
In terms of front-end talent, the Dolphins probably have the better starters, but Buffalo clearly has more depth at this position.
Special TeamsThe Dolphins will be looking for improvement from a unit that really struggled early last season before making some progress later on. The return game has potential with Davone Bess handling punts and Patrick Cobbs handling kickoffs, while Dan Carpenter will be looking to build on a good rookie season. But there needs to be improvement in Brandon Fields' consistency and in the coverage units. It doesn't seem to matter who is returning punts or kickoffs for the Bills, they always seem to be dangerous in that aspect. Buffalo also has one of the best punters in the league in Brian Moorman and a normally reliable placekicker in Rian Lindell.
The Dallas Morning News ranks every NFL team's special teams unit every year based on 22 different statistical categories, and Buffalo came in at No. 1 last year, while the Dolphins came in at No. 30. This is a bad mismatch.
Major Edge: Bills